Carly Rae Jepsen, singer, songwriter, guitarist (born 21 November 1985 in Mission, BC). Bubbly pop singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen first came to public attention in 2007 as a contestant on the hit CTV show Canadian Idol. Her debut album, Tug of War (2008), yielded two gold-certified singles and earned two Juno Award nominations. She is best known for the global pop phenomenon “Call Me Maybe,” which became the biggest-selling song in the world in 2012 and the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history. Her album Kiss (2012) included the summer hit “Good Time” and earned Jepsen three Juno Awards, including Album of the Year and Single of the Year for “Call Me Maybe.”
Jepsen grew up surrounded by music through her parents and step-parents. A self-professed “musical-theatre nerd,” she starred in productions of Annie, The Wiz and Grease at Heritage Park Secondary School and the Clark Foundation Theatre in Mission, BC. She got her first guitar at age 17 before attending the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, where she planned on becoming a music teacher until she caught the songwriting bug. She was working as a waitress, busking and performing in local pubs when her high school drama teacher encouraged her to audition for Canadian Idol.
Canadian Idol and Early Career
The fifth season of the popular CTV show premiered on 5 June 2007. Jepsen auditioned by singing one of her own songs and became one of 10 finalists a month later. She advanced round by round while singing songs such as “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles, “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, “Chuck E.’s In Love” by Rickie Lee Jones, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” by Ella Fitzgerald and “At Seventeen” by Janis Ian. She finished the season in third place.
Jepsen, winner Brian Melo and second-place finisher Jaydee Bixby embarked on the first Canadian Idol tour in Charlottetown on 18 November 2007. The three singers performed in 15 cities across the country, including a final show in Edmonton on 12 December. Jepsen returned home after the tour to write, record demos and put a band together. She then signed a joint management deal with Simkin Artist Management (co-owned by Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger) and Dexter Entertainment, which led her into the studio with songwriter-producer Ryan Stewart.
Tug of War (2008)
Jepsen released two singles, a cover of John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders” and her forthcoming album’s title track, before issuing the Stewart-produced Tug of War album through MapleMusic Recordings on 30 September 2008. The album’s third single, “Bucket,” reached No. 32 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart, and the downloads for “Tug of War” and “Bucket” were both certified gold for selling 40,000 units. The fourth and final single, “Sour Candy,” featured vocals from album-contributing musician and producer Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench — a Canadian pop band that Jepsen toured across Canada with in 2009.
“Tug of War” was named Song of the Year at the 2010 Canadian Radio Music Awards. Jepsen was also nominated for New Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year at the Juno Awards, and UR Fave New Artist at the MuchMusic Video Awards. Tug of War was reissued in 2011 by 604 Records, a label run by Jepsen’s manager, Jonathan Simkin, and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback.
“Call Me Maybe” and Curiosity (2012)
Jepsen began recording material for her next record with Stewart and Ramsay in 2011 and, unlike the more R&B, folk- and country-based pop material on her debut, the new songs went in a more upbeat, dance-pop direction. Most famously, a folk tune written by Jepsen and her guitarist, Tavish Crowe, while on tour served as the framework for the smash hit single “Call Me Maybe,” which was re-written and “pop-ified” with Ramsay as producer. He has said that the original song “had what became the chorus' lyrics and melody… So we put that into a different song and built a new song around it." Ramsay also replaced a synthesizer backbeat with a string arrangement, citing Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass” as an example of how “a string riff could be cool in a dance tune.” Jepsen has said that the song “was written, recorded and produced within four or five days, tops. It was a pretty easy song to write.”
“Call Me Maybe” was released in Canada on 20 September 2011 and began to steadily climb the Canadian singles chart that fall. Yet it wasn’t until January 2012, after Canadian pop star Justin Bieber raved about it on Twitter (calling it “possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard”) and uploaded a wacky video to YouTube of him lip-synching the song with then-girlfriend Selena Gomez, that it began to gain international attention. In early February, Jepsen signed a deal with Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, and his School Boy Records, which had global distribution through Interscope. Six songs (including a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”) had already been completed by then, so 604 released them on an EP titled Curiosity on Valentine’s Day 2012.
