I've never felt the need to lose control / Always held on back and played it slow / But not this time..." With these words from the title track to his second album Right Where You Want Me, an older, wiser Jesse McCartney is most certainly back. It's been two years since the release of Beautiful Soul, the platinum-plus selling album and Top 5 single which topped the charts in Australia, Italy, the Philippines and Taiwan and made "Jesse Mac" a household name. And in that time, the singer-songwriter and actor has seen more than his share of award shows, movie sets and sold out venues (Jesse garnered an American Music Award nomination for Best New Artist, an MTV Award nomination for Best Pop Video and three Teen Choice Awards, including Choice Male Artist, Breakout Artist and Crossover Artist, as well as 2 highly coveted Emmy Award nominations). But in between his professional obligations, McCartney also took that time to reflect on how far he'd come. The album includes contributions from such hit-making writer-producers as John Shanks ("Blow Your Mind"), Kara DioGuardi, Greg Wells, Drew Ramsey, Shannon Sanders, Marti Fredricksen and Eman. But make no mistake, this is Jesse's project through and through, as one listen to the deeply personal "Invincible," which features a sparse vocal backed by a 15-piece orchestra, clearly demonstrates. "It's a really heavy song about a buddy of mine who died in a drinking and driving accident three years ago," Jesse explains. "I felt like I had to put that on the record because it contains such an important message for kids my age, which is to think before they drink and drive. It's so powerful that they'll have to listen."
About the Artist
Of all the many feelings a heartthrob like Jesse McCartney is apt to inspire, pity is not high on the list: Here's a 19-year-old with a bazillion teenage fans and firm traction on a couple of different freeways to mega-stardom, music and acting. Yet play Right Where You Want Me
--the follow-up to one of 2004's guiltiest, fizziest pleasures, Beautiful Soul
--and it's hard not to mourn McCartney's misspent youth. Replace this new CD's producers with a batch of one-named tastemakers, ramp up the writing for a more sophisticated crowd (i.e., make it raunchier), and bring on a slew of influential guest rappers, after all, and McCartney would be interchangeable with an intergalactic star like Justin Timberlake. His voice is as bendy and burnished, throwing off hints of Michael Jackson here and Adam Levine there, and he's not far behind on the style meter.
Languishing a few levels below Timberlake-caliber celebrity, though, hasn't hurt his prospects of adding to his fan base: Right Where You Want Me's dozen songs display a desire to come across as a grown-up (the title track and "Daddy's Little Girl" dispense with coyness in favor of explorations of what it means to be a full-on loverboy), but they also stay true to the nice-guy pop that put McCartney on the map. "Can't Let You Go," "Tell Her," and "Right Back in the Water" follow the same relationshippy formula that made Beautiful Soul such a pleasure; "Feelin' You" takes it up a notch, but barely. If there's an experiment here, it's with breaching the boundaries of pop in favor of rockier terrain: "Can't Let You Go" is a pretty pulse-raiser, but instead of dripping with hard-driving 'tude it calls to mind Jackson's rock-obsessed bid to be "bad." --Tammy La Gorce