Revisiting JMac before his next “Departure”

I take it more for granted than I should, but I just love how I can count on a lot of my favorite artists to put out an album every couple years.
Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 have been very consistent and the results have all gone over well… although “Hands all over” is still up for debate (the second half is spotty with enjoyable songs few and far between and everything else depressing me for no good reason)…

I shouldn’t take any of this for granted because over 10 years ago, after Dream Street broke, I found it difficult to find any consistency in the only part of the music industry I personally accepted.
Meaning the remaining bits of bubblegum pop and the occasional singer/songwriter. Did a lot of experimenting with those and rarely did the second album go as well as the first.

I will certainly wait forever for Chris Trousdale to make his musical comeback and for Robert Downey Jr. to release a follow-up album to “The Futurist” despite it being 10 years since its release… and just for Prince to put new music in general.
Trust me, if I have patience for Chris Trousdale going over 10 years, I have patience enough for anything 😉

I also love it when my patience gets rewarded. Thankfully with Jesse, I only had to wait 5 (going on 6) years for his next album… in retrospect, that’s not such a long time. I think I’ve waited longer for Prince… but I’m overwhelmed with joy that JMac finally has a new album coming out.

July 22nd, I believe…
but based on my history with him, I do have my concerns.
It’d been 5 years (going on 6, actually) since Jesse released his “Departure” album, which he said to be a major departure from his contemporary pop image in favorite of something edgier, more mature and more on the side R&B and hip-hop.

One thing I know well about myself and my favorite musicians and artist… I HATE CHANGE!

I know that people evolve and change all the time and I’m in favor of them expressing themselves however they feel at the given time…
but I freaking hate it.

My gut reaction when something change too drastically is for me to bail. I did it with my favorite series when they changed voiceover casts. I did it with The Click Five when their lead singer changed.

I don’t think I’ve had a great first listen with any JMac album. I always have some kind of issue I need to work through 😛
I’m a harsh critic, with him more than anyone else… I don’t know why… that’s just part of the package.

With his first album, I experienced some frustration because he sang the lyrics too fast for me to follow on a bunch of the tracks. History has shown that I’m not the biggest fan of the 3rd track on his album. “Get your shine on” was too fast for me to get into and despite him co-writing it, I didn’t feel it was something that represented him. A little too throwback, too much like a Lionel Richie track (I love me some Lionel Richie but he has his shtick and other people should just not do it).
Of the three albums, “Beautiful Soul” is the only one I don’t listen to regularly… and it’s not the point that this past month was the first time I listened to the other two in a year or so… maybe it’s a little too Disney, a little too ordinary, and the songwriting just didn’t fit him in my view. “Stupid Things,” I didn’t quite get. “Why is love so hard to find?” is just full of clichés and lazy songwriting. With a lot of it, I think I just missed the emotional connection. And not every song felt like something I could see him getting behind.

“Right where you want me” remains my favorite album of his. I don’t know why I didn’t connect with it right away. I guess I just expected more like the previous album, the same pop/Disney sound. Yeah, I realize that’s strange considering how critical I was on it initially.
But there was one time where it just *clicked* for me. Don’t know how or why, but the connection happened and it just became my new best friend. I identified with so much of the album as if Jesse and I were in the same place mentally.

Probably what I loved most about it was that it was heavy on melodies opposed to rhythm. And the melodies are BEAUTIFUL. The other day when I listened to it, I still remembered plenty of the lyrics and vocally, it felt like following the grooves of a vinyl record, fitting into that vocal pocket exactly as I did years previously.
I believe he co-wrote every song with the exception of “Feelin’ you” and I still enjoy that one 😎

Much like the previous album, I kinda stopped listening after track 10. “Invincible” was an important song for Jesse to write (a tribute to a friend of his who died in a DUI accent after driving way over the speed limit), but I go to his music to sing along. It’s hard to do that with something so heart-wrenching. Then “Daddy’s Little Girl”… just opens up a can of worms of things Jesse does that rub me the wrong way. I get that he’s trying to get a girl to come out of her comfort zone and go out of him, but I couldn’t take it seriously after the “shake what your momma gave you” lyric… what does that even mean? Which part of the female body is genetically passed from mother to daughter?

