Jamaican teen’s viral hit makes Obama’s summer playlist

September 06, 2023

Each summer, the entertainment industry globally looks forward to former US President Barack Obama's playlist to see which songs he is vibing to.

Among the 41 songs on the 2023 list was Toots and the Maytals' Funky Kingston, which was reported as "the only Jamaican single" to feature. However, without any fanfare, making the list was up-and-coming Jamaican singer, dancer and producer Jovane 'J'Calm' Gayle, whose debut single, Tempted, Obama seemingly could not resist.

"Like I do every year, here are some songs I've been listening to this summer -- a mix of old and new. Look forward to hearing what I've missed," Obama posted on Twitter, where J'Calm saw it and was "shook".

"It was a moment," the 18-year-old Glenmuir High School graduate told THE STAR. "I saw it on Twitter and immediately called my brother and said, 'Hey bro, look here.' His reaction ... his smile reached the back of his ears! Imagine, one of the most powerful men on planet Earth ... how did he find my song in the first place?"

J'Calm, a proud Clarendonian, pointed out that some people think that he is Nigerian, and actually a quick Google search confirmed this. But he is enjoying the love from the Motherland even as he sets the record straight.

He shared that he had been promoting the music video for Tempted on social media when Obama's playlist dropped. His fans became totally caught up in the song making the playlist rather than the video, but he is still happy for the 317,000 views on YouTube currently.

Tempted made its impact first on TikTok when J'Calm posted a verse. He said he was inspired after attending a Jamaica Day concert at his school last year and experienced dancehall culture on display.

"That night I was doing a bunch of TikToks and I pulled up a sample, and it gave me that same dancehall feeling and I started mumbling some words. I'm a perfectionist kinda guy, so I listened back and took out some of the words and just leave ' body right ...tempted'. I posted it, and the rest is history," J'Calm said.

The catchy verse soon had thousands of views and comments. He refused to believe that it was really happening, despite friends texting him to say that he was going viral.

Unable to ignore it any longer, the youngster, who has been dabbling in music since grade nine, called up his stepfather, who is also his manager.

"He didn't quite understand what I was saying until he went on TikTok. Offers started coming in from record companies and we decided to go with 5K Records. They were the first ones to reach out to us and they were also the most persistent," J'Calm explained.

Tempted, which now has 10 million views on TikTok, was released in June. One month later it had amassed more than 100,000 streams on Apple Music and 87,000 streams on Spotify.

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