Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins | Album Review
Pop brother collective Jonas Brothers shine on their highly-anticipated comeback LP, ‘Happiness Begins,’ their first studio album in a decade.
Pop bro trio Jonas Brothers shocked the world by making a comeback… It was ‘kind of a big deal.’ Strike that – it was a big deal! It’s been a decade people! The positive thing about the comeback, initiated by single “Sucker” (more to come) was that Nick Jonas, Joe Jonas, and Kevin Jonas seemed much more mature. Follow-up single “Cool” continued this, even if there’s still an ‘innocence’ from the collective. Innocence or relatively clean pop aside, Happiness Begins does not disappoint in the least. If anything, the Jo Bros sound better than they’ve ever sounded.
“I’ve been dancing on top of cars and stumbling out of bars / I follow you through the dark, can’t get enough / You’re the medicine and the pain, the tattoo inside my brain / And, baby, you know it’s obvious.” The enjoyable, love-centric ✓ “Sucker” gives the Jonas Brothers a win from the start. The highlight features an infectious groove. Adding to the allure is sick falsetto by Nick on the first verse. Set in a minor key, “Sucker” gives the Jo Bros more edge while still maintaining ‘tongue-n-cheek’ status. Joe carries the weight on the aforementioned pre-chorus, with portions sung alongside Nick. On the memorable chorus, we hear silky-smooth vocals from Nick, specifically his well-facilitated falsetto, at times joined by Joe.
“I’m a sucker for you, yeah
You say the word and I’ll go anywhere blindly
I’m a sucker for you, yeah
Any road you take, you know that you’ll find me…”
“Lately, I’ve been feelin’ so cool / Top to the bottom, just cool / Every little thing that I do / Dammit, I’m feeling so cool.” ✓ “Cool” is a ‘short, but incredibly sweet’ record featuring fresh pop production (a second consecutive Ryan Tedder co-production), popping vocals, and entertaining, tongue-in-cheek songwriting. Nick Jonas shines from the onset, delivering a confident vocal performance, even throwing a dash of profanity on the intro, the eventual chorus (aforementioned). Joe Jonas contrasts his younger bro on the second verse, as well as delivering that ‘damn cool’ chorus himself. Following a bridge by Nick, all three Jo Bros get into the action on the final chorus. “Cool” doesn’t reinvent pop but it’s definitely entertaining, case in point: “Oh, I feel like Post Malone when I get home / Sittin’ there, winning like it’s Game of Thrones.”
Following the one-two punch of “Sucker” and “Cool” is a tall task. Luckily, the ska-infused pop of ✓ “Only Human” proves to be quite satisfying as well (Shellback produces). This sound definitely doesn’t work for everybody, but surprisingly, the Jonas Brothers have the ‘swagger’ to pull it off (yeah, I really just typed that). Notably, “Only Human” references the album’s title lyrically (“You got all my love to spend, oh / Let’s find a place where happiness begins”). Like so many pop albums, the ‘sub-styles’ shift constantly. Following the ska of “Only Human,” the sleek ✓ “I Believe” hearkens back to the smooth sounds of the 80s, while maintaining a modern pop identity. Greg Kurstin does wonders from a production standpoint, as he often does. Besides the lovely sound of the record, the chorus is among the crème de la crème of Happiness Begins:
“‘Cause you show me something I can’t live without
I believe, I believe, I believe
When you hold me, it’s like Heaven coming down
I believe, I believe, I believe.”
“Used to Be” keeps Happiness Begins consistent, with its anchoring hip-hop beat, rhythmic guitars, and that signature, incredibly ripe falsetto. Adding to the vocal goodness are satisfying vocal harmonies. Compared to their music of old, there is more maturity as to be expected – the Jonas Brothers are grown men now.
“Every Single Time”
Keeping things interesting, “Every Single Time” embraces reggae with success. No, Nick and Joe don’t try to be Jamaican in the least – that could’ve been disastrous – but they ride the tropically-tinged backdrop well. Interestingly, there’s some censorship on the bridge. Clearly, the bros sought to avoid the parental advisory label this ‘round, even if neither Nick nor Joe are strangers to the f-bomb. “Don’t Throw it Away” contrasts, even consecutive productions credited to Greg Kurstin. The overall tempo is quicker, especially exemplified by the rapid melodic lines. Perhaps “Don’t Throw it Away” isn’t the crowning achievement of Happiness Begins, but it’s definitely consistent and quite pleasant.
Mike Elizondo produces another compelling, sleek pop joint, “Love Her.” Although it’s NOT co-written by Ed Sheeran, “Love Her” instantly reminds me of the Justin Bieber gem, “Love Yourself” from Purpose (2015). The song has similar features that undoubtedly many will notice, even if they aren’t ‘one and the same.’ “Happy When I’m Sad” finds Joe Jonas taking over lead on the first verse, showing off deeper vocals than his younger bro. Nick Jonas drops the falsetto once again on the repetitive, but infectious chorus: “They think I’m happy / They think I’m happy when I’m sad…” Notably, with Joe handling the verses, Nick sings the bridge.
Jason Evigan and Ryan Tedder handle the production duties on the tenth song of the album, ✓ “Trust.” “Trust” thrives off its ‘urban-pop’ sensibilities. Beyond the distinct production, the falsetto continues to be the bros’ calling card. The chorus itself isn’t deep, but as with everything else, easily gets stuck in the head. Follow-up “Strangers” is the longest song of Happiness Begins. Even so, the bros keep the latest Greg Kurstin-helmed joint under four-minutes. Like everything else, “Strangers” is quite sound – clear-cut form, thrilling vocal harmonies, and high energy level.
The closing trio of Happiness Begins echoes the consistency of the entire album. “Hesitate” is nothing short of a beautiful, sincere performance. It’s the sole production by Mike Sabath. Tedder returns ‘on the boards’ on the penultimate record, “Rollercoaster.” He’s joined by Zack Skelton (“Cool”) and Jonas Jeberg. “Rollercoaster” reminds me of the Avicii gem “Wake Me Up” with its blend of folk, pop, and dance elements. Like “Only Human,” the album title is referenced lyrically. “Comeback” concludes energetically, even as it just inches past the two-and-a-half-minute mark. It’s relatively simple but ultimately satisfying.
All in all, Happiness Begins marks a well-rounded comeback album for the Jonas Brothers. There isn’t a big-time miscue on the album with all 14 songs being rewarding to some extent. Nick, Joe, and Kevin don’t offer up anything ground breaking or game changing mind you, but I can honestly and safely say I prefer this more mature Jo Bros albums over their schmaltzy music of old. Definitive highlights may be few and far between, but consistency is the name of the game here.
✓ Gems: “Sucker,” “Cool,” “Only Human,” “I Believe,” “Trust”
Jonas Brothers • Happiness Begins • Jonas Brothers / Republic • Release: 6.7.19
[Photo Credits: Jonas Brothers / Republic]