Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

Carly Rae Jepsen – Psychedelic Switch

More like Corny Rae Jepsen, right?


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[7.29]

Will Adams: I like to think I have a firm grasp on my critical faculties. I can discern between good and not good without being clouded with biases. I know not to be deceived by something that is obviously pandering to me. And then I’m presented with the concept of “Carly Rae Jepsen French house song” and I just don’t know anymore.
[7]

Michael Hong: Carly Rae Jepsen is too deeply corny of a person to have realized that “putting on the Ritz” would sound exactly like “putting on the rizz,” but maybe that’s what makes her such an endearing figure. Between that line and the previous use of “birthday suit,” all the glamour, all the lavishness, any hint of sexiness set up by its golden beat fades from sight. What’s left is pure earnestness, an embarrassing giddiness carried with each affectionate declaration. Her voice soars on the word “satisfied,” no come down in sight. That’s love.
[10]

Jeffrey Brister: I feel like I’m still chasing that high from 2015, hoping to get something at least half as beautiful. This still isn’t that, but it hits another set of aesthetic pleasure buttons, like when 13 year-old me took my first handful of hard-earned money and bought a copy of Daft Punk’s Discovery. That four on the floor pulse, with that skipping disco bass, all set against those shimmery synths that seem to catch a prismatic array of color when they drop. And Carly Rae is singing! I’m satisfied, in a way that I didn’t realize I needed.
[8]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The switch, of course, is from crippling anxiety to utter bliss. “Psychedelic Switch” could be just another pleasant CRJ track, but it ascends into the sublime because of the messy, aching depth it gives to love. Yes, this sounds like rainbows and sunshine but listen to how her love constantly teeters on the edge of precarity: “Don’t wake me cuz I’m lucid dreaming,” “My insecurities are things I never was,” “I don’t want to hide when I’m with you,” “You feel just like home, I’m not scared to show you.” Ecstasy even has an expiration date of a couple years, but that won’t stop her from reveling in its warmth. Indeed, romance sometimes feels like a battle to keep insecurity from dulling better times; for those moments, I’ll switch on this track.
[9]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I’m afraid the most obvious touchstone here is too perfect and out-CRJs CRJ herself: Daft Punk understood that distilling the wide expanse of emotional experience into a simple mantra (“One more time!”) was the stuff of pure ecstasy. Jepsen’s done that time and again, going meta with “Cut to the Feeling,” and finding room for it in her wordier songs (“On the bed! On the floor!”). “Psychedelic Switch” makes a mistake that’s plagued her for much of the past half-decade: she says too much. Thankfully, that translates into an excitement that’s too big to keep to oneself, and it’s buoyed by an earnestness that bonks you on the head when she sings about birthday suits. You can’t help but crack a smile and give in.
[6]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Lately I’ve preferred CRJ in arena rock star mode (exemplified by “Want You In My Room,” “Stadium Love,” and also that time last year I literally saw her play a hockey stadium) but “Psychedelic Switch” is a good argument for her core proficiency as one of our finest dance pop operatives. Here, she moves nimbly within a beat that is European as hell, effortlessly charming and unburdened.
[7]

Aaron Bergstrom: Carly Rae Jepsen is, and has always been, just unabashedly corny. It’s what makes her so relatable. We all see our most earnest selves in her. When she writes about crushes, unrequited love, the giddy adrenaline rush of a new relationship, the gnawing ache of feeling invisible, I just believe her, more than any other pop star. (Be honest, do you think Dua Lipa has ever truly pined?) The flip side of that is that when she writes from a position of cool, confident sexiness, even on a track this effortlessly sinuous, she never really leaves that inner dork behind. I guess what I’m saying is that this is the highest score I can possibly give a song that uses both “birthday suit” and “puttin’ on the ritz” unironically.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: I once compared Charli XCX to Earl Sweatshirt, so I’d probably compare Vince Staples to Carly Rae. They’re kinder and more sincere than they might seem, they love certain retro styles more than they’d say, and they’re making solid, accessible music at a point in their careers where they no longer need to challenge their audience but simply tend to them honestly. Oh, and their interviews are hotter too.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Last year I tried to articulate why I can’t/don’t tend to write much about one of my all-time favourite musicians. Still stands!
[10]

