Jesse McCartney Is Not Just Another Pretty Face 

Jesse McCartney Is Not Just Another Pretty Face 

Jesse McCartney Is Not Just Another Pretty Face 

The teen idol no more spills on his upcoming album, life as a grown-up, and, of course, Olivia Rodrigo 

The teen idol no more spills on his upcoming album, life as a grown-up, and, of course, Olivia Rodrigo 

Text: Summer Cartwright

In life, there are a few people who never seem to age, no matter the time, year, milestone, or whatever else. They’re your best friend’s younger sibling, your favorite middle school teacher, or maybe your first celebrity crush. They’re like the Peter Pans of reality. Among the most prominent? Jesse McCartney. And he knows this.

It’s been 17 years since “Beautiful Soul” came out and the world was introduced to one of the many shaggy blond-haired green-eyed boys with whom millions would fall in love. A lot has happened since then — for Jesse and his OG fans — and yet, breaking through that teen heartthrob persona has been a struggle for the songwriter. People still perceive him as “this young and innocent pretty boy who doesn't necessarily have a lot to offer, or isn't more than just this stereotypical pop singer,” McCartney told me over the phone in early July. “I think people hang onto that notion that you'll never grow. And that's hard to combat.”

But that burned image of a 16-year-old Jesse isn’t stopping the 34-year-old from creating new music that, in his opinion, is his best yet. 

“I'm very reflective in this writing process,” he said of his upcoming album. “I talk about what it's like to be an entertainer coming up in the industry and having a 15-plus year career making music, and what that's been like both negatively and positively.”

His new single, “Kiss The World Goodbye,” has that subtle country twang that takes a pop song from something you’d hear occasionally on the radio to something you’d play nonstop on summertime drives. In it, he sings about a relationship that survives whatever is thrown its way: shit-talkers, nay-sayers, and internet trolls. While the song is undoubtedly a dedication to his nine-year relationship with now fiancée, Katie Peterson, there’s one part that seems more than a proclamation of admiration. 

He sings, “Tryna bring us down but they just can’t climb / Can’t get off the ground cause their hate don’t fly.”

That ability to see past other people’s slander, no matter how cruel, and look to the positives, is something that’s evident with the singer, even though, yeah, he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He has a knowingness to him that is, frankly, enviable. Because even when he’s talking about hardships, there’s hope and gratitude in his tone. 

“I got everything I could possibly want in a lifetime in the first 34 years of my life, but it does come at a cost,” he admitted. “Everything you do is under public scrutiny, you have this thing that you have to watch out for which is like your persona and the perception of you. You don't realize that it's happening until years go by and you realize, man, I've been under this microscope for many years and people have been watching and it's pressure that people don't really know how to deal with. I don't think any of us are built for that. I don't think people are built to be looked at that way.”

But he cut in, adding that he didn’t mean to sound like he was complaining, “Because I'm not,” he said, “I'm just saying that it wasn't always easy, you know?”

Living under a microscope, better yet one that has frozen you as a teenager, is something he’s done a lot of reflection on. It took a moment, but accepting that being recognized as a guest star on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody while responding to fans in a TikTok thread is a casual occurrence, not a hindrance, has helped Jesse continue on without doubting his capabilities. 

“I've spent my entire life's work so far studying music, studying writing, acting, theatre,” he said. “I've been doing this my whole life, I've put my 10,000 hours in at this point. I have this sense of mastery over this craft.”

Don’t believe him? He’s getting well over 300 million Spotify streams to this day, was nominated for the Grammys Record of the Year in 2008 for writing “Bleeding Love” sung by Leona Lewis, and voices the iconic Theodore in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Know it or not, he’s impacted a good chunk of pop culture, and hopes to continue to, even if it’s just by cheering on newcomers like Olivia Rodrigo (he says she has a “perfect mature and angsty voice”) or duetting singers on TikTok to give them a boost in views (go to his page, you’ll find a few pretty quick).

Regardless of how commercially successful his latest endeavors are, Jesse’s just happy to be doing what he loves and sharing his talents with the rest of us. 

“It comes with maturity and time, but you just have to keep your foot on the gas and understand where you are in the world, people's perceptions, and continually prove them wrong and do what you do best and not worry about everybody else's shit.”

Now, would a 16-year-old pop star have that kind of self-awareness? I don’t think so. 

Credits: Photographer Credit: Sam Dameshek

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