When Jesse McCartney titled his latest album Departure, he did so intending to indicate a change from the singing style that planted him on the pop scene with the release of 2004’s Beautiful Soul and also to note a recurring thematic element on the record. Now, with fans swooning over Departure’s smash single “Leavin'” it just may signal his ascension into the stratosphere.
The R&B style, R. Kelly-esque single has already received over 2.5 million plays on MySpace. It’s entrenched in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play (peaking at #1), Hot Digital Songs (#7), Pop 100 (#2) and Hot 100 (#10) songs.
Not a bad start before you’re not even 22 years old.
With a background in entertainment that stretches a childhood performing on the stage to a role on soap opera “All My Children” and a spot in now-dissolved boy band Dream Street, McCartney’s music has certainly built him a mountain of teenage fans. His soulful pipes rank up there with the best the Backstreet Boys ever offered, but he’s not relying on his talent alone during his climb to the top. McCartney is also reaping the rewards of keeping them connected to his music and his life as his career grows.
Even in the days long before the Internet, artists would try to get their fans engaged beyond just concerts and record sales. Fan clubs were founded to keep the band’s name fresh on everyone’s mind, rewarding their allegiance with letters from band members and access to otherwise-unavailable B-side recordings. With the arrival of the Internet, blogs and social networking software such as MySpace, that connection between fan and artist became more constant. McCartney is taking it even further.
About midway down the MySpace page appears a phone number – 310-220-0609 – and a blurb that reads “Jesse McCartney. Call me. It’s the best way to get in touch with me.” The number takes callers to a voice mail system where they can leave McCartney a message. He listens to some of them, but can’t get to them all considering the mail box receives, on average, one message every minute.
The content of the messages predictably spans the spectrum from hate to love, though only a handful are of the creepy variety. “You get one every once in a while, you just keep ’em moving,” McCartney says. The vast majority are from fans dying to catch just a sliver of McCartney’s time. And some of them make the most of it.
“Some of these girls are very straightforward,” McCartney says. “They are not shy.”
And now McCartney will have an opportunity to talk back, en masse at least. Using a new keep-in-touch technology called “Say Now,” McCartney can mass-dial all his fans that have supplied their cell numbers and leave them a message about what’s up in his career or life. To date, McCartney says about 140,000 fans have signed up for it.
The true test will come if his popularity continues to trend skyward. For his fans’ sake, hopefully there’s good cell phone service in the stratosphere.
- Jesse McCartney performs with Jordin Sparks at D.A.R. Constitution Hall on Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $39.50-49.50 and are available through Ticketmaster.