Jonas Brothers, The Album review: Don’t overthink this safe, sanguine summer soundtrack
Do you have a family barbecue planned? Do you need a soundtrack that will get grandads bopping in their aprons and jolly up toddlers who’ve pierced their tongues with kebab skewers? The Jonas Brothers have you covered with this sunny collection of funk-infected, (mostly) PG-rated pop. The Album’s solid, welcoming hooks sound so familiar that after a few Pimm’s your mum will be singing along, telling you she loved these songs in the late Seventies. This was a conscious plan on their part. Drummer and co-lead singer Nick Jonas says that fans now bring both their kids and their parents to gigs, explaining that the trio wanted their latest release to “speak to all those different walks of life and ages”.
In recent interviews, the wholesome, handsome siblings (all now in their thirties) explained that they’ve dug into their childhood influences to make this record. They’ve tipped their hats to the warm, AM radio grooves of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, The Doobie Brothers and The Bee Gees whose music Nick recalls their dad playing in the car. The Gibb brothers’ close, three-part harmonies are emulated (albeit at a slightly less frenetic mosquito-on-helium pitch) throughout. Lyrically, it’s a celebration of happy families.
Most of the songs are built from low-slung synth/organ grooves. If you’ve heard the Stevie-Wonder indebted single, “Wings”, you’ll have the “Superstition”-era sound pegged. “You are the one, the sun!” gush Nick, Joe and Kevin in one of a steady stream of devoted love songs (ensuring The Album will make a safe wedding disco option after the DJ has clocked out). A scan of the tracklisting assures you this is upbeat fare. Titles include: “Miracle”, “Celebrate!” and “Summer Baby”. Rare moments of domestic strife are referenced over the sparkling, Hall & Oatesy synths of “Waffle House”. “Some nights we’d try to kill each other,” they confess, looking back at their bouts of on-tour bickering. However, apparently the “headstrong” lads always resolved their disagreements over “deep conversations at the Waffle House”. The energy of their vintage optimism is as fleetingly irresistible as I suspect it is forgettable in the long run.
The band strike a slightly gnomic note with “Summer in the Hamptons”, on which they praise the delights of “sex like summer in the Hamptons”. What does this mean? Is it the kind of preppy-posh sex most of us can’t afford? The kind of sex fetishising deck shoes, pearls and the services of an upmarket realtor? Oh, who cares? There are waves crashing in the background, lavishly vocodered vocals and carefree, stone-skimming splashes of acoustic guitar. You’re not meant to overthink it; the guys just want you to feel like you’re on holiday. It’s an aim they hammer home with the piano-backed smooch of “Vacation Eyes”, inspired by both the cosy soft-rock of America’s 1972 hit “Ventura Highway” and the story of Kevin meeting his wife, Danielle, on holiday.
All the Jonas brothers are now fathers, and “Little Bird” is a sweet hymn to dancing with a daughter, tenderly referencing the joy of holding “tiny hands” in your own. “Cos I know if I’m doing my job correct,” they sing, “Nights like this will happen less and less… and you’ll fly into somebody else’s arms”. Awww. The album ends with the sing-along strum of “Walls”. It’s an ersatz lighters-aloft set closer (the brothers credit Oasis’ Wonderwall and Paul McCartney’s “Hey Jude” for providing the blueprint), elevated by a swelling, slightly psychedelic organ riff.
At no point does The Album push for edge or originality. But you’d have to be the barbecue grinch to deny its lovingly crafted, feel-good vibes. Pure, safe sonic ketchup.