Not as beloved as “I Really Like You,” almost as many blurbs.
Madeleine Lee: Probably the best articulation of the “CRJ makes teenpop for adults” maxim is how much this sounds like an idealized high school slow dance song: soft-focus and already loaded with nostalgia and poignancy and significance, but under the surface, raw and tender.
Thomas Inskeep: “All That” is the ultimate ’80s slow-dance jam, with a soupçon of Prince (especially in those “Beautiful Ones” Linn drums) and a dash of “Crazy for You” (Madonna’s, not Heart’s). It’s swoony and swooning, what it feels like for a girl to be drunk in love. This could easily score a Molly Ringwald finally-gets-the-boy scene circa ’86 – and do a better job than the songs that did score said scene(s).
Will Adams: I wanna play this for you all the time. This song is a pre-recorded message — a script, or a fantasy — for our heroine who, after blithely declaring how much she really likes you and just met you but here’s her number anyway, is buckling under anxiety. The anxiety of uncertainty, the terrifying possibility that they won’t notice or care — note how the central plea is: “show me if you want me.” So there is Carly Rae Jepsen, now introverted instead of assured, music dusky instead of bright, vocals foggy instead of clear, crafting her perfect message for the perfect moment that may not ever come. Each repeated line amplifies the plea to a matter of life. Just let me in your arms, show me if you care. And in return, the achingly human desire will be filled for both: I will be your friend. The atonal drone and cavernous reverb tail at the end supply the question mark. There’s no maybe here; just an if.
Alfred Soto: I run hot and cold on Dev Hynes but I liked his work on a Heems track last month. After two listens, though, this track sounds limp, and my problem is Carly Rae, who can’t sell that uninspired chorus.”All That” sounds like CRJ singing through a paper bag and even the paper bag is bored.
Katherine St Asaph: I was in Macy’s the other day, trying to beswathe my miserable form in something other than peplums or frump dresses or petites-floor grannygarb or fluttery crocheted Coachella-branded flibbertigibbet BULLSHIT; I think I ended up buying shoes and ragequitting. You may have surmised from my tone that I don’t do all that much shopping, so I’m continually surprised by how often I recognize the music playing (or, more likely, how much of my taste intersects exactly with the Macy’s in-store playlist, but moving right along). What they were playing was Solange’s “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,” off 2012’s luminous Dev Hynes collaboration True — or rather about 1/64 of it, the single line “so maybe then we’re better off” repeated ad bowdlerized infinitum, the perfect sort of silky-smoove yet confusing and unsatisfying nonsense to soundtrack not buying the clothes you wanted. This is relevant to Carly Rae Jepsen because A) some assclown at SF Weekly thinks this is how CarJeps fans’ brains work, B) because “All That” is Jepsen’s much-heralded collaboration with Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid, and C) because, as is Hynes’ wont, it’s recycled material. Specifically, Hynes has recycled True‘s “Bad Girls,” one of the few songs that can reliably destroy me — they couldn’t play that one at Macy’s, everyone’d be bawling over the Kensie rack. By comparison, “All That” is touching in a limpid way, too much one-note sweetness. The synth hook to “Bad Girls” makes me want to sway my head back onto the wrong chest; the hook to “All That” makes me wait for a choir conductor to go a half-step up and start the next major-scale vocalise in his warmup. Jepsen’s teaming with Hynes and Rechtshaid was undeniably smart — and working per plan — but if she’s to sail that small-pop passage, her tween fanbase is an albatross. You can watch it sink the songwriting; “I’ll be the magic you won’t ever see / you can always rely on me, help you do what you want to” can only end one way, and it ain’t “do,” and “I will be your friend” doesn’t bring to mind romance so much as my elementary-school teacher constantly reminding the class that “there are no boyfriends and girlfriends in second grade!” The gentle lilt does have its appeal, at least to the tween in me hoping to get a dance to “Truly Madly Deeply,” and Jepsen is winsome enough to elevate even this over-slow material, but I prefer her less gawky. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to reapply my strawberry lip gloss and go back to the mall.
Luisa Lopez: I keep trying to get to the root of my dislike. It’s not the slowness; in the right hands, and Carly Rae’s are as right as upturned rain, this could be a mammoth of pretty melancholia and that’s just the easiest option. She does slow beautifully. The borders of an album seem to close in on her like a smoke-filled room and they allow her voice all the glory of a dusted flower, a tight croak that strengthens the space. (2008’s “Heavy Lifting” is a small revelation, a love song about yourself and someone else that tells two stories to starlit completion without ever quickening its pace.) It’s not the ’80s relics; Kiss had synths for heartbeats and the muchness of 1989 with a dirtier subject, a big-haired explosion of longing for a guy who might — probably, never said he didn’t — love someone else even when he’s touching you. Maybe it’s the vagueness, the glossy-eyed air that passes through lines like When you need me I will be your candle in the dark. Letting every note linger, she only highlights how little she has to say.
