In the past, the talented Jesse McCartney always seemed to make an appearance at the worst time, usually when someone was already doing what he wanted to do. Breaking free from his boy band, Dream Street, he attempted a solo career, releasing his first two albums, Beautiful Soul in 2004, and Right Where You Want Me in 2006. While both were admirable and showed a lot of potential in the then-young star (they both were top 20 Billboard hits), there was another male pop singer who had already been making massive moves in the genre in which McCartney hoped to make a dent. That man was Justin Timberlake. When McCartney decided to switch things up and go for a more urban sound with 2009’s Departure, he found more competition – this time from Canadian singer Robin Thicke. Things were becoming increasingly crowded for males in music and sadly, McCartney would find himself completely pushed out. In fact, his fourth album, Have It All, would never see the light of day, except for the release of one low-charting single, Shake.
In 2014, the tides have changed a bit. With Timberlake finally coming down from the popularity that came from 2013’s The 20/20 Experience, and with Thicke’s future seeming to be as blurred as his biggest hit, it seems like this is the best time for McCartney, now 27 years old, to show what he is truly made of. On July 22, he released his latest album, In Technicolor.
“We all live in a black and white world,” he sings on the album’s opening interlude, In Technicolor, Part 1, which leads the way to the teaser single from the LP, Back Together. The track is filled with a level funk that he tried to embrace on the earlier Departure. At that time, something was not quite right. This time around, though, the pieces fit perfectly, from the harmony to the guitar and even a bit of surprisingly good falsetto.
The peppy Young Love which follows teases a bit of the McCartney styles from the Beautiful Soul days. It is light and airy, but still builds off of the maturity he exudes. Superbad, the first official single, blasts through with a bass-filled beat while McCartney shares wonders about his “classy girl.” The throwback feel is one that seems to be used a lot lately, but it has been a while since it has felt this fresh.
Of course, there is the mainstay of any R&B album: the quintessential slow jam – the song that leads things from the dance floor to the bedroom. That comes with the sexy Checkmate.
“You thought that you’d be ready,“ he claims, “but I knew you’d always have your doubts.” McCartney pulls off the sensuality needed and maintains a level of respect, but without being too innocent. “How will you feel when the king lies down?“ he asks.
Too bad listeners will have no time to lie down with him, as the next track, Punch Drunk Recreation, is definitely an invitation to get back to the dance floor. The Pharrell-esque jam is one of the best on the album. Toward the end of In Technicolor comes another fun and sweet disco banger, Tie the Knot. It would be the perfect end to a surprisingly good disc, but-McCartney decides to closes it off with the surprising ballad, The Other Man.
It is with this that a spoiler must be revealed regarding the album: if one listens to In Technicolor from start to finish, it seems to tell a story about a rekindled relationship (Back Together). From there, there is the journey through the fun (Young Love, Superbad), the intimate (Checkmate, Punch Drunk Recreation) and the hopes that this time, it will last for eternity (Tie the Knot). In a heart wrenching twist, however, The Other Man somberly shares that the relationship has ended once more. This time around, it is because the love that he saved does not truly belong to him.
“Girl, I’m sitting here wondering what have we done,” McCartney questions forlornly. “Baby, who am I to be that other guy?“ Admittedly, ending things this way is a risk, but it is one that was well executed.
If only for the moment, McCartney has compiled a great album to show that he deserves his place in the current music field. It is consistently enjoyable, almost to the point of utter disbelief. One wonders how he could have been somewhat ignored for so long, especially if this is what he had to offer. In Technicolor is quite possibly the brightest spot in a discography that is in need of a lot more shine. He is no Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke, but in this case, McCartney should take that as the highest of compliments.
Final grade: 4 out of 5
Opinion by Jonathan Brown