Album Review: Jonas Brothers’ ‘Happiness Begins’
The Jonas Brothers revival is one of the best things to happen in the first half of 2019. In March, Nick, Joe and Kevin reunited after a lengthy hiatus. And they kicked things off with a certified banger. “Sucker,” their rollicking comeback single, ranks as their catchiest tune since 2008’s “Burnin’ Up.” A fact that is reflected by its chart performance. Buoyed by strong support on streaming platforms and radio, it debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song’s success wasn’t just a flash in the pan brought on by pure nostalgia, either. Fourteen weeks later, their first chart-topper remains in the Top 5. Meanwhile, it just completed a sixth week at the top spot on the Radio Songs chart. And it was just a sample of what they had in store. Follow-up single “Cool” arrived on a gust of summery vibes. Lush with nostalgia-inducing lyrics and a sing-along chorus, it easily notched the trio their second consecutive Top 40 hit, and, in doing so, paved the way for their first album in almost exactly 10 years – Happiness Begins.
Out June 7, the LP had a massive responsibility: to pay tribute to their collaborative discography as well as Nick and Joe’s solo work. Impressively, they managed to exceed expectations on that front. Comprised of 14 bops, bangers and ballads, it’s a serotonin-lifting listening experience including some of their strongest work to date. So let’s dive in. After opening the tracklist with the first two singles, they move into another banger – “Only Human.” Produced by Shellback, it boasts a supersized soundscape and some lusty lyrics about a night on the dance floor turning into something more.
“It’s only human. You know that it’s real. So why would you fight or try to deny the way that you feel,” Nick croons on the chorus. “Babe, you can’t fool me. Your body’s got other plans so stop pretending you’re shy. Just come on and dance.” This all but begs to be released as the LP’s third single. If it does, the brothers may have a serious Song Of The Summer contender on their hands. There’s a marked sonic and thematic shift between that and the next song – “I Believe.” Described as a love letter to Nick’s wife Priyanka Chopra in Billboard, the moody slow burner addresses the development of their relationship.
In the wrong hands, the lyrics could verge on saccharine. However, they’re delivered with the utmost of sincerity. The same could be said of Joe’s tribute to his wife Sophie Turner. He takes the reins on “Hesitate,” a graceful ballad about everything you would do for the love of your life. “I will take your pain and put it in on my heart,” he sings. “I won’t hesitate. Just tell me where to start.” Nick, Joe and Kevin’s relationships lay the groundwork for the equally romantic “Love Her.” Featuring anthemic finger snaps and strings, it’s the sort of love song that could soundtrack plenty of weddings in the coming years.
“Opposites attract, and we’re the livin’ proof of this. But I keep coming back like a magnet,” they sing. “They say love can hurt, but seein’ her smile can get you every time. Yeah every time because you love her.” The gem also highlights how much the JoBros have matured since the last time they hopped in the recording studio. Now, they’re singing with the wisdom of a couple more years under their belt, and it shows. That comes across on “Comeback,” too. Only there’s a slight twist. In an interview on Beats 1, they mentioned that the song worked as a promise of consistency and endless support in a relationship.
However, it works just as well as a tribute to their relationship as brothers. “I think it fully represents kind of where we were at saying, ‘Come back to me. I’ll come back to you,'” Joe explained. “We’ve been through a lot in the journey that we’re on, but it led us back here and it touches on our roots of kind of growing up playing music in church in that it is, a hymn formed the chord structure and even the melody.” Nick even took it a step further, comparing it to what they share with their fans. No matter what, its status as the LP’s closer brings their comeback full circle.
They explore a similar theme on “Rollercoaster.” The anthem is the most direct reference to the long road they’ve traversed as brothers and bandmates. “We were up and down and barely made it over. But I’d go back and ride that roller coaster with you,” they sing over an instrumental that contains as many twists and turns as the song’s namesake. This is another one that should be released as a single at some point during the album’s campaign because sonically and thematically it’s near perfect.
The album’s title may be Happiness Begins, but there are a couple moodier cuts that make the tracklist. “Used To Be” captures the aftermath of a love gone sour. There isn’t any anger expressed though. Instead, Nick cops to having mixed feelings when a former love reaches out. “You used to be the one I love,” he wistfully sings over melodic production courtesy of Louis Bell and Ryan Tedder. Fun fact: According to their chat on Beats 1, it’s inspired by Post Malone, which comes across fairly well. Similar to Post’s material, it’s a little understated but exceptionally catchy.
There is some justified frustration expressed on “Every Single Time.” Here, they sing about being unable to move on from a relationship. “Why do I want you? Even though you make it hard, and I don’t want to,” they ask. They explore a similar theme on the breezy “Trust.” Written alongside the man responsible for Nick’ “Chains,” Jason Evigan, it’s a solid mood. However, the script flips on “Don’t Throw It Away.”
Boasting one of the most straightforward pop productions (courtesy of Greg Kurstin), the song is a plea for a lover not to make any hasty decisions to end a relationship. “Take pictures out all of the frames. Pack up your love with all your things. See if it helps, give it a week,” Nick pleads on the opening lines. It all builds up to an inescapable chorus (one of the best on the album). “Don’t throw it away. Just take a little time to think,” he and Joe sing. It’s another tribute to their maturity and ability to recognize a relationship as worthwhile even with a couple stumbles.
That leaves us with “Strangers” and “Happy When I’m Sad.” The former is another pop gem that’s a sweet listen. But it gets a little lost in the mix. The latter though deserves a closer look. Over sunny beats, Nick and Joe sing about putting on a happy face even on the darkest days. It’s a relatable concept that is perfectly offset by the vibrant production courtesy of Zach Skelton, Tedder and Joel Little.
Expertly written and performed, the Jonas Brothers really pulled off an impressive feat with Happiness Begins. The end product manages to look back and capture the nostalgia of their former glory days, but it does so without coming across as dated or out of touch. Instead, the trio updated their style so that when they play with current trends and look to the future, they do so without sounding inauthentic. And that makes you hope they’re here to stay this time around.