Edward Okulicz: Is Dev Hynes trying to approximate a slow jam for this? Why is he doing this? Can he please stop? Carly Rae tries hard but this is such a treacly mess that doesn’t play to her desirous ebullience.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Dev Hynes is a shmuck, and has been since Test Icicles, so the motherfucker really has to kiss Carly Rae’s feet for throwing him a few pennies on the second of his phenomenal ’80s rips (you know the other one). I say this because as an artist he’s failed to deliver time and time again, whereas as a songwriter for talents far above him, he can strike gold. So strange how they are never quite as massaged by your Fader/Vice cockatoos with adoring “Yeah, you did it, get money daddy!” squawks. If this had been Dev alone, it’d be a land of whiny tones, oversold phrases, and inadequate structure. Here’s where Jepsen comes in; she is the completist, the finisher to Hynes sloppy enthusiasm and “artistic” inadequacy. No Jepsen song has ever been riddled with sickle-cell and given the cold stare of expectation by doctors. In fact, the doctor won’t shut up about how Kiss was his best patient, and the whole hospital cheered up whenever it wheeled in, doing goofy faces and the worst sort of knock-knock jokes. They’re making a Disney movie about it, you know! Meanwhile, where Carly Rae’s in right now… this is the territory Hynes will never learn to thrive in. Occupying solemn grace, while also trying to brace you with radiant cheer and beauty. Her wrists are firm as she takes your hands in hers, giving you a bright smile through teardrops. She has the strength to make it through this song, and she projects it into you, because she wants to make sure you’re OK! Friendship is what she remarks upon, but what she gives the audience is care.
Anthony Easton: This is what I have been missing. Her voice floats around pop diva signifiers (some like Britney, some like Mariah when she’s moving away from the high registers), the synths bubble like swamp gas, and the rest of the production sparkles with a crystalline artifice. Ignore the terrible lyrics, replace them with a grocery list, and it doesn’t matter. Her choice to slide into the production instead of fighting it was smart; it suggests that she is aware of her voice—and confident that it can be just another element.
David Sheffieck: It’s telling that Jepsen’s getting certain types of attention for changing her sound up, but it’s also telling just how much she makes a Blood Orange-type production sound like her. The lyrical anxieties and focuses of “All That” are remarkably similar to “I Really Like You,” both as applicable to a relationship between lovers as they are to the one between an artist coming off a single, massive hit and her potential fanbase. And Jepsen has a way with vocal phrasing that’s singularlymher own. “You can always rely on me/ To help you do what you want to do,” she sings, starting on a sigh, moving to a skip, finishing with a backrub. No, this isn’t quite like any song Jepsen’s done before, until you realize it very much is.
Brad Shoup: The wrong kind of slavish: the band’s here for what they can evoke, but not what they can bring. Something this lavish, with bass popping on schedule and twinkles as far as you can see, deserves a vocal to match. Jepsen’s chipper delivery isn’t it.
Moses Kim: If “I Really Like You” is the sugar rush of a day at Six Flags, “All That” is the quiet walk back home, your fingers waltzing around his. Really, are the two that different? Love can be a tightrope, every step fraught with tension when one wrong move can send you tumbling. Think of how in her last single Carly Rae followed up an explosive declaration of really-really-really-liking with all those dashed-off, nervous questions: I want you, do you want me too? That anxiety hasn’t completely subsided here (think of how that syncopated guitar riff recurs, getting swallowed back into the mix every time), but here she resolves it through another declaration, this time one of commitment, layers of emotion packed into a statement as simple as “I will be your friend.” My relationships don’t always unfold that easily; this makes me want to try harder at them.
Andy Hutchins: It is a crying shame that a no one rapper made over “Call Me Maybe” into “Fuck Me, Baby” three years before Jepsen made a song that would’ve fit the title. Fluttering is her forte, still, and few provide cirrus clouds better to flutter by than Dev Hynes, but the momentum here is toward sheets rather than stars. It’s insulting to suggest that Jepsen needed to “mature,” or make “more mature” music, despite the gloss-pop she’s best known for — but still, this will catch some adult ears in new ways.
Rebecca A. Gowns: This song is infused with a slow sensuality that reminds me of Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit” and the best Prince slow jams. Carly Rae positively sparkles; here, she’s elevated even further than her usual critical-darling pop tunes have allowed. A space opera ballad with the possibility for tremendous reach, if the airwaves will only let her in again.
Ramzi Awn: This is a great song, down to the guitar licks — I always wish it were somebody besides Carly Rae Jepsen singing.