It's true I didn't fall hard for writer and producer Brian Kennedy's last work with Jesse McCartney--"It's Over" was "fine" for me. Still, anyone who in the space of one year can give us Rihanna's "Disturbia," Chris Brown's "Forever" and "Electric Guitar," and Jennifer Hudson's "If This Isn't Love" is obviously someone worth keeping an eye on.
I'm glad to report that I'm much more taken with Brian's latest work with Jesse. "Crash & Burn" is, like "Body Language," a new song for the re-edition of Departure, but, unlike "Body Language," it's not straight-up kitsch. "Crash & Burn" doesn't cry out "I am DIFFERENT from what you are used to hearing. I have something you've never heard before. Listen to me!", but it's had me playing it over and over again.
A piano meets more electronic beats, some cute and floating along the top of the song and others buried deep at the bottom of it, which push out the piano for the bridge and chorus (or chorus and post-chorus, which might be a more accurate description). The second part of the middle eight flirts with entering the realm of the floating electro-pop glory that Chris's "Forever" did, but the song pushes forward with its momentum too much to ever completely pause and surrender to the moment. That's a good thing, though: the deepest pulses and the "oh, oh, oh"s from Jesse are so quick-paced that "Crash & Burn", though not hugely quick in tempo, ends up feeling much quicker than it is due to the insistency of it. The end result is a pop-R&B song that is vaguely dancey without being dance, tormented without wallowing in torment, forward pushing without losing restraint, pretty and fluid without lacking structure or energy.
Oh, and catchy. Part of that is due to those great "oh, oh, oh"s mentioned before--choppy but still human--but the bridge or the proper chorus (depending on your perspective) delivers a proper catchy melody that doesn't rely on repetition.
The title might lead you to think that the musical accompaniment to the on-the-path-to-destruction relationship the narrator's engaged in would be melodramatic. Jesse stays in his comfort zone, though. He's never required to deliver vocal fireworks or, for that matter, emotional fireworks; he gently begs for a truce in the opening verse, but the closest he comes to letting you see the moment when the pain hits him is in those "oh"s, short and bittersweet. That actually works for Jesse, though all the contrasts throughout the song cause a strange juxtaposition of nearly celebratory beats sometimes bubbling up (particularly at the end of that middle 8) and more plaintive but lovely verses.
In short? A pretty modern mid-tempo pop song with a few production tricks up its sleeve and a great bridge/chorus melody--complete with the perfect pause before Jesse sings "S.O.S.," emphasizing the first letter in just the right way--that make it something worth repeat plays. It's more like "Forever," "Electric Guitar," and "If This Isn't Love" than "Disturbia," but all his work is starting to give me a real sense of what Brian Kennedy is best at and who he is as a music maker...and I'm liking what I'm hearing.