The Jonas Brothers’ Comeback is a Decade in the Making

Happiness Begins is simply frustrating because of a strong start and a heap of potential, but lazy writing and terrible production and instrumentation drag the album down every step of the way.

The Jonas Brothers are a power pop trio from Wyckoff, New Jersey. While their debut was fairly nondescript and unimpressive, their self-titled sophomore release in 2007 went double platinum and netted them a Grammy nomination for best new artist. They landed roles in the 2008 Disney Channel smash hit Camp Rock, becoming Disney Royalty. They dropped another double platinum record that year and another platinum album in 2009. Their last two records peaked at number one on Billboard charts and they’d had a multitude of massively successful EPs, tours, movies, and music videos. In 2012, however, after several delays plagued work on a new project, the brothers announced that they were leaving Hollywood Records, their tie to Disney, and began a messy, drawn out process of splitting up. Nick Jonas found considerable success as a solo act with a handful of platinum singles while Joe Jonas fronted the group DNCE, honing his power pop chops and dropping a few hits himself. Now, a decade after their last release, the brothers have returned with Happiness Begins which is, unfortunately, disappointing.

The opener and lead single, “Sucker,” raised my hopes quite a bit even before the record has released. Unfortunately, aside from a handful moments on songs like “Trust,” these hooks just don’t appear as much as they need to. While a few choruses here and there are strong, singable earworms, just as many are poorly written and half baked. This is, to be sure, the strongest quality of the album and could make it sound better than it really is when played as wallpaper music. However, the singable sections of these tracks often don’t hold up to closer listening.

Beyond this, the Brothers do show some fairly impressive chops in the harmony department. Songs like “Used to Be,” and “Strangers,” feature tight, three part harmonies which, though they aren’t nearly as prevalent as they should be, are very welcome additions to the sound. Sadly, this is pretty well the end of the line in terms of positive comments on the album.

One bizarrely poor choice comes early in the record with nearly unlistenable, “Only Human,” and reappears only a few tracks later with “Every Single Time.” Here, the Jonas Brothers take their best swing at a reggae style and whiff entirely. Virtually every aspect of these tracks-the poorly mixed horns, the strange inclusion of synthesized steel drums, the awkward vocal performances-is hamfisted and irredeemable.

Lyrically speaking, the entire LP is essentially filler. Songs like “Love Her,” and the closer, “Comeback,” are especially egregious, but I don’t know that I heard one single memorable lyric in the more than 40 minute runtime. Nothing is noticeably bad, but it all feels somewhat lazy and cliche’d.

The instrumentals also leave quite a bit to be desired. The main reasoning for this stems from terrible choices of tone for the synths that drench every track. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using synths for the majority of the record, and in fact I was expecting this in keeping with their more power pop roots, but the tones range from abrasive and odd to just thoughtless and ignorable on a song like “I Believe. On the other hand, later songs like “Rollercoaster,” use terribly outdated acoustic guitars that seem ripped from a Philip Philips album.

Perhaps the first hint that I was headed for a disappointment came with the very poorly mixed drums on the second single, “Cool,” as well as later cuts like “Happy When I’m Sad.” The percussion generally uses boring, nondescript trap drums which simply don’t fit with the tracks what soever, though when a more organic kit is present, it’s devoid of any body or thickness.

This brings me to the most overarching and inescapable critique of this project which comes down to simply awful production. “Don’t Throw It Away,” is unbearably mixed while “Hesitate,” uses a multitude of irritating effects and poorly tuned vocals. I save this issue for last because it is certainly the cause of the majority of the album’s weakness. There does seem to be at least a passable album hidden in here somewhere, but it’s just buried by one awful decision after another and what’s left is unlistenable. I genuinely wanted to enjoy this record, but there just isn’t much there to enjoy.

Happiness Begins is simply frustrating because of a strong start and a heap of potential, but lazy writing and terrible production and instrumentation drag the album down every step of the way.

3/10

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

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My Thoughts on the Return of the Jonas Brothers!!

What could a Jonas Brothers reunion mean in 2019?

The mid-2000’s are often characterized, musically, by the explosion of pop-punk music and the Fueled by Ramen label. As with any music trend, Disney quickly set to work replicating it.

This fell on the shoulders of one of the most talented classes of musicians in Disney’s history, which included stars like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lavato. While the latter’s debut album captured much of the magic of groups like Paramore, the brunt of recreating the Fueled by Ramen sound fell, by and large, to the Jonas Brothers.

While their debut was fairly nondescript and unimpressive, their self-titled sophomore release in 2007 went double platinum and netted them a Grammy nomination for best new artist. This netted them staring roles in the 2008 Disney Channel smash hit Camp Rock, and from here they were absolute Disney Royalty.

They dropped another double platinum record that year and another platinum album in 2009. For those keeping score at home, that means the Jonas brothers had sold roughly five million copies in just three years. Their last two records peaked at number one on Billboard charts and they’d had a multitude of massively successful EP’s, tours, movies, and music videos. In 2012, however, after several delays had plagued work on a new record, the brothers announced that they were leaving Hollywood Records, their tie to Disney, and began a messy, drawn out process of splitting up.

Nick Jonas, who had already done some minor solo work while the band was still together, found quite a bit of success as a solo act. He abandoned much of the pop-punk influences on which he’d cut his teeth in favor of heavily produced power-pop. Tracks like “Jealous,” and “Chains,” did extremely well on the radio and he quickly became a big name in pop music.

Joe, on the other hand, found the well a bit dry with his 2011 solo LP, Fastlife, but in 2015, he debuted as the front man funk-pop four piece, DNCE, and their explosive single, “Cake by the Ocean.” Their self-titled record the same year was quite impressive and may be the best piece of music to come out of any Jonas Brother. The brothers seemed to be set for somewhat impressive careers in their respective projects.

That all changed on February 28th when the trio announced their return with the release of a new track and music video, “Sucker.” The cut is certainly listenable and a bit more mature than their previous outfit. The video is actually quite impressive, with on obviously large budget and a fairly clear artistic vision, but, of course, the questions are swirling. What will a Jonas Brothers reunion look like in 2019?

There are two key questions when it comes to this reunion, the first being what influence the brothers’ solo work will have on this record. With Nick and Joe having found a voice in genres that are quite different than the sound which brought the trio to their commercial heights, there seems to be an inherent conflict arising. The new track seems to suggest that the work they’ve done over the decade since the band’s last release will inform the new album quite heavily and I think that’s an excellent choice. The bubblegum form of pop-punk they made in the mid-2000’s has simply no place in todays scene, but the danceable power pop of a group like DNCE absolutely does.

The second and more pressing question that arrises is one of marketing and fanbase. This reunion is, obviously, an incredible economic opportunity for many people. Similar reunions for groups like New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men have made millions by playing the hits to the same crowds that supported the groups in the first place. This is the route which I would’ve expected the brothers to go, but it doesn’t seem they are for a few reasons. Most noticeably, “Sucker,” sounds absolutely nothing like the hits that made them famous, but another clue can be found in the fact that they’ve signed Republic Records instead of returning to the Hollywood label owned by Disney. It may be possible that the trio is gearing up for a serious push toward creating new and interesting music together under the moniker which once stamped them as property of the Disney Channel.

These questions will likely be answered quickly as Republic will want to strike while the iron is hot, and it is white hot after an ecstatic reception by the internet of the “Sucker,” video and track. One can only hope we’re in for a new and unique experience on their first album in a decade.