By Setota Hailemariam
Every generation has a rotating lineup of celebrities that simply define the zeitgeist of their era. It goes without saying that teen heartthrobs are an essential part of that roster.
The life cycle of the heartthrob usually falls into one of three tracks: national/international teenybopper fame, then smoothly transition into adult career (Frank Sinatra, Justin Timberlake); fame, then fade into oblivion (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Hanson); or fame, oblivion, then attempt a comeback for hopefully undyingly loyal fans (NKOTBSB, One Direction, probably circa 2032).
Jesse McCartney’s an interesting heartthrob case study. His fanbase is pretty much girls who reached adulthood before Bieber fever, yet NSYNC was before their time. He’s currently undergoing the third career track, his period of oblivion lasting the four years in between his 2014 release “In Technicolor” and present day. With a fresh new single, an album on the way and a nationwide tour to promote it, it’s clear that McCartney is striving to make a name for himself that isn’t synonymous with Disney – but he’s going about it interestingly. Instead of rejecting the songs that propelled him to stardom, he’s embracing them, in hopes that they’ll warm his fans up to the idea of a new musical direction.
The Better With You US Tour, titled after the new lead single released in March from his upcoming album, stopped at the Fillmore Silver Spring on June 26. Featuring support from Public, a pop-rock band hailing from Cincinnati, and Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt, the show proved to be a clear example of just how much nostalgia is currently on trend.
The three boys of Public threw it back a decade and some change with their cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” then stayed on-brand with 2010s airy indie-pop for the rest of their set – the highlight being “4Her,” a track that’s destined for inclusion in a teen coming-of-age movie soundtrack and not in a bad way.
“We definitely want to play pop music, but we want to do it as a band,” drummer Ben Lapps said after the show. The trio, who all resembled pop heartthrobs not unlike McCartney, were adamant on shying away from produced and overprocessed music during their live shows.
People unfamiliar with McCartney as a performer might’ve been shocked to witness the live show he put on; he wasn’t just a pretty face, he had a pretty – and powerful – voice that made the performance of his biggest hits that much more entertaining.
As he launched into his classics like “She’s No You” and “Leavin’,” he walked around the stage with complete assurance of himself – not with cockiness but rather with the confidence of someone who has literally done this his whole life.
Though he sprinkled in a few newer numbers presumably from his upcoming record (“Selfless,” “Soul,” ironically), he mostly stuck to his old-school hits. Instead of getting completely lost in a sentimental trance, though, you snapped back to reality after a couple jarring moments that reminded you that you’re at a Jesse McCartney concert in the year 2018.
In the year 2018, for example, fans not fortunate enough to snag a ticket to the show can still watch from the comfort of their living rooms, thanks to McCartney Instagram Live-ing during a song and flipping the camera around to show those at home what they’re missing.
In the year 2018, you can witness McCartney not only bringing back the gentle hip thrusts and finger points from his boyband days of old, but also doing the popular “shoot” dance move during “Shake.” You can also bear witness to McCartney promising to bring one lucky girl from the crowd on stage for a romantic serenade, and hearing the desperate pleas from teenage girls to convince him of their worthiness include the words “I’ll give you my juul!”
But when the iconic guitar strums of “Beautiful Soul” rang out, everyone sang their heart out – both the current tweens clutching phones with PopSockets and grown women double-fisting drinks, who were mere tweens when they first heard McCartney’s beautiful ballad for the first time around 14 years ago.
And Jesse? He just surveyed the crowd and grinned, looking out at the ones who have grown up with him and supported him through the new chapters of his life and the old.
Featured Photo Credit: Jesse McCartney performs on stage at the Fillmore Silver Spring June 26 (Cristina Calderon/Freelance Photographer).
Setota Hailemariam is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.