With The Album, the Jonas Brothers have given listeners their second full-length release since they reunited in 2019, no matter that it was a move seemingly no one asked for, even particularly engaged fans — the nostalgia machine works particularly well for the group. Nonetheless, it’s a move that was made, and what has resulted is a boring, and often bizarre, grasp at relevancy from a group that has aged out of the genre it insists on trying to retain space within.
When the Jo Bros initially split, there was immense speculation as to the cause. Theories about growing rifts, decisions to cash out, and desires to make more “grown-up” music were all floated about. In the subsequent years, the primary narrative that developed was that each of the brothers wanted to make their own adult music, each stepping out of the others’ shadows. As evidenced by their respective solo careers and side projects, this never really happened. Joe’s side project DNCE failed to leave the radio Disney sphere of pop music, while Nick made the terribly unsavvy and career-antagonizing move of writing pop/R&B music about being a happily married man. While both brothers found some slight radio success with these endeavors, the reality was that they could only manage a lavish lifestyle touring the college nostalgia circuit for so long. With the trio finally reuniting in 2019, it seemed like the promise of more mature music was just around the corner. This too, has yet to occur, and The Album is the most egregious defiance of that goal since their breakup began.
It’s tough to locate a single decision on The Album that makes sense. From the moment the first notes hit, it’s apparent what the record is going to be. Overproduced vocals and a fake-sounding piano plunking usher in opener “Miracle,” and the rest goes on a downward spiral. Each brother has a textured, at least somewhat interesting voice, and they are all here entirely stripped of every effect in the production process. The filters are so heavy that many of the lyrics are unintelligible, evoking AI-generated sounds rather than the rich, shoegaze-y hue to which the record seems to be aspiring. Every song following “Miracle” wiggles its way into this exact same sonic space, with attempts at evoking country, indie pop, and Americana (going so far as to title the track… “Americana”) flattening into the same generic sound. And few of them crack two-and–a-half minutes, opting for short bursts of genre cosplay; clearly intended as an attempt to make the listener want more, The Album’s design feels instead as if one were blindly clicking 30-second samples on an mp3 download site.
There’s no denying that this latest effort falls under the umbrella of nostalgia, but it never feels intentional enough to be of interest. The Album has no clear starting or ending point — either conceptually or sonically — and if your preferred music player is set to restart an album or playlist when it reaches its end, it will be a test for listeners to see if they notice when the approximately 30-minute album culminates. On one hand, this may be appropriate for a band desperately trying to root themselves in the viral TikTok sphere; on the other, it feels more soulless than ever. It reflects a particularly cynical approach to music-making, an observation underscored by the fact that the Jonas Brothers’ upcoming tour will reportedly find them playing every one of their Disney- and reunion-era albums from start to finish each night. That degree of nostalgia-baiting might seem like an unabashed cash-grab, but the most disappointing Jonas Brothers’ truth in 2023 is that it certainly still has more heart than The Album.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 21.