The nominations, by the way, were for song of the year and best pop solo performance, both for Call Me Maybe, a devilishly simple spiral of demure, disco-pop cotton-candy with a chorus that has been permanently tattooed on our collective cultural memory. It was a juicy wad of bubblegum that still hasn’t lost its taste.
The song topped charts in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Austria, France, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It occupied the top spot in the U.S. for nine straight weeks, achieving a summer ubiquity typically reserved for the pinging bells of an ice cream truck. It elicited goofy covers from Justin Bieber, the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders, the Harvard University baseball team, Cookie Monster, and — thanks to some clever editing tricks — U.S. President Barack Obama, kind of.
And it transformed Jepsen, from a Canadian Idol also-ran who was seemingly treading water in her home country’s indifferent music industry into an international star whose signature catchy, carefree musical bonbon was as difficult to dislike as it was to avoid.
Jepsen followed with the wellreceived full-length Kiss — which both proved her songwriting chops beyond her first single, and established Jepsen’s neon-splashed sound, rooted in blithe ’80s new wave — and loaned her pipes to another Top 10 smash in her Owl City collaboration Good Time.
But Jepsen certainly never presumed Grammy recognition.
“The Grammys, to me, has always been one of those things that you don’t really allow yourself to dream about — at least I hadn’t,” said Jepsen, who wrote Call Me Maybe with Marianas Trench frontman Josh Ramsay and guitarist Tavish Crowe.
“I never really pictured myself there. It’s kind of just been an eyeopening year.”
The perky Jepsen then segues into a familiar inspirational refrain, about the realization that dreams can be attainable with work and luck and the good sense to recognize an opportunity and run with it.
But, crucially, she understood the flip side just as well — the demoralizing frustration of an artist struggling to break through, and the accompanying fear that the window to that broader world was inching shut, year by year.
“It was really nice,” she says, “to feel the hunger and fight of it not working for so many years. And really, really getting hungry, and trying different ways and putting up your own posters and hoping people would show up at your concerts.”
Certainly, the whiplash immediacy of Jepsen’s fame isn’t lost on her — particularly since the memories of what life was like before are still so recent.
Indeed, Jepsen seems refreshingly normal, suitably gobsmacked by the position in which she finds herself.
She still marvels at the power of her “huge machine of a team,” which includes Bieber’s powerful manager, Scooter Braun. She cheerfully shrugs off the suggestion — floated by Braun and others — that she was “snubbed” out of a nomination in the best new artist category, convincingly insisting she’s “honoured with whatever I’ve gotten.”
And when discussing the Grammys generally, she still seems to feel closer to the young woman who spent so many years gazing at the sparkling stars parading along the red carpet — rather than the budding starlet about to strut along the same. (In fact, she confides that she’s been agonizing over which of two dresses she wants to wear, and her bandmates — “I tour with boys,” she snorts — have been no help).
“I’ve been the ultimate popcorn and PJs (viewer), really judgmental over which girl was wearing the coolest dress — that kind of watcher,” she recalled, laughing.
“My favourite part was always the beginning. Maybe it’s the girlish little fashionista in me, who was just sitting there and having fun deciding — like out of 10 — which dress is the best one. And seeing it later on if it made the list.
“Now, all of a sudden, to get to go through those old pictures and think: ’Oh my gosh, what am I going to wear?’ This is a whole new thing.”
It’s of course not unexpected when Jepsen doesn’t make any claims about her chances to win an award — even the chaste comeon delivered in her chart-topper is tempered with a shrugging “maybe.” But it’s a topic of discussion for many Grammy watchers.
Although Grammy voters sometimes seem reluctant to support youth-skewing pure pop, some prognosticators are curious whether Jepsen’s tune could prove an exception in the stacked song of the year category, where it will compete against singles including the booming fun. anthem We Are Young and Miguel’s soulful earthquake Adorn.
“(It was) the biggest, most popular, most recognizable song of the year and I think it deserves to win when you look at the rest of the people in the category,” MuchMusic VJ Lauren Toyota said in a recent telephone interview.
“It was the most purchased song of the year. Everyone loves this song. Everyone. Across the board. Knows it, knows who she is because of it. I just can’t see it going to anyone else.”