It has been about a year since the Jonas Brothers decided to call it a night for the time being (will not use the word breakup...at least not yet.). And it has been nearly 15 years since Nick Jonas has done a solo effort, that being his CCM debut with then Columbia-owned CCM power Provident before the label's parent convinced him to bring his brothers in for the ride and the rest...well you know, is history.
With the two previous chapters in his career thus far now behind him in the rearview mirror, the youngest (and arguably the most talented) of the trio looks for an attempt at complete reinvention, a la Justin Timberlake right after he left *NSYNC and unleashed 2002's sleeper Justified. So the question is, did he do it?
His SECOND solo effort, also a self-titled one (his first one was also self-titled and used his full name Nicholas Jonas) looks to be a culmination and finale to his complete transformation from squeaky clean pop boy to an emerging sex symbol that is part Adam Levine, part Prince, part Michael and a healthy dose of Justin Timberlake. So after all that, does his self-titled sophomore effort have the juice to justify his 270 degree turn in image and personality? Let's check it out...
The album opens on a moody, dark note with the first single released "Chains." Nick's unexpected smooth vocal lines are juxtaposed with filthy drops and is reminiscent of a similar breakout hit 12 years ago from Timberlake. Next track, "Jealous" is the current single playing all over radio and while he has said publicly that this particular track is his homage to Lionel Richie, it has a decidedly Michael Jackson meets Prince feel to it throughout.
But he really hits his stride in next track "Teacher," a total homage to Prince's legendary album Purple Rain, which means about a third of a way through the cheeky vibe, you will want to hit the dance floor and shimmy around with complete strangers.
Proving that he has a modern streak in his R&B leanings is next track "Warning," which takes its musical inspiration from the early playbook from Jason DeRulo with its comparatively bouncy pop/R&B arrangement and plays to the newfound smooth operator. The choral line could use some work though, the first three tracks showcased spectacular choral lines, this one seems to draw back the smooth operator vibe in the three verse piece.
"Teacher" had an old-school cheeky vibe, but next track "Wilderness" has a more modern cheeky vibe with a certain amount of dirtiness once you get out of the piano-driven hum. And boy does it get delightfully dirty with lyrics like this: “Naked as the day we were born/Did you know it could feel like this?/Feel like this?/I’ll take your body back, take it back, take it back to the wilderness.”
Nick enters into trippy, grimy territory with next track "Numb," easily one of the punchiest tracks for the youngest Jonas. This reviewer believes older brother Joe tried to deal this particular hand on his own debut, but Nick clearly blows his middle brother away with this one. There is a right amount of trippiness as opposed to what Joe tried to do and for Nick, that right amount sets up the a strong R&B line that is smoothly delivered and also sets up the uncensored punch line from guest rapper Angel Haze, which earns Nick his first "Parental Advisory" label.
"Take Over" is thankfully clocked at 2 minutes and 40 seconds because after several listens to it alone, the song is an absolute hot mess and not the good kind. The beginning has a Ne-Yo feel to it with the bass drums and the guitar strum into the choral line. But whereas Ne-Yo builds into a powerful choral line, "Take Over" takes Nick into a line that is very similar to the Jonas Brothers' final (for now) hit, "Pom Poms." And then goes back into Ne-Yo territory for verse 2. It's a song with two contrasting styles that clash in terrible fashion.
"Push" will surprise everyone, from longtime Jonas Brothers fans, to the ones he picked up from his Adminstration days to whatever newbies he picked up during the attempted Brothers reunion. The entire piece is executed in Jonas' surprisingly well-controlled falsetto delivery, one no one might have thought he had in him. The comparatively bare production helps lend a sensitive but also tender feel to the track. If anything, it comes off as one of the most stunning productions and performance Jonas has ever done. And by that notion, hands down THE best track in the album!
For those who miss his underrated ability to pull out a power ballad, then "Avalanche" is the one for you. A powerful and we mean POWERFUL duet with Demi Lovato, marking their first collab since their Camp Rock days. Their first collab was a bit shaky, but "Avalanche" is as powerful a collab you will hear on Top-40 radio today; the tight chemistry between the two is just magic. Fans will certainly want more of this.
Nick Jonas has clearly studied Justin Timberlake's playbook from 12 years ago and added his own vibe to it, even if he's taking another page from a different guy, that being Mark Wahlberg before he was MARK Wahlberg. His eponymous sophomore effort has plenty of moments here, but there are clearly some forgettable material in the effort to make you wonder if he truly has transformed from squeaky-clean teen idol to a more mature, edgy, even audacious sex symbol.
One thing for certain is one has to be surprised at his falsetto delivery, which is more controlled than even Maroon 5's Adam Levine, which can be incredibly monotonous at times. Another thing for certain is if Justin can adapt his sound over time to match his image, there is no reason that Nick Jonas cannot do the same and with that, expect a tighter album next time around with hopefully a better bridge and mix with his pop and R&B leanings. Maybe an appointment with The Cab's Alex DeLeon should do the trick next time around if he wants to know about seamless transitions musically. Nick Jonas is by no means a perfect start, much like Justified wasn't 12 years ago, but it's a good start.