Review Summary: Three perfectly sweet boys making perfectly sweet music – what’s so wrong with that?
The Jonas Brothers. Along with the likes of Hannah Montana, they are largely viewed these days as a sign of the apocalypse, as well as a clear reason why our youth is going to the dogs. They are also abhorred and reviled by pretty much anyone who consider themselves a music fan. But if you stop to think for a moment, you’re at a loss as to the reason for all this hatred. I mean, yeah, they’re almost too squeaky-clean to believe, and yeah, they’re a product of the Disney Channel, AKA Satan’s spawning ground, but guys, seriously? It’s not like they’re the second coming of Nickelback or anything. They’re just three (sort of) normal kids making perfectly sweet, bland and inoffensive pop-rock music. Besides, their syndicated show is eminently viewable, and looks positively highbrow next to stuff like That’s So Raven! and The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody. All in all, while they’re by no means good, there are far worse role models for little girls to follow (starting with Ms Montana herself) and far worse boy-types for them to crush on (Pattinson, anyone?)
Anyway, now that you have my clear-cut opinion on the trio of siblings, let’s move on to the music portion of this marketing equation. The Jonas legacy started back in 2006, with the release of the brothers’ first album, It’s About Time
, on review here. At the time, the kids’ main distinctive factor was the Disney marketing push; aside from that, they were just another addition to a long line of pubescent pop groups, harking back to The Osmonds and Jackson 5 and having Hanson as their most immediate example. In fact, the Jonas Brothers can conceivably be viewed as a new Hanson, since both groups have more than their fair share of similarities. Both are trios composed of good-looking and musically inclined teenage brothers who play their own instruments and have a certain degree of involvement in writing their songs; in both groups, the drummer is the youngest brother; and even the adopted style is the same, with both outfits investing in radio-friendly, guitar-driven pop-rock with puppy-love lyrics and a sprinkling of teenage bounciness. The difference is that, in Jonas’ case, that style is crossed with a dose of pop-punk, so as to update this sound for the youth of the millenium.
Also like Hanson, listening to the Jonases can be a guilty pleasure. Of course
you’re not supposed to like this type of music; it’s for kids and teenage girls. But try telling yourself that while you’re nodding along to Mandy
or I Am What I Am
. The fact is, the brothers and their assisting crew know how to craft a bouncy, breezy pop-rock album which may be inoffensive, forgettable and at times bland, but is thankfully never oturight horrible. In a normal band growth situation, these kids would still be playing at Homecoming and hosting free concerts out of their garage; but since they were picked up by Disney and unleashed into the world in their developing stages, one might as well recognize that there’s at least a modicum of worth to their output
Of course, not all is perfect on the Western front. The ballads included here are excessively sappy, and One Day At A Time
, in particular, is awful, with its heavy-handed seriousness more befitting an adult artist like Bryan Adams – whose ballads it resembles – than the pre-teen with the squeaky voice who is actually singing it. In fact, this is a recurring problem throughout the album, as they seem to put Nick, 13 at the time, in charge of all the sentimental heartbreak ballads. Hearing him talk about “dying” for some girl creates a sheen of creepy innapropriateness that is hard to shake off. The more “romantic” portion of this album ends up suffering from this fact, becoming much less appealing than its upbeat counterpart.
Fortunately, there is also that side to the album. The band are at their best when they’re delivering catchy slabs of youthful energy like Mandy, I Am What I Am, Underdog
or Year 3000
. To be sure, these songs also have their problems, like the lyrics, the type of overemotional stuff that means the world to anyone when they’re 14, then gets scoffed at the minute they hit college; but these are forgivable in light of the brothers’ actual ages at the time. The best thing to do is to just kick back and enjoy the lively punk-pop riffing and occasional sparkplug solo. If you do that, you may even enjoy certain parts of this album.
Still, the fact remains – this album is aimed squarely at the under-18 crowd, and it’s them who’ll enjoy it the most. It’s About Time
may sound simplistic or cheesy to an older listener, but to its target demographic, it’s damn near perfect. If I was 11, I know I’d be all over this sh*t, pretty–boy image or not; furthermore, I know that if my sister was still at the age when she might like the Jonas Brothers, I’d much prefer her to listen to them than to aural cancers like High School Musical or sluts like Ke$ha, Amy Winehouse and the like. Unlike those turds, the Jonases are nothing but three perfectly sweet boys making perfectly sweet music – what’s so wrong with that?
I Am What I Am