“Call Me Maybe” — about hoping to hear back from a crush and featuring the irresistibly hooky chorus, "Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe" — soon went viral on YouTube via its Ben Knechtel-directed video (which had more than 430 million views within a year) and proceeded to top the charts in 37 countries. It entered the UK pop chart at No. 1 on 14 April 2012 and, on 23 June, began the first of nine weeks at No. 1 in the US — the longest reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 by a Canadian performer, beating the record of seven weeks achieved by Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (1990) and Snow’s “Informer” (1993). On 21 June, the song was certified octuple-platinum for selling 640,000 copies in Canada, making it the best-selling domestic Canadian single in history. It went on to become the world’s top-selling song of 2012, with more than 12.5 million copies sold worldwide.
Jon Caramanica of the New York Times called the song “breezy and sweet, an eyelash-fluttering flirtation run hard through the Disney-pop model of digitized feelings and brusque, chipper arrangments.” The Huffington Post called it “a sickly-sweet bubblegum pop tune that's taken over the planet. It's incredibly obscenely impossibly popular.” It was named Song of the Year by MTV, nominated for two Grammy Awards and earned Jepsen a slew of other honours and accolades, including Rising Star at the Billboard Music Awards, New Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards and Single of the Year at the 2013 Juno Awards.
A 12-track dance-pop album titled Kiss, which included “Call Me Maybe” and the title cut from Curiosity, was released by 604 and School Boy on 18 September 2012. Jepsen co-wrote 10 of the songs and producers included Ramsay, Dallas Austin, LMFAO’s Redfoo, Max Martin and Kuk Harrell. The LP’s release was preceded by lead single “Good Time,” a duet with American electronic artist Owl City. It became a summer anthem, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping charts in Canada, New Zealand and South Korea. “This Kiss” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” were the album’s third and fourth international singles, while the album also included an acoustic guitar-tinged collaboration with Bieber called “Beautiful.”
Jepsen’s skyrocketing global profile resulted in numerous television appearances, including performances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as a cameo appearance on the CW program 90210. On 25 November 2012, she performed at the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto along with Bieber, Marianas Trench and Gordon Lightfoot.
Jepsen promoted Kiss as the opening act on Bieber’s “Believe Tour” in North America, Ireland and the UK before headlining her own “Kiss Summer Tour” of North America and Asia in 2013. Kiss won 2013 Juno Awards for Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year. It was certified gold in Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia and Poland, and reached platinum status in Japan and quadruple-platinum in the Philippines. Kiss: The Remix, featuring remixes and instrumentals of singles from Kiss, was released exclusively in Japan on 12 June 2013. She was also featured singing “Part of Your World” on The Little Mermaid Greatest Hits soundtrack, released in tandem with the film’s diamond edition DVD in the fall of 2013.
In 2013, Jepsen began writing and recording her third album, which was tentatively expected the following year. However, she elected to take her time and discarded more than 100 songs while working on material with such writers as Sia Furler, Devonté Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid. Veering away from the bubble-gum pop sound of her earlier work, Jepsen was inspired by a mix of 1980s pop music and more alternative styles, and said that her goal was to produce songs that “showed sides of me that I hadn’t ever revealed in my music before.” She recorded E•MO•TION at studios in New York, Los Angeles, London and Stockholm with such producers as Mattman & Robin, Greg Kurstin, Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub.
The album’s lead single, “I Really Like You,” was released on 2 March 2015. It was followed a few days later by the music video, which featured actor Tom Hanks lip-synching the lyrics and a cameo by pop star Justin Bieber. The video went viral, receiving more than 132 million views on YouTube by March 2016, and the song became an international hit, charting in the Top 40 in nearly 30 countries and reaching No. 14 in Canada. It was certified a gold digital download in Canada for sales of more than 40,000 copies, and platinum in Japan for sales of more than 250,000 copies.
However, the commercial performance of the album was more tepid. Released in Japan on 24 June and in the rest of the world on 21 August, E•MO•TION debuted at No. 8 on the Japanese and Canadian sales charts and at No. 16 in the US. A critical darling, it received generally positive reviews and was ranked among the best albums of the year by such media outlets as Entertainment Weekly, Vice, Time, Spin and Rolling Stone. It was also voted the most underrated album of the year by a readers’ poll in Pitchfork. “I Really Like You” was followed by the singles “Run Away With Me,” which peaked at No. 83 in Canada, and “Your Type,” which failed to chart. Jepsen received her eighth Juno nomination, a nod for the Juno Fan Choice Award, in 2016.