Then again, I take issue with him whenever I see him in the company of a hot girl. While he didn’t write “Beautiful Soul,” to me, that song represents how he feels about woman. It’s not about looks, but the beauty inside he’s after. I feel intimidated when he’s with hot girls. Not that I have a chance with him anywhere but in my imagination, but still… how do I compete with that?

Lyrically, I loved it for the reason I came to love Taylor Swift’s music. I would use the same words to describe those situations and they weren’t complicated to interpret. To me, it best represented the person I felt Jesse was and why I was so crazy in love with him.

Then “Departure” happened and I’d always been a little wary of his next album since.
Rereading my first review over again, I kept stating to myself it was just ONE album and I shouldn’t worry he wouldn’t be in this direction forever.
Now it seems strange to read myself writing about Justin Timberlake like he was a bad thing.

Change WAS very good to him and the view I had of him. I didn’t fall for his looks as so many other *NSYNC fans had and every song he released since then (Cry me a river, Rock your body, Sexyback)… “Sexyback” I freaking hate, but I would still doom myself to listen to that on an endless loop before “Blurred Lines”… to me, it was the cornerstone of everything I hated about the music industry between 2002-2006… the same computerized riff repeating, auto-tune, lack of melody…

Had I known that “Suit & Tie” would represent his new direction, throwback R&B… I wouldn’t have been as outspoken against him returning to music. Before Jay-Z came into the Grammy’s and ruined everything, that moment where Justin introduced that song… I couldn’t describe my happiness, I was just on Cloud 9.

I also wasn’t a huge Usher fan in 2008, so I had my concerns that “Departure” sounded like Jesse trying to be Usher or Justin Timberlake and selling out to the hip-hop genre. In my view in those days, that genre has no substance. It’s all about computerized beats and lacked the heart and soul real music by real instruments and singers has.

I was okay the first 2 songs, although “It’s Over” depressed me and after a while, I started to wonder if the album was gonna be all depressing break-up songs. “Rock ya” was downright hip-hop and rap featuring record producer Sean Garrett. Then there was a lyric where Jesse was acting all street, giving himself a nickname… just no, Jesse, you’re better than that.

Then I took “How do you sleep?” a little too personally, feeling as if he knew I’d been listening exclusively to another musician for the past year and was asking how I sleep at night for forgetting about him.

But I have a history with taking a lot of things too personally. Especially with some of my favorite artists where I imagine I’m the one they’re singing about or I put myself in their shoes to see how the song fits in my mindset and my life.

“Into ya” and “Makeup” I also took a major disliking to because it felt like more selling out. Jesse deciding to promote sex on this record because sex sells. Yeah, over time, I desensitize myself of sex in music (with a lot of help from Prince) and I allow my mind to wonder with “Into Ya” every now and then.
Maybe I was just shocked that he was being so upfront in singing about sexuality… because he really hadn’t done that before and I have a very clean-cut image of him in my head… I don’t know WHY that is 😛 maybe that was just me being naïve and forgetting that guys notoriously fixated on sex… well, at least guys in the teens and 20’s, and the occasional man-child like every part Seth Rogen and Jason Segal play…

I’ve made peace with both tracks and enjoy them. I just don’t make the connection like I do with some of the other tracks.
Jesse co-wrote only 3 songs on this album and all of them are really good. The kind of songs I’d expect him to sing with lyrics to match.
“My Baby” being one of the few happy songs on the album and “Told you so” being one of the best written break-up songs in an album chock full of break-up songs.

I don’t know what my first reaction was to “Relapse” and “Runnin’ away” but “Relapse” became my biggest guilty pleasure on the album. While Jesse didn’t write either one, they felt like they represented him well. He said on the CD-Rom how he picked certain songs that he could get behind since he didn’t feel he had to write everything on this particular effort.

“Freaky” was another dance track I didn’t quite get the first couple times, but it grew on me over time.

Luckily, Jesse picked this album have a solid ending. “Not your enemy,” for me, was this album’s salvation after an otherwise disappointing first impression.
I’m trying to remember the exact circumstance, but there was a moment a couple years ago where listening to that song helped me when I was feeling really down about something.

Everything about that song was everything I needed to hear at that given moment… great melody, great message and such beautiful vocals. Probably my favorite song that he’d written.

I guess I can only hope for the best with this new album… but it’s probably best to go in with no expectations at all because my expectations are rarely met 😛 but I do wind falling in love with his music all the same.

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