Jonas Brothers: Happiness Begins - Album Review

New inspiration and a fleet of hit-makers attempt to modernize a band that never really lost their appeal.

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2000s Disney Channel is a place near and dear to the hearts of many middle-aged young-adults. Responsible for the career of Miley Cyrus and a myriad of wannabe pop-stars, the Jonas Brothers were one of the few acts that held some appeal; a teenage boy band for the times, they set the stage for One Direction better than any one group could have, seamlessly handing off their legion of aging fans to a group of British lads with more gas left in the tank (though they too succumbed to the lifestyle). In the 10 years since their last studio release, the brothers have stayed active, and it seems as if the worst aspects of Nick Jonas’ singles and DNCE’s sugar-pop-sexy-summer formula were the drawing board for most of the songs here. Oh, and there’s also Kevin.

In perfect 2010-pop fashion, Happiness Begins careens wildly between ultra-catchy singles and mood-halting guitar ballads. In the ten years (technically five since their first reunion world tour) between albums, the Jonas Brothers have grown up: each is now married, and both Nick and Joe have found success in music without the aid of their last name. The carefree swagger of Nick’s solo singles appears only once on Happiness Begins, the first track and single “Sucker.” The characteristic squeak of his falsetto is as grabbing as it was on “Jealous,” but as if anyone was looking for this, he now sounds roughly 15 years older than he did five years ago.

Over the hill would be the simplest way to describe it, but the tune explains itself one track later. “Cool” is pure dad-rock, filled with the kind of easygoing lyrics that made “Lovebug” a genuinely great song, mixed with awful fist-pounding production. The beginning of the JoBro’s return comes off more like a 40 year reunion; just enough time left to have a legitimate hit, and just narrowly missing the mark.

But if this is truly a 2010’s album, it needs to dabble in multiple genres. There’s no way the Jonas Brothers are capable of writing another hit, right? We need to get them on the reggae wave! Practically every moment following the awkward shuffle of “Sucker” and “Cool” feels like Nick and Joe singing someone else’s songs. The horrid drums and ska flavor of “Only Human” could not be more on the nose, while directly after the boys serve up “I Believe.” I’m not totally sure if they’re trying to copy Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge,” a song that was barely a hit three years ago, but it sure sounds that way. Why, bros? It’s not 2016 anymore, but I suppose the cleanliness of John Mayer’s guitar tone is just too appealing not to copy.

Happiness Begins is not a great batch of songs hidden by trendy production. It’s a predictably middling return to ballads, mid-tempo trap bangers, and more than a few “Can’t believe we made it!” isms. Without turning their fanbase into an angry mob who use their floor-to-ceiling Nick posters as kindling, the Jonas Brothers have given little enough to question whether or not they ever wanted to return.