Owatonna's favorite pop star is back on the charts with Carly Rae Jepsen and (gasp!) a rowdy new album.
It's hard to believe that's our shy Minnesota pop star Adam Young in the video for "Good Time." The viral clip shows the Owl City singer, famous for his homebody lifestyle and wholesome songs, living it up and getting down at a party in the woods -- albeit a party with Slurpee machines, not beer kegs. Still, the difference is remarkable.
Thanks to the fact his duet partner for "Good Time" happens to be the singer behind the biggest song of 2012, it's not hard to believe the single wound up bringing Young back to the top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The song features new Canadian starlet Carly Rae Jepsen, whose hit "Call Me Maybe" shot to No. 1 shortly after Young invited her to help sing the Owl City track.
"All luck," Young, 26, said of the timing. "I simply asked her if she'd be into singing on the track and she was very gracious to oblige. It was really very simple."
Three years after Owl City's breakout hit "Fireflies" made it to No. 1, Young has officially gotten past one-hit-wonder status. Minnesota's most commercially successful recording artist of the past decade will celebrate by playing his first-ever concert Thursday at Minnesota's best known club, First Avenue. It will actually be Young's first time inside the Minneapolis music haven ("The venue speaks for itself," he said).
First Ave seems like a fitting place for Owl City this time around. For one thing, "Good Time" includes a lyrical shout-out to the club's most famous alum: "Woke up on the right side of the bed," Young sings, "What's up with this Prince song inside my head?"
What's more, First Ave suits the good-timey vibe heard throughout his new album, "The Midsummer Station." Up-tempo songs such as "Dreams and Disasters" and "Speed of Love" show off Young's love for electronic dance music, whose stars have been inviting Young to guest on their own albums (including both Paul van Dyk and Armin van Buuren). It's also the first Owl City album featuring collaborations with outside pop songwriters and producers, including the Norwegian duo Stargate (who helped craft hits for Ne-Yo and Rihanna) and Los Angeles studio maven Emily Wright (Britney Spears, Katy Perry).
On record, as on stage and in interviews, it appears as if Young is coming out of his shell.
A few weeks into his current tour, though, the singer came down sick and was ordered to save his voice, according to his publicist. Even though we got to visit Young at his house in Owatonna last year before the release of his tepidly received sophomore album, "All Things Bright & Beautiful," we were back to trading e-mails with him last week, which used to be the only way he did interviews. Here are some of his answers from the exchange, lightly edited for clarity:
On making his First Avenue debut: "It's a huge honor to be playing at such a legendary place. Of course I grew up hearing about First Avenue and so now that a few years have gone by I feel very lucky to be able to play such a famous room."
The truth (or is it?) behind his Prince shout-out in "Good Time," which differs from other interviews: "I don't know much about Prince -- I was more of a Johnny Cash kind of guy -- but I have a pretty good idea, and I thought that was worth the reference, being from Minnesota. The line was originally, 'What's up with this Cher song inside my head?' I just thought it was a silly line, and it made me laugh, so I put it in the song."
What his duet partner Carly Rae Jepsen is really like: "She's fun to be around, there's no ego or anything, and I hit it off with her band the same as she hit it off with mine. She's a cool girl."
What their rowdy, party-in-the-woods video shoot for "Good Time" was really like: "[We shot it] in upstate New York, somewhere near Deer Mountain. It was a long day, but video shoots always are, and the crew was fantastic. They went out of their way to make sure everyone felt taken care of. Someone got stung by a wasp out in the woods."
How trance and other brands of electronic dance music heavily influenced his new album: "I love how epic trance music can be, how long and sweeping and dynamic it can be. I wanted to filter my love of trance down into a collection of pop songs that really feel like me and what I inherently do musically."
Why he chose to work with outside writers and producers this time: "It was just about trying something new. I was a little bored doing everything myself, so that was partly why I wanted to bring in some brilliant outside folks. It was a great experience."
What it feels like landing another top 10 hit: "Like a boss."
In all seriousness: "I just set out to write music that I feel proud of, and I try not to think about anything else."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib