07/03/2008 at 03:00 PM EDT
Jesse McCartney is barely out of his teens, but the Dream Street alum is diving headfirst into adulthood with a racy new R&B album and a collaboration with British pop star Leona Lewis.
"I certainly knew there was going to be some shock value," the 21-year-old told the Associated Press. "Musically, I definitely took a risk; I took a chance. I wanted to do something new. But it was also something that I knew I was comfortable with, and so I'm really happy"
And if raising eyebrows makes him happy, then he must be ecstatic over the first video single from his new album, "Departure." The well-received video, for "Leavin'," shows a lot of skin from both him and a bed-romping model.
He also has no problem with constantly being compared to another famously sexy R&B artist with a similar career path.
"I admire Justin [Timberlake]," McCartney says. "I think he's done a good job of coming out of the boy band working his way into a solo career that is now massive. ... It's a great comparison."
But McCartney's keeping touch with his clean-cut side, too. He co-wrote the No. 1 song, "Bleeding Love," for squeaky-clean Leona Lewis