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'The Loneliest Time' showcases Carly Rae Jepsen's versatility

CHERYL W THOMPSON, HOST:

And finally today, Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen has a new album out. It's called "The Loneliest Time." Here's NPR Music's Stephen Thompson with a take on what he found so impressive about the album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WESTERN WIND")

CARLY RAE JEPSEN: (Singing) California, it crossed my mind once we were pressed into the...

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Carly Rae Jepsen first broke through about a decade ago with a song called "Call Me Maybe," which is basically a perfect three-minute pop song. But it didn't necessarily seem like she was going to have the crazy staying power that she has had. She has been remarkably consistent across the albums she's put out. So I was really excited to hear this new record, "The Loneliest Time." And the first thing that stood out for me about this record is how versatile she is and how many kind of different kinds of pop songs and different approaches to pop songs she takes on a record that still feels consistent.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WESTERN WIND")

JEPSEN: (Singing) Coming in like a western wind. Do you feel home from all directions? First bloom, you know it's spring, reminding me, love, that it's all connected.

THOMPSON: I think this record and her other records are kind of triumphs of hard work and of process. You know, making a great pop song is a lot, lot harder than it looks. And she still finds ways to somehow make it look easy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEACH HOUSE")

JEPSEN: (Singing) Boys around the world, I want to believe that when you chase a girl, it's not just hunting season. I can see the future. Say it like you mean it. I've got a beach house in Malibu, and I'm probably going to hurt your feelings.

THOMPSON: One of the big first singles from this record is a song called "Beach House." And, you know, I've got a lot of friends who are Carly Rae Jepsen fans, and I feel like this song has been more polarizing than most of the tracks on this record. But I love it. It is kind of highlighting her willingness to be super catchy and kind of doofy at the same time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEACH HOUSE")

JEPSEN: (Singing) Boy No. 12 had a look in his eye. Brought up his ex and he started to cry. Told me he loved me the very first night. Oh, no. Who knows what I'm in for with boy number I can't keep count anymore?

THOMPSON: And the song just, like, builds to a very, very funny punch line of just these different dudes and the various flaws that reveal themselves very quickly. You know, I just love it. To me, this record is a charm offensive, and that song is one of the most charming moments.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEACH HOUSE")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) I got big plans to take care of you. I just need to borrow $10,000.

JEPSEN: (Singing) I'm probably going to hurt you.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) I got a lake house in Canada, and I'm probably going to harvest your organs.

JEPSEN: (Singing) I'm probably going to hurt you. I got a beach house in Malibu, and I'm probably going to hurt your feelings. Boys around the world, I want to believe that when you chase a girl, it's not just hunting season. I can see the future. Say it like you mean it. I got a beach house in Malibu, and I'm probably going to hurt your feelings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BENDS")

JEPSEN: (Singing) Sunshine somewhere in Mexico. Long day, I didn't feel so good. Lonely, am I being sensitive? Blue eyes, you are the sensitive one.

THOMPSON: So that was "Bends." And part of what I love about "Bends" - I mean, she manages to make a lyric like here's a jar of tears I cried sound really warm and breezy and deeply felt. There's just such a gentle and approachable quality to the ballads on this record where they're just kind of wafting in on a California breeze. The song is immediately followed on the record by the single "Western Wind," which is kind of picking up that same Southern California vibe that she's really mastered.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BENDS")

JEPSEN: (Singing) After all the clouds have dried. Here's a jar of tears I've cried. Keep it in a sacred place. Hold me in your humble grace 'cause I can feel the darkness sometimes, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LONELIEST TIME")

JEPSEN: (Singing) I'm coming over tonight. Knock on your door just like before. I need that look in your eyes 'cause we've had the loneliest time.

THOMPSON: So that was "The Loneliest Time," a song that Carly Rae Jepsen did with Rufus Wainwright. And it's such a reminder, among other things, that she comes from a background in musical theater, and she's worked as a musical theater actress in addition to being a pop star. And this particular track, I think, really leans into the theatrical quality of her performance while pairing her with the great Rufus Wainwright.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LONELIEST TIME")

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: (Singing) I've had more of those bad dreams. You were 10 feet in front of me.

CARLY RAE JEPSEN AND RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: I went running, but I couldn't catch just the shadow of your silhouette.

THOMPSON: I think the pick of Rufus Wainwright as a collaborator, in addition to highlighting her great Canadian-ness, I think that it speaks to some of her influences that I think people haven't necessarily picked up on from previous hits and previous records. And I think that he is a perfect person to bring out not only her theatrical side but her love of kind of vintage disco. They're such a natural pairing on this song. We can talk about genre all we want, whether it's pop or disco or funk. Really, what it is, the genre is roller skating rink. This is a song for skating rinks, and I am here for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LONELIEST TIME")

JEPSEN: (Singing) Let's save sorry for another night 'cause this time, love, we're going to get it right.

THOMPSON: That was NPR Music's Stephen Thompson, strapping on his roller skates and grooving to Carly Rae Jepsen's new album, "The Loneliest Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LONELIEST TIME")

JEPSEN AND WAINWRIGHT: (Singing) I'm thinking all through the night. I could be yours just like before. Rewrite another try 'cause we've had the loneliest time. If you want to try it, if you want to try, love, if you want to try me, if you leave the light on for me, if you want to try it, if you leave the light on for me, if you want to try it - I just need back into, I just need back into your life. What happened was... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)