It’s a typical Vancouver morning – overcast, a spit of rain – but Carly Rae Jepsen is safe and dry inside 604 Records. The diminutive singer is nervously sitting on her hands. A few weeks back, she released “Call Me Maybe,” the single for her new album, Curiosity. It’s catchy as hell and built to catapult the singer, whose profile has risen steadily since 2007 when she made it to the final three on Canadian Idol, to a new level of pop stardom.
But that’s not why Jepsen is nervous now. She’s about to meet Hanson; at 26, she remembers them from the vantage point of a 12-year-old. She need not worry. When the affable trio arrives, they’re just as happy to meet her as she is to meet them. Jepsen is, after all, charming, with an outsized smile. After shooting a few promos, the guys disappear to parts beyond (they’ll all meet up again for their inaugural tour show that night).
“I’m relieved,” Jepsen recalled later, when asked how she thought the meet-up went. “When you meet somebody new you’re worried that you might be too much of a goofball. But I think that they are just as goofy as me.” That Jepsen's largest concern was how goofy she might seem is illustrative of her relative inexperience (or naivete) in a moment like this. That won’t last: On Dec. 30, 2011, Justin Bieber tweeted her. “‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard, lol,” he sent to his 17 million-plus followers. Right after, girlfriend Selena Gomez (10 million followers) tweeted a photo of a smiling Bieber, saying, “This smile is because of Carly Rae Jepsen. We have not stopped listening to your song girl!”
As you can imagine, insanity ensued. The song, already charting, soared to #1 on iTunes, Jepsen’s Twitter following swelled and her album got scooped up by Universal. Jepsen, a relatively unknown Canadian singer-songwriter with a folk bent, suddenly became a question on millions of lips: “Who is this girl, and why does Justin like her?”
It’s a query for which the Mission, B.C.-born Jepsen doesn’t have an answer. For the record, she’s never met Bieber. Other than the Twitter interaction, they haven’t spoken. “I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why I got so lucky,” Jepsen says. “To have him give me the nod was extremely flattering and shocking.”
It’s good timing, too. Curiosity drops Feb. 13, and Jepsen’s currently on the Hanson tour. As of this writing, “Call Me Maybe” is #1 on the Billboard Canada Hot 100. Bieber is onto something: Meeting Jepsen, one can’t help but feel she’s got “it,” that indefinable something that separates the star-making wheat from the chaff. She’s cute, but not too cute. Sexy, but not overtly. Because she’s 26 but looks younger, she can employ mature imagery (tussling in bed with a guy, watching a shirtless dude mow her lawn) while also permitting teen listeners to project themselves on her persona. At the Idol audition, a judge said “You’re 21 going on 14.” It's a youthful sleight-of-hand that Katy Perry, just one year older than Jepsen, has to wear a cupcake outfit to conjure. It also helps that Jepsen’s motivated: “Idol tapped into my competitive nature,” she says, indicating that TV time kick-started her work ethic.
Music-wise, Jepsen’s earlier songs were earworms, too, but with a less pop-y sensibility. A listen to “Tug of War” or “Bucket” will most likely make you say, “Oh yeah, this song.” With Curiosity, Jepsen and her team took a turn. “Deciding to step into pop was scary, because my natural influences are James Taylor, Feist and Cat Stevens,” she says. She wrote the title track to sell it to someone in pop, but when she couldn’t shake the tune decided to keep it. That decision has coloured the rest of Curiosity, and Jepsen’s career beyond.
Back at 604, having bid Hanson adieu, Jepsen and band are wading through Mavi jeans. It’s a sponsorship deal her management and label worked out. “If you could tweet a pic of yourself wearing them…” says the Mavi rep, trailing off. Jepsen’s smiling and bouncing, a girl on the verge. Breathlessly, she exclaims, “I just got four new pairs of pants! That’s not a normal day.” That night on stage, she’ll make the audience dance with ease, but when “Call Me Maybe” starts, even with that bubbly beginning, the energy uptick is palpable.
Get used to it, Jepsen.
UPDATE: On Feb. 14th, 2012 it was announced that Jepsen has signed with Schoolboy Records, the label of Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun.
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