Oliver Maier: Carly hasn’t really put it all together like she did on Emotion all those centuries ago but it’s hard to picture her as someone who gets hung up on her legacy. I don’t care much either as long as she can still crank out two or three songs this fun every album cycle. Not very psychedelic but “French Housedelic Switch” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
[7]

Katherine St Asaph: I’m not sure why I haven’t loved a Carly Rae Jepsen song in years. The real reason is probably that I cannot truly love a Carly Rae Jepsen song without pinning a terrible decision on it. The logical, on-paper reason is that “Psychedelic Switch” isn’t what I wanted from Carly: basically Cathy Battistessa on a French house song, with all the Majestic Casual accoutrements: sunrise visualizer video, panoply of word-association New Age lyrics. (I can’t decide whether “meditating on your lips” is deeply stupid or deeply sexy.) And Carly’s voice has clearly audibly been sieved through 1000 vocal takes and 500 run-throughs of processing — yet it’s still distinctively her, and elevates this single far higher than it would otherwise land. Just, you know, on paper.
[6]

Lauren Gilbert: I feel disloyal, somehow, to one of my favorite artists of all time for thinking The Loveliest Time doesn’t quite hit right.  Yeah, this is classic Carly In Love; it fits in the same genre as “Run Away With Me” and “Cut to the Feeling.” And it is a bop.  But it doesn’t make me want to dance on the roof with you, or wake up with you all in tangles.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong; it would be the best song most artists had ever produced.  But it’s not magic; it doesn’t make my heart pound and my blood feel carbonated.  It’s good, but it’s just not great.  Also, the line “in my birthday suit with you/I’m putting on the Ritz” makes me cringe every time.
[8]

Michelle Myers: Listening to this song feels like getting stuck on a cursed tilt-a-whirl ride at a carnival in 2001 while an endless edit of Kylie Minogue’s “Love at First Sight” plays in the distance.
[8]

Tara Hillegeist: Listening to CRJ attempting Lover-era Swift is the sort of experience that makes one yearn for the days when the UN actually tried to enforce the Geneva Convention anywhere outside of the Steam storefront.
[4]

Dorian Sinclair: I’ve been a CRJ fan for over a decade (!) now, and one thing that’s been consistent through the vast majority of the music she’s released in that time is a certain vocal straightforwardness. It’s not that her vocals weren’t processed, but you got the impression there was an effort to preserve the “feeling” of an acoustic human voice. “Psychedelic Switch” throws that out the fucking window. Not coincidentally, it’s one of the freshest-feeling songs she’s released in years. The chopped, stuttering vocals in the accompaniment, and the way those effects bleed into the main line, all contribute to the hazy euphoria of the track — and, crucially, don’t make her delivery any less expressive. It’s a fun sound, and on an album that feels like a workshop for stray ideas and sonic experiments, I think it’s one of the most successful.
[9]

Brad Shoup: Twelve years ago last week, I was wrong about “Call Me Maybe.” I was glib about the song because my process was off; listening to it, I was already thinking ahead to the jokes. (One of those jokes was especially bad and an editor cut it — I’m still grateful for that mercy.) It happens. Wrong day, wrong sound. Or maybe you’re just writing for the other writers (I am always writing for the other writers). In this case, I glommed onto the men who produced and co-wrote the track, and riffed on that — and AI, apparently? — instead of engaging with the kind of breezy, open song I stopped hearing on the pop station within a few years. All that to say: sometimes I think I wanna hear something goofy but when something goofy actually comes out I don’t know what to do with it. So here’s a French-touch pop track with idioms the French wouldn’t, uh, touch: I cannot believe that in 2023, she sang “birthday suit” and “puttin’ on the ritz” in the same song, let alone the same couplet. That it comes just after a wish for “a couple years of this” — a perfectly free-spirited phrase — is amazing. I’m not sure if I’m falling into old traps or if this decidedly non-psychedelic track is not serving Jepsen’s trademark effervescence. Maybe she could have plunged some bloghouse bass into the bubbles. Maybe it’s just me.
[5]

