Spaceman is yet another Nick Jonas album that refuses to push beyond familiar, facile sentiment and songwriting.
After briefly recentering his identity, again, as “The Jonas Brother,” Nick Jonas here shifts back to just being “Nick Jonas,” an artist unbound from the chains of his Disney Channel past, free to make whatever kind of music he feels like. There’s a world of raw emotion, libidinous play, and inventive sound outside of The Mouse’s grip, a world Nick has previously tip-toed into, and so it’s to much dismay that he explores absolutely none of that space on his new LP, Spaceman.
As the first beats of opening track “Don’t Give Up On Us” hit, it becomes immediately clear that Jonas intends to answer the question, “What would it sound like if The Weeknd was married and also sober?” Every opportunity to complicate tone on the track is muddled in messy lyrics about having to be in a separate room as his wife: “I keep thinking / Oh, I should be there / Oh, I should be there / So close, so close.” The sour-pussing doesn’t stop there, but continues on the next track, “Heights”, a song about fighting with a loved one and facing your fears: “I just wanna know right now / Do you wanna, you wanna work this out? / And baby, you know it’s a long way down / Then you know that I, I ain’t afraid of heights, heights.” And in a song (“Deeper Love”) that’s roughly as smooth as his personally-branded tequila (i.e. not), Nick invokes an ‘80s-esque chorus to ask his wife to go to bed with him: “I want a deeper love, yeah / I wanna know what it be like / To know what I’m believing / I wanna find it in your eyes.”
Those are but a few of the “highlights,” and while it’s not a crime to love one’s spouse, nor to write about how much you do, the puke-emoji lyrics across this album are likely to make the listener wish that it was. Perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising, as Spaceman follows in a long line of solo work that is of a similar quality, and even the recent Jonas Brothers album left much to be desired from the early-2000s boy band; it’s enough to wish that Nick would return to his pop-sensible roots, ideally with evidence of him growing along with his music. Instead, he here writes the same kind of song that he used to write, but in entirely neutered fashion, displaying no genuine desire or interest, each line feeling like it was written on a candy heart. Still, within this deluge of boring, overused hooks and too-familiar pop sounds is an artist that has quite a bit of technical talent. The reality is that Nick Jonas has a solid voice and is surrounded by enough good songwriters that he could likely work to become one. It’s just unfortunate that every three years he churns out the same tired solo album to diminishing returns. For now, we can only hope that the next one will break the cycle of sub-mediocrity.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2021 | Part 2.