Sitting down to listen to Nick Jonas’ sophomore solo effort, Nick Jønas, I did have a degree of familiarity with the artist from his acclaimed work with The Jonas Brothers, as I imagine the vast majority of listeners would. The group have sold over 17 million albums worldwide – an achievement recognised by global music journalism leaders, NME Magazine, who presented the group with five awards in three years – a significant record. Though the past group efforts drew some fire from critics, described as “just about bearable” (BBC Music) and “too Disney-ish” (iTunes), there can be no doubt that, in putting out a second solo album, Nick Jonas has made clear his claim to the top of the charts and an attempt at serious musicianship.
Tracks such as the album’s profound opener, Chains, address mature themes of substance abuse and the dark effects that today’s world of celebrity hyper-culture can have on those in its grasp. As Jonas has stated himself in an interview with Complex Magazine, “Everyone has their own chains, in life and in love, that bind them, and this song embodies that feeling,” an emotion that the listener can’t help but share. Jonas croons over a pulsating beat in the spacious-pop vein of the XX’s eponymous debut record, XX (2008), meditating on fragmented modern relationships with passages of insightful lyricism which build to climactic choruses.
You got me chains, you got me in chains for your love, But, I wouldn’t change, no I wouldn’t change this love.
Jonas’ use of the extended metaphor has been a signature element of his songwriting since the global, multi-platinum mega-hit, Burnin’ Up, rocketed up the charts in the summer of 2008, and the singer wastes no time in reviving this successful tradition. On tracks such as Wilderness, a catchy piano riff provides the background for Jonas’ anthemic comparison between love and prehistoric sensuality.
Naked as the day we were born, Did you know it could feel like this, feel like this? I’ll take your body back… To the wilderness.
These lyrics may be seen as an attempt by Jonas to provide an interesting take on the emotions expressed in other worldwide mega-hits such as Bloodhound Gang’s 1999 club classic, The Bad Touch, or Nicky Minaj’s more recent multi-platinum Anaconda.
Staring out reflectively from the album’s sombre black and white cover, sporting a similarly austere haircut and bearing both an umlaut through the “o” in the album’s title and a parental advisory cautionary sticker, there was no question that this album would be more thematically developed and sincere than some of Jonas’ more upbeat, early work. Fans will be pleased to expect a long and substantial career from an artist who is only currently 22, and can only develop further. The only question will be if he can surpass the lofty heights of his latest LP, where the trap-heavy beats (see: Numb) and sincerity throughout will surely guarantee the record cult status.