Music

Jesse McCartney: Right Where You Want Me

Jesse McCartney is a Lunchable: prepackaged to the point of absurdity.


Jesse McCartney

Right Where You Want Me

Label: Hollywood Records
US Release Date: 2006-09-19
UK Release Date: 2006-10-02
Amazon
iTunes

Jesse McCartney is a Lunchable: pre-packaged to the point of absurdity. This is something that's affected him his whole life, from his time with pre-teen boy-band Dream Street to his acting work on the WB's semi-hit show Summerland to his 2004 prepubescent-Timberlake debut album, Beautiful Soul. It seems that McCartney hasn't had many oppotunities to express himself in any type of original format. All he seemed to have going for him was his good looks and fortunate last name (and no, he's not the son of the Beatle), as his singing voice was about as strong as Britney Spears's -- and that's not saying much.

Yet there was room for a change: a quick scan reveals that the young pop star has had a hand co-writing all but one of Right Where You Want Me's dozen tracks (unlike only four on his debut), and even had an assist from Grammy-winning teen-pop guru John Shanks (Michelle Branch, Ashlee Simpson) on two songs. Could he pull through and actually define himself as a unique artist in the cluttered landscape of TRL-fueled teen pop, and perhaps release an album that is more than just a traffic-jam of calculated rhyme schemes and major-label marketing?

Let's put it this way: Dream Street actually did some of its earliest promotional work with Lunchables! Why is this being brought to your attention? Because that trivia factoid is more interesting than anything off of Right Where You Want Me.

Though McCartney may have graced these tracks with his own insight, it sounds absolutely no different than your second-run Max Martin pop song. The album is slickly produced and covers subject matters ranging from wanting a girl, wanting a girl to want you, wondering if anyone else in the world has felt lonely, and so on. What's worse is the expected heart-wrenching song, "Invincible", tackling the subject of a DUI-related death of a close friend of McCartney's. All the elements are in place: the lavish string quartet, the soft-spoken piano melody, the sad lyrics about families crying, and the use of the word 'damn,' etc. Yet it's Mr. Dream Street's delivery that kills any chance for empathy -- dry, bland, and entirely unemotional. One gets the image of Jesse with a studio lyric sheet in front of him simply going through the motions. Instead of feeling your tears being jerked, you instead feel your finger twitch for the fast-forward button.

Being a typical pop album, however, there are a few catchy moments, usually in the choruses. The lead single title track is actually quite good and hooky, and you only feel cheated when you realize that it's actually the best song on the album... and it's the first track.

Lunchables are widely criticized for using non-organic ingredients, leading to high sodium content. What's interesting about this LP is that instead of the faux-Timberlake stepping of Beautiful Soul's Diet Dance Floor beats, here dry acoustic guitars are the primary instruments. This makes for a few pleasant moments, like "We Can Go Anywhere" and the laid-back "Anybody", but countless others fall painfully flat (take the anyone-could-have-sung-this feel of "Right Back in the Water").

The saving grace of this album -- aside from the title track -- remains Shanks's contributions. Though "Blow Your Mind" apes Maroon 5 pretty blatantly, the rock-guitar drive of "Can't Let You Go" features something painfully missing from the rest of the album: energy. The wannabe Shanks track and album closer, "Daddy's Little Girl", features surf guitar and ? & the Mysterians-styled keyboards for some reason, but that track is more of an oddity than an original entity.

Ultimately, Right Where You Want Me is a typical post-millennial teen pop album: calculated to death. Despite a few moments of delicious junk food, McCartney just doesn't fill you up. Like all Lunchables, this album will soon expire past a certain date and be forgotten in the bowels of pop history. Tasty as a snack, but he's got a long way to go before becoming a meal.

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image