For the last 13 years, Nick Jonas has been recognized as a third of the Disney pop trio the Jonas Brothers, but only recently has he taken to a solo career. In an effort to reintroduce himself to the pop music scene, Jonas has resorted to questionable photoshoots and scandalous statements on sex—this transformation has been jarring for many fans of Jonas, who were first introduced to him as a purity-ring-wearing member of the Jonas Brothers. Nick Jonas is struggling to stay relevant, and in search of himself, he has adopted a cheap image and sound indistinct to his repertoire, parroting the style of many male pop artists today. In his new, self-titled album, it is obvious that Nick Jonas has only a surface idea of what it takes to produce soulful, sexy R&B. He ends up falling flat in this solo debut, with any merit he might have buried beneath the record’s mediocre concept and boring hip-hop beats.
The album’s first song, “Chains,” is foreshadowing for the weak product to come. Clumsy, aggressive dance beats start the track, carrying on for far too long before Nick Jonas’ vocals take hold. Once they do, it becomes obvious who Jonas is trying to become—the work of R&B artists like Usher or Robin Thicke are immediately called to mind. His vocals aren’t unpleasant, per se, but they are eerily similar to what has been found in the industry for years now. “Chains” is the first indicator of just how basic Nick Jonas, the album, shaped up to be, and how little Jonas, the artist, ventured out of the realm of today’s generic pop sound.
Another weaker point of the album is “Numb.” Uninspired beats and computerized instrumentation dominate the song, mixing together to create the effect of a bad karaoke track—at this point, Nick Jonas is a caricature of himself. His vocals are good enough for a low-quality pop track, but by most standards, they are underwhelming. Rapper Angel Haze is featured on this track, and her part is almost comical in its predictability. “Numb” is essentially an unfortunate recurrence of 2009’s dance music. It feels as if Jonas is trying to roll back the clock, returning to the height of the Jonas Brothers’ fame by simply making outdated music.
Some of the tracks on Nick Jonas do have potential. Both “Teacher” and “Nothing Would Be Better” start off smoothly with a romantic feel, demonstrating a passion for content otherwise missing from Jonas’ work here. These two tracks start off promisingly, and while some decent moments are baked into the production, the songs quickly transition to a pretty horrible sound.
“Teacher” begins with a funky bass line that helps it stand out from the rest of the album. It’s retro, soulful, and representative of the R&B artists that Nick Jonas wants so badly to emulate. As the song develops, however, the computerization of Jonas’ voice and instrumentation grows cheesy, and all in all, sounds overbaked.
In “Nothing Would Be Better,” a lot could be fixed. Here, Jonas begins the song with easy, clean vocals, doubles himself on harmony, and sets a soft, intimate tone for the track. There is so much potential for the song, and it’s all stripped away as the track takes on unnecessary background noise, transforming tasteful production to great excess. Indeed, this song’s quietest moments are its best moments, and the instrumentals just become distraction.
Jonas’ self-titled album is an obvious departure from where he has been before as a pop star. He goes to uncharted territories, exploring more sensual themes in his music, but ends up on par with other generic pop artists. This sound might be new to him, but it’s not new to the industry.
“Wilderness” is arguably the most provocative piece of the album. Its scandalous, raw lyrics portray a whole new side to Jonas, reflecting the desperation of his recent publicity stunts. Just a few tracks later, “Avalanche” brings Jonas back to that familiar Disney sound you might have heard from him in 2009. A powerful duet with fellow Disney star Demi Lovato, “Avalanche” shows off two aging child stars seeking out new identities. There is a sense of legitimacy that has been stolen from both Lovato and Jonas, which they seek to reclaim as they move past their Disney years.
This album will sell, if only because of Jonas’ image and longstanding fame. The songs are tolerable, and that’s generally all a lifelong Jonas Brothers fan is asking for. Listening to the songs critically, however, will disappoint anyone: they are poorly produced and generally unpleasant. Jonas hangs onto his place in pop music, if only because of the fan base he established in the Disney era. Ironically, that fan base is precisely what the album so desperately attempts to shake off.
Featured Image Courtesy of Island Records