20. Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated (604)
At one point four years ago I was locked in a pretty darn intense discussion about Carly Rae Jepsen, insisting that Emotion was an indisputable classic pop album. At the time it felt like I was talking to a brick wall, but as this decade comes to a close, what pop album is consistently appearing on best-of-the-decade lists alongside Robyn’s Body Talk? Emotion. It’s incredible how Jepsen worked to outlast Canadian Idol, worked to shed her early singer-songwriter work, worked to score a pop hit, and when she landed a global smash hit, worked to sustain that momentum by writing a couple hundred songs in an effort to create one of the greatest pop albums of the decade. This woman works hard, and in the process has not only become an icon but has developed into a supreme songwriter. So it was no surprise that she took her time putting together a quality follow-up again, and it was very interesting to hear how measured Dedicated sounds compared to Emotion, but while it might not be as euphoric front-to-back, her songwriting feels a lot more mature this time around. Tracks like “The Sound”, “Happy Not Knowing”, and “Right Words Wrong Time” perfect a delicate balance between sneakily catchy and heartbreak, and as Carly has shown time and again, she’s extraordinarily good at sounding like she’s smiling through some deep, deep sadness. Not enough people give her credit for being such an emotive singer, but I can’t think of another pop singer who so deftly conveys emotion by just the subtlest adjustment in phrasing. It is a marvel, and the understated Dedication sneakily wriggles its way into your head over time. And when the euphoria does eventually hit, like on “Now That I Found You”, it is glorious.