Jesse McCartney: The Unlikely Heir To Justin Timberlake’s Throne?

Ed. note: Chris “dennisobell” Molanphy, our resident chart guru, looks at the upward, downward, and lack of movement on this week’s Billboard charts:

The upper reaches of this week’s Billboard Hot 100 are a little sleepy–two songs sneak into the bottom rungs of the Top 10, and every song above them either holds position or moves at most a spot or two.

But one of the Top 10 entrants boasts an unusual pair of credits: he has his first Top 10 hit as a recording act in the same week that he’s enjoying his first chart-topper as a songwriter. Making it somewhat more unusual, at least among multi-hyphenate types: he just turned 21 about a month ago.

We’re talking about former boy bander, former small-screen star, and TRL mainstay Jesse McCartney. The song he co-wrote–Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” penned with OneRepublic schlock-meister Ryan Tedder–is actually in its fourth nonconsecutive week at No. 1. The newer hit is his own: “Leavin’,” which leaps four spots to No. 10 after a huge, iTunes-fueled debut last week.

Throw in the fact that he did a voice for the March blockbuster Horton Hears A Who! and this kid’s having an awfully good spring.

Most weeks, a song rising four places into the Top 10 is nothing to blog about, but McCartney’s little move defies recent trends in a big way. Just moving up the chart at all after such a big, sales-driven debut is unusual.

Look at what happened to last week’s highest debut, Chris Brown’s “Forever,” which materialized at No. 9. As I expected, this so-called “special edition” bonus cut fell out of the Top 10 in week two. It follows the typical pattern of songs that debut big on sales alone but haven’t gotten on the radio yet. Sure enough, “Forever”‘s sales drop 21% and it continues to lack radio airplay.

I expected that, after popping onto the chart at No. 14 last week, McCartney would experience a similar second-week swoon. After all, “Leavin’” has been available to radio stations and MTV since early March, and until last week it looked like a flop. But the song’s numbers actually improved in week two: digital sales now top 100,000, an 8% improvement, and it’s finally made an appearance on Billboard‘s all-format radio list. Radio PDs are usually quite a bit slower to respond to sales smashes.

Nowadays it’s not at all unusual in the world of hip-hop to see acts flipping between writing/producing and performing. When a Diddy or Fitty type is hot, you’ll see them all over the charts with multiple above- and below-the-line credits. But in the pop world, at least recently, it’s fairly unusual for someone so young to pull it off.

And the simultaneous coming-out as writer and performer is quite unusual, even in the not-so-recent past. Big hits co-written by that other McCartney, but performed by other acts, came after a slew of Beatles smashes. Other singer-songwriters flipped the order, first writing Top 10s and then recording their own: Dylan scored hits by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary years before “Like a Rolling Stone”; for Bruce Springsteen, Top 10s penned for Manfred Mann and the Pointer Sisters came before his own “Hungry Heart.”

Okay, I’m not going to remotely compare this TRL pipsqueak’s talents to any of the above. “Leavin’” is charming and catchy and that’s about it; and that Leona Lewis hit is rapidly turning into an earworm fungus. (Actually, the fact that I love the verse and build of “Bleeding Love” and hate the repetitive-ass chorus makes me want to credit McCartney with the former and blame Ryan “Apologize” Tedder for the latter.) Also, it’s not as if McCartney just started recording–his slow-building, eventually inescapable hit “Beautiful Soul” reached the Top 20 way back in 2004.

Still, the fact that he now bookends the Top 10 after never appearing there at all before a few weeks ago is a worthy achievement. Nice going, Bradin.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of this week’s charts:

• I shouldn’t neglect the other new Top 10 hit, which actually made a bigger move than McCartney, up 11 spaces to No. 8. But the reason Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” don’t impress me much is that it had an assist from American Idol–Bedingfield performed the song on last week’s results show. “Sunshine” is the third-biggest digital seller this week, more than doubling to 135,000 downloads, but radio is still catching up; in its third week on the all-airplay list, it sits just outside the top 50.

This is Bedingfield’s first Top 10 hit since her unkillable up-with-people anthem “Unwritten” reached No. 5 two years ago. Two years is not a bad span between Top 10 hits, but it’s notable because there have been numerous failed attempts to get the British Bedingfield past the sophomore jinx in America over the past year: her British hit “I Wanna Have Your Babies” was nixed for American release last year, and her incongruous duet with Sean Kingston, “Love Like This,” just missed the Top 10 in January and didn’t do much for sales of her U.S. album. The “Sunshine” single finally appears to be doing the trick, as her album sales are up 200% this week.

