Following the classic tried and tested ex-boyband member formula (leave band, reunite with band, leave band again, have very public relationship, release solo material), Nick Jonas has done pretty well for himself over the past few years. 2014 hits Jealous and Levels secured him as a successful solo act in both the US and the UK, with Jealous earning him his first UK top 10. Whilst his fanbase is probably still the younger half of our generation, Jonas has arguably been getting more radio airplay and being viewed as more musically serious than the Jonas Brothers ever were. His latest release, third studio album Last Year Was Complicated, aims to further all of this – and I have to say, it does so pretty well.
If it wasn’t already obvious from the album title, beginning track Voodoo makes it quite clear that this is a breakup album. Whilst the album does have the sadder, more regretful moments associated with any breakup, this isn’t what Voodoo is about. It’s a sassy, cutting song with lyrics like “I think I’m better alone” and “this ain’t enough, if this is what you call love”. The fast-paced beat and catchy chorus make it a great introduction to the album, whilst the purposefully strained and sexy vocals indicate that Jonas has fully moved on from his purity ring wearing days. It’s a strong, R&B influenced start to the album, one which will undoubtedly make a successful single soon.
Next track, Champagne Problems, smoothly builds upon the foundation laid down by the first. With an equally catchy beat and chorus, the stereotypically poor pop lyrics are excused. The vocals here are far more pop focused, with heavy use of electronic editing and vocal slides. This is another track which I can easily see being played on the radio in weeks to come – a theme which seems to continue up until track four, Touch. This sees Jonas play around a bit with a guitar, producing a track which is seemingly more stripped back than the others. The lack of heavy electronic beat means that it feels as though something is missing from the song, and whilst a switch-up was clearly needed to add variation to the album, this ‘lighter’ style is clearly not where Jonas’ strengths lie. His soft vocals, singing “touchin’ you with both hands… That’s my favourite way of touchin’ you” and intending to be sexy, end up becoming increasingly creepy throughout the song, and I find myself willing the next track to begin.
Absurdly named Bacon is just outright confusing. I’m still so unsure of what the intention was in naming the song Bacon – another attempt to be sexy? A joke? On top of the ridiculously generic synthesised pop track is Jonas singing about putting some bacon on (which I’m praying isn’t meant to be an innuendo) and then Ty Dolla $ign basically serenading someone about bad bitches. It’s a mish-mash of confusion, and the relief I feel when the album then goes back to its previous high calibre of pop song is overwhelming. Under You sounds like it was originally intended for The Weeknd, but Jonas takes it on impressively well. The harmonies and falsettos add an extra layer of texture to the track, and the now expectedly catchy chorus means that it slots perfectly into the ideal pop song formula.
Despite the slight hiccups in the middle, Last Year Was Complicated is a solid release and actually an impressive step up from Nick Jonas’ last release. If you don’t like pop music then you’ll undoubtedly hate this album, but if you love it, prepare to be impressed. In my opinion, the recent charts have shown a bit of a stagnation in pop music, with nothing exciting really happening. Last Year Was Complicated has managed to make me fall in love with the genre again – for the most part, Nick Jonas has provided pure, unadulterated pop in its best form.