Carly Rae Jepsen describes the evening of Sunday, Nov. 11, as a “Cinderella night” – and one that would’ve been unimaginable a year ago.
At the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards held in Frankfurt, Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was nominated for song of the year, alongside hits like fun.’s “We Are Young,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love.”
Those three songs spent a combined 24 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, but Jepsen’s smash, which held onto the peak position for nine frames last summer, was too undeniable to defeat. After performing “Call Me Maybe” earlier in the evening, Jepsen strode onstage in a flowing silver gown to collect the song of the year prize, and made sure to let the moment sink in.
“There’s been a natural progression from folk to pop that’s been happening for a while,” Jepsen says. “And ‘Call Me Maybe’ was the first time that I really embraced it, and saw that it could be embraced by other people too.” “I had shivers up and down my spine the whole night,” Jepsen says the day after the awards. The 26-year-old, who also earned the MTV Europe Music Award for PUSH artist of the year, met 2011 Billboard Woman of the Year Taylor Swift at the awards show, and received a Twitter shout-out from her pal Justin Bieber for the pair of wins.
Read the rest after the jump![expand title=”More” swaptitle=”Less” trigpos=”below”] “It’s been such an impossibly wonderful year,” she says, “and it just keeps getting better.”
>Last November, Jepsen was still throwing wishes in wells: As a modestly successful pop singer from Mission, British Columbia, Jepsen had just released a single, “Call Me Maybe,” that had quietly debuted on the Canadian Hot 100. But the year that followed has been a fairytale for the artist, earning her a spot alongside the world’s biggest mainstream music stars through a pair of smash singles, a top 10 album debut, a slot on a best-selling arena tour and, most important, the arrival of a genuinely sweet pop persona.
Jepsen’s wholly organic path to success – marked by, but not defined by, the impossibly catchy song of the summer – has earned her the 2012 Billboard Rising Star award. The singer/songwriter is set to receive the honor at Billboard’s Women in Music event on Nov. 30 in New York.
In hindsight, the success of “Call Me Maybe” was staggering. Since making its debut on the Hot 100 in early March and reaching the summit 15 weeks later, the single has sold 6.1 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it the second-biggest-selling digital song of 2012. The track ruled top 40 radio for the summer season and beyond, garnering an astounding 2.4 billion in cumulative audience on Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart, according to Nielsen BDS. In September, Billboard named “Call Me Maybe” its Song of the Summer, making Jepsen the first artist to claim the honor with a first Hot 100 hit since Katy Perry won with “I Kissed a Girl” in 2008.
The song’s refrain, marked by streamlined strings and a flirtatious phone-number swap, inspired viral tributes from the all-male Harvard baseball team, the U.S. Olympic swimming team, Perry and Bieber, who eventually helped sign Jepsen to his Schoolboy Records label (along with Interscope and her Canadian label 604 Records) last February. But as 2012 progressed, Jepsen’s appeal spread outside of her lone smash: “Good Time” paired the singer with “Fireflies” artist Owl City, and the collaboration has sold 2 million downloads, according to SoundScan.
Both songs previewed “Kiss,” Jepsen’s sophomore album released in September, and a more radio-friendly departure from the acoustic-leaning songwriting of her 2008 debut, “Tug of War.” Fortunately, the singer had already been shifting her creative focus before “Call Me Maybe” took off, and the hook-filled “Kiss” is the work of an artist comfortable in her own skin.
The mainstream opportunities have been plentiful following “Call Me Maybe,” from performances at this year’s Billboard Music Awards and MuchMusic Video Awards to an opening slot on Bieber’s Believe tour, which began Sept. 29.
Through Nov. 12, the North American leg of the arena trek has attracted 400,097 fans to 28 sellouts, according to Billboard Boxscore, and Jepsen has been front and center, utilizing big-budget stagecraft while presenting Kiss tracks to thousands of screaming fans.
But as Jonathan Simkin, co-founder of 604 Records and Jepsen’s manager since 2007, points out, the singer/songwriter’s mainstream pop moment would not have been sustainable if she had strayed from her musical instincts. Simkin has helped build the durable careers of Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman – as well as been associated with acts like Len and Daniel Powter who couldn’t move past their lone hits – and believes that success is based on more than presenting one great song to the masses.
“Trying to ‘stay true to what you are’ sounds kind of corny, but there’s a lot of pressure in this business to make spur-of-the-moment decisions,” Simkin says. “[Jepsen is] a real artist-she writes this stuff. And I’ve always said to her, ‘Write what feels honest to you.'”
Jepsen has been honing her craft ever since placing third on “Canadian Idol” in 2007 and starting to work on Tug of War. The “Idol” stint prepared her for larger audiences, but in the years preceding “Call Me Maybe,” Jepsen worked tirelessly to improve her songwriting. Simkin says Jepsen would constantly volunteer to co-write with her labelmates, while 604 Records project manager Kesi Smyth recalls “listening parties” in the back lounge of the label’s office, where Jepsen would invite friends and family in to give feedback on her ideas.
“She would sit down and play 20 different acoustic songs for us, just to plan her next direction,” Smyth says.[/expand]