• Weezer moves into the penthouse on the Modern Rock chart with “Pork and Beans,” surprising no one after last week’s explosion into the Top Three on that list. On the big chart, however, the single is looking like a dud, falling six spots to No. 90. Digital sales are down 11%, and non-rock radio stations aren’t picking up on the laconic twanger at all–it’s nowhere to be found on the Hot 100 Airplay list.

• Madonna’s quest to take “4 Minutes” to No. 1 is clearly over. Even though Hard Candy debuted atop the album charts, the single doesn’t get the typical corresponding release-week boost and slips two notches to No. 6 on the Hot 100. That may be because, like Mariah Carey, Madge is already moving on to single number two: the Pharrell Williams-backed “Give It 2 Me” is the Hot 100’s top debut at No. 57, thanks to its nearly 30,000 digital downloads. It’s kind of ironic, because slow-moving PDs were just catching on to “4 Minutes”–after weeks of slow-growing airplay, it’s finally approaching the 10 most-played songs on the radio.

• We’ll talk more about this next week, but for now, I’ll give you a topic to discuss. Resolved: special-edition bonus tracks are a scam, but they work.

The reason we’ll have more to talk about a week hence is that next week’s chart-topper could be Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” a song from the forthcoming “special edition” of Good Girl Gone Bad. “Bow” currently resides all the way down at No. 53 after four weeks on the chart, but thus far it’s been charting based on airplay alone. That’s about to change, big-time: “Bow” was released this past Tuesday on iTunes and already is No. 1 there. Like Chris Brown with his “special edition” track “Forever,” sales alone for “Bow” will undoubtedly be enough to vault it into the Top 10. But unlike Brown, she’s got solid and growing airplay for the snippy ballad, which suggests a leap all the way to the top is possible. Stay tuned.

Top 10s Last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses:

Hot 100 1. Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (LW No. 1, 12 weeks) 2. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 2, 8 weeks) 3. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 3, 18 weeks) 4. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 5, 12 weeks) 5. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 6, 14 weeks) 6. Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake, “4 Minutes” (LW No. 4, 7 weeks) 7. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 7, 12 weeks) 8. Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (LW No. 19, 12 weeks) 9. Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” (LW No. 8, 27 weeks) 10. Jesse McCartney, “Leavin’” (LW No. 14, 2 weeks)

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1. Lil Wayne feat. Static Major, “Lollipop” (LW No. 1, 8 weeks) 2. Ashanti, “The Way That I Love You” (LW No. 4, 12 weeks) 3. Usher feat. Young Jeezy, “Love in This Club” (LW No. 3, 13 weeks) 4. Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body” (LW No. 2, 13 weeks) 5. Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown, “No Air” (LW No. 7, 9 weeks) 6. Rick Ross feat. T-Pain, “The Boss” (LW No. 5, 17 weeks) 7. Plies feat. Ne-Yo, “Bust It Baby (Part 2)” (LW No. 10, 10 weeks) 8. Ray J & Yung Berg, “Sexy Can I” (LW No. 6, 17 weeks) 9. Keyshia Cole, “I Remember” (LW No. 8, 27 weeks) 10. 2 Pistols feat. T-Pain and Tay Dizm, “She Got It” (LW No. 9, 16 weeks)

Hot Country Songs 1. James Otto, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (LW No. 2, 29 weeks) 2. George Strait, “I Saw God Today” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks) 3. Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn” (LW No. 4, 17 weeks) 4. Trace Adkins, “You’re Gonna Miss This” (LW No. 3, 22 weeks) 5. Brad Paisley, “I’m Still a Guy” (LW No. 6, 11 weeks) 6. Phil Vassar, “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” (LW No. 5, 27 weeks) 7. Rascal Flatts, “Every Day” (LW No. 7, 11 weeks) 8. Lady Antebellum, “Love Don’t Live Here” (LW No. 8, 31 weeks) 9. Kenny Chesney, “Better as a Memory” (LW No. 10, 7 weeks) 10. Carrie Underwood, “Last Name” (LW No. 9, 8 weeks)

Hot Modern Rock Tracks 1. Weezer, “Pork & Beans” (LW No. 3, 3 weeks) 2. Seether, “Rise Above This” (LW No. 1, 11 weeks) 3. Flobots, “Handlebars” (LW No. 5, 5 weeks) 4. Puddle of Mudd, “Psycho” (LW No. 2, 27 weeks) 5. Atreyu, “Falling Down” (LW No. 4, 15 weeks) 6. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution” (LW No. 6, 6 weeks) 7. Linkin Park, “Given Up” (LW No. 8, 9 weeks) 8. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (LW No. 9, 7 weeks) 9. 3 Doors Down, “It’s Not My Time” (LW No. 7, 11 weeks) 10. Disturbed, “Inside the Fire” (LW No. 11, 6 weeks)

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