- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Aug
- Hold On
- Goodnight and Goodbye
- That's Just the Way We Roll
- Hello Beautiful
- Still in Love with You
- When You Look Me in the Eyes
- Just Friends
- Year 3000
- Kids of the Future
Despite their Broadway stage experience, the future didn't look so bright for this boy band of pastor's kids. Perhaps it was because Nicholas was originally planning a solo album before brothers Joseph and Kevin suddenly came on board, resulting in a 2006 debut that didn't really gel together with its mishmash of tween pop/rock styles. Sure enough, It's About Time was delayed several times before finally releasing in late 2006, only to go out-of-print shortly after the initial pressing. It seemed as if the Jonas Brothers were doomed to fail.
Eh, but what do we know? Despite the critical lumps, somewhere amid all their start-up hassles and legal wrangling, the brothers Jonas developed a rabid following through concert performances and Radio Disney promotion. They also made the switch from INO/Columbia to Disney's Hollywood Records, and perhaps received greater attention as a result. Little over a year after the first album, their self-titled follow-up released as an instant hit, residing in the upper echelons of the Billboard album charts for several weeks alongside High School Musical and Miley Cyrus. There's already even a deluxe edition of the album with added bonus tracks and a DVD of music videos.
Who can say with certainty when an artist is going to break big or flop? The one thing I know for sure is that this album is much better than the first. Producer John Fields (Switchfoot) helps bring focus and professionalism to the brothers' sound, and there's something to be said for teen artists who can actually play their own instruments. The Jonas Brothers don't have the same level of musicianship and songcraft as, say, The Rocket Summer, though "Inseparable" is pretty irresistible. They do have more radio accessibility than Plus One's brief foray into pop/rock, and are probably on par with Hanson during their heyday. It's still pop fluff, though—albeit shiny, catchy pop fluff aimed squarely at a young audience.
And where does their lyrical focus play in all this? The Jonas Brothers are primarily interested in one-dimensional relationship songs, be they about romantic pining ("Just Friends," the ballads "Hello Beautiful" and "When You Look Me in the Eyes"), breakups (rockers "S.O.S.," "Goodnight and Goodbye," "Games") or both ("Australia"). If they're not singing about love gone wrong or dreaming about love gone right, the trio offers a nonsense song about their style ("That's Just the Way We Roll") or playfully cartoonish songs about the future (an improved remake of "Year 3000" from their first album, and "Kids of the Future" from Disney's Meet the Robinsons)—at least down the road, a more mature Jonas Brothers can say they only wrote one of these three.
It's all wholesome fare, nothing out of step with their faith. Unfortunately, there's nothing that really reflects it either. At least the first album had the prayerful social consciousness of "Dear God." The closest thing to spiritual content this time is the hopeful call to action "Hold On," offering encouragement to a broken heart: "Don't give up on love/Have faith, restart … One single smile, a helping hand/It's not that hard to be a friend/Don't give up stand till the end." Though the album is available through Christian retail, families will need to discern (as with Aly & AJ) if wholesome is enough for the Jonas Brothers to be considered "Christian music."
Ear candy, romantic fluff, harmless fun, energetic pop/rock for teens and tweens … call it what you want, but it's pretty good for what it is. Now that the trio has found success, who can say where they go from here? Do they have what it takes for the long haul, or are they simply the latest boy band—here today and gone tomorrow? If I've learned anything about the Jonas Brothers after two years and two albums, it's that only time will tell.