Other Recording Projects
Jepsen played US and Japanese dates in late 2015, and toured the US and Canada through the first half of 2016. She was featured on a new version of Bleachers' song "Shadow” and released a cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" in late 2015. Jepsen recorded the theme song to the Netflix series Fuller House, which premiered in February 2016. She also appeared on The Knocks' debut album, 55, which was released in March 2016.
Broadway and Grease Live (2016)
On 4 February 2014, Jepsen made her Broadway debut at New York City’s Broadway Theatre, portraying the title role in the Tony Award-winning musical Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Her 12-week run was extended until 8 June, with Jepsen performing six nights a week. Reviews of her performance ranged from “serviceable” and “so-so” to one that praised her “impressive vocals.” Variety reported that her debut “helped drive up the show’s box office by 25 per cent vs. the prior week.”
Jepsen played Frenchy in Grease Live, Fox's critically acclaimed live television presentation of the musical Grease, which aired on 31 January 2016. She also sang a new song written specifically for her called “All I Need Is An Angel.”
In October 2012, Jepsen and Owl City’s Adam Young were sued for copyright infringement by American singer-songwriter Ally Burnett, who claimed that “Good Time” borrowed from her 2010 song, “Ah, It’s a Love Song.” In March 2014, it was reported that Jepsen and Burnett had reached a settlement; in June 2014, Burnett dropped the lawsuit after an investigation determined that “Good Time” was an original work.
In March 2013, after being pressured by a GLAAD-supported petition on Change.org, Jepsen cancelled a scheduled performance at a Boy Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia in July, citing the organization's controversial ban on gay members and leaders. “I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer,” she tweeted. “I always have and will continue to support the LGBT community on a global level and stay informed on the ever changing landscape in the ongoing battle for gay rights in this country and across the globe.”
Jepsen received the 2013 Allan Slaight Award from Canada’s Walk of Fame, given to a young Canadian who is making a positive impact in their given field.
Single of the Year (“Call Me Maybe”) (2013)
Pop Album of the Year (Kiss) (2013)
Album of the Year (Kiss) (2013)
MuchMusic Video Awards
Most Streamed Video of the Year (“Call Me Maybe”) (2012)
Video of the Year (“Call Me Maybe”) (2012)
UR Fave Video (“Call Me Maybe”) (2012)
International Achievement Award (2014)
Pop/Rock Music Award (“Curiosity”) (2014)
Pop/Rock Music Award (“Call Me Maybe”) (2014)
International Song Award (“Call Me Maybe”) (2014)
Canadian Radio Music Awards
Song of the Year (“Tug of War”) (2010)
Song of the Year (“Call Me Maybe”) (2013)
Chart Topper (2013)
Billboard Music Awards
Rising Star (2012)
Top Pop Song of the Year (2013)
Top Digital Songs Artist (2013)
Top Digital Song (2013)
Digital & Airplay Overseas of the Year (“Good Time”), Billboard Japan Music Awards (2012)
Hot Top Airplay of the Year (“Good Time”), Billboard Japan Music Awards (2012)
MTV Music Awards
Best Song (“Call Me Maybe”), MTV Europe Music Awards (2012)
Best Push, MTV Europe Music Awards (2012)
Best New Artist, MTV Video Music Awards Japan (2012)
Teen Choice Awards
Choice Summer Song (“Call Me Maybe”) (2012)
Choice Music: Breakout Artist (2012)
SiriusXM Indies Awards
Single of the Year (“Call Me Maybe”), SiriusXM Indies Awards (2013)
Artist of the Year, SiriusXM Indies Awards (2013)
Most Played Independent Artist or Group of the Year, SiriusXM Indies Awards (2013)
Vevo Certified Awards
100,000,000 Views (“Call Me Maybe”), Vevo Certified Awards (2012)
100,000,000 Views (“Good Time”), Vevo Certified Awards (2012)
Pop Recording of the Year (“Curiosity”), Western Canadian Music Awards (2012)
New Artist of the Year, American Music Awards (2012)
International Breakthrough of the Year, NRJ Music Awards (2012)
Best International Song (“Call Me Maybe”), Premios 40 Principales America (2012)
Allan Slaight Award, Canada’s Walk of Fame (2013)
IT Honoree, Ride of Fame (2014)