Vikram Joseph: If we’re completely honest with ourselves, there’s been something slightly tepid about the whole Loneliest/Loveliest Time era — a suite of genre experiments without the conviction to push them beyond pastiche, interspersed with more straightforward alt-pop songs which mostly fall well short of the euphoria that the best Carly Rae Jepsen songs can induce. Thank goodness then for “Psychedelic Switch,” a celebration of pop maximalism with a chorus so effervescent that it seems to shoot visible sparks. Kyle Shearer’s production leans without any pretense into turn-of-the-century dance-pop — “Love At First Sight”, “One More Time” and “Music Sounds Better With You” are all obvious touchstones — but the equilibrium between the breathy, sun-dappled verses and the heavenward rush of the chorus helps it transcend its influences (and a rather ordinary set of lyrics) to become a late-period Jepsen gem.
[8]

Peter Ryan: The early rush of the Stardust referent having worn off, I feel a little ambivalent about this one. Carly’s in her most celebrated mode, that bowled-over lovestruck wonderment that she specializes in, the music’s effervescence matching her point-for-point, downbeat so crisp it could cut glass. But her lyric feels a little phoned-in, only sticking for me with the “meditating on your lips/putting on the ritz” chorus bookends — the rest gives an air of being a couple drafts away from an A-side. I don’t skip it when it comes on, but it’s fallen out of my Loveliest Time top-5.
[6]

Edward Okulicz: This is a completely average, adequate filter house song. All of its pluses and minuses cancel each other out perfectly. Carly has charisma, but that’s offset by the vocal mixing, which is early 2000s in a bad way. The song is catchy, but it’s not very memorable. The lifts from other songs, even if just lyrical, are cute, but for every one of those there’s some obvious bilge in there. I am not particularly a fan of CRJ but usually I understand what people hear in her. Here, I don’t. I have met people who have honest to god told me that the best song of all time is Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You,” another song so average that I have grown to despise it. I can’t imagine getting to “best song of all time” or “hate with intensity of a thousand suns” here, so the objectively correct score is:
[5]

Taylor Alatorre: Pop music is endlessly valorizing the “one night” that promises to change everything, at least when it isn’t gesturing toward a “forever” that’s always just out of reach. So for the majority of us who live somewhere in between those two extremes, it’s pleasantly refreshing to hear Jepsen sing with such gusto about being satisfied “with a couple years of this,” even if it is prefaced with that familiar “forever.” Those understated lyrical quirks that flip the quotidian into the memorable are a CRJ trademark, and her decision to inject a bit of sober realism into this sparkling romantic headrush actually enhances the mood rather than dampening it, bringing the movie-perfect fever dream that much closer to the listener’s grasp.
[8]

Jackie Powell: Carly Rae Jepsen called “Psychedelic Switch” the sister song to “The Loneliest Time.” She views them as the two songs that lead their respective albums. She’s correct, but in addition to these two being sisters, they also are complementary and contrapositive of each other. “TLT” is a chiller disco ballad that tells a story of a dream and a yearning for a love that was lost. The energy is turned all the way up on “Psychedelic Switch” and Jepsen is singing about a euphoric honeymoon phase. There’s so much comfort and freedom in her voice when she croons: “It’s like I’m wakin’ up in a euphoria/My insecurities are things I never was” in the pre chorus. The hook is accompanied by an incredibly catchy bassline that is concurrently running alongside the tempo. Actually, the bassline is setting the tempo. The percussive elements are lighter and much more sprinkled in the background. The hi-hats and cymbals contrast the heavier and much more predominant snare and tom sounding percussion in “TLT.” What’s wild about “Psychedelic Switch” is that it’s over four minutes long, but it moves quickly. While it does slow briefly at the 3 minute mark for an underwhelming bridge — one without a key change or any TikTok-able potential — the final minute returns to what the song does best. Jepsen’s spunk and her pacing alongside an expeditious bassline seals the deal.
[8]

Reader average: [8] (4 votes)

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