Carly Rae Jepsen may not be the most prolific pop star, but when she releases an album, she makes it count. On 2015's E-MO-TION, she proved just how much more there was to her music than "Call Me Maybe" as she expanded the sugar rush of 2012's Kiss into pop songs that were equally joyous and introspective. Four years after E-MO-TION, she makes another leap forward with Dedicated, an album that reflects her growing maturity as a songwriter as well as the pop music trends of its time. Jepsen trades E-MO-TION's deep dive into '80s nostalgia for a more streamlined approach on "No Drug Like Me" and "Automatically in Love," where swelling synths and loping beats nod to tropical pop while adding sophistication to her swooning lyrics. However, some of the album's most exciting moments ignore what's fashionable. From its booming synth drums to its vocodered backing vocals and closing sax solo, "Want You in My Room" proves that Jepsen is still second to none at crafting pop songs that are infectious precisely because they're so quirky. That goes double for "Everything He Needs," which turns "He Needs Me" from Harry Nilsson's Popeye soundtrack into a winning -- if slightly unhinged -- confection of a song. Jepsen also takes the opportunity to reveal different sides of her persona, as well as her music, on Dedicated: "I'll Be Your Girl" uncovers her dark side, setting post-breakup jealousy and voyeurism to ricocheting, ska-tinged sounds that call to mind No Doubt and Santigold.
Despite all of these changes, Dedicated never feels disjointed. This is partly because of Jepsen's abundant charisma -- years after "Call Me Maybe," she remains the pop star next door -- and partly because of her increasing skill as a songwriter. She still excels at crystallizing the complex ways happiness and heartache often masquerade as each other into deceptively simple pop gems, but this time she gives her relatable lyrics and irresistible hooks an even greater scope. The taut, disco-tinged opener "Julien" nails how the longing for an old flame can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the actual time with them was; on the flip side, "Happy Not Knowing" shuts down a potential lover as a means of avoiding any more heartbreak. She digs deeper into love's complicated nuances on clever, vulnerable songs like "The Sound" and "Right Words Wrong Time," both of which turn disappointing relationships into undeniable earworms. Later on, she saves some of her most indelible songwriting for "Real Love," a soaring tribute to all of love's possibilities. Fortunately, Jepsen is just as committed to her music as she is to the ideal of true love, and the way she's grown without sacrificing her uniqueness makes Dedicated a master class in what a 2010s pop album can be.