Ten years ago, the Jonas Brothers flame burned hot and bright among young fans around the world. Camp Rock ruled the Disney Channel, “Burnin’ Up” and “S.O.S.” were unexpected earworms even among non-fans, and the Brothers themselves were having to be airlifted to events like the Texas State Fair due to overcrowding. A few years later and in the midst of a tour, the band split up, citing “creative differences” as they canceled an album and over twenty tour dates. Since then we’ve seen Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas explore various other creative pursuits–Nick’s solo work, Joe’s erratic yet oddly successful other band DNCE, and Kevin’s reality TV stint in Married to Jonas. Their fifth album, Happiness Begins, marks the highly anticipated end of a long hiatus for the family band; it’s the first album since 2013’s Live, as well as the first studio album since Lines, Vines, and Trying Times arrived ten years ago.
The Jonas Brothers made a good move when they chose “Sucker” as their triumphant return single. The light rock love song features an almost hypnotic pop sound with lyrics like “You’re the medicine and the pain/The tattoo inside my brain/And baby you know it’s obvious–I’m a sucker for you.” “Sucker” showcases how the Brothers are synthesizing their experience and talent explored outside of the band; Joe’s smoother vocals build up to each chorus, with Nick’s falsetto opening up on each refrain. The music video, featuring the Brothers’ now-wives Danielle Jonas, Sophie Turner, and Priyanka Chopra in what feels like a modern, mature Alice in Wonderland setting, boosted the song further. The world was ready for this Jonas comeback; “Sucker” became their first number one song on the Billboard chart and has taken up residence on the radio.
Their second single, “Cool,” is a reference-heavy ode to their personal accomplishments during their hiatus. “Woke up feelin’ like a new James Dean/I comb my hair like an old school Sheen…Standin’ there with the red dress on ya/A Killer Queen like a young Jane Fonda,” they sing over an ‘80s-tinged track, exploring their good feelings about what they’ve done and how they’re feeling about the future. “This song came towards the end of the writing process. We were trying to write a ballad, actually, but we ended up writing this instead because we all came to the studio feeling very cool that day. Feeling like a million bucks.” Nick Jonas explained to Apple Music. Considering how much of the album deals with love and breakup songs, adding the lighter, more celebratory “Cool” changes things up a bit.
Speaking of love songs, it’s fairly obvious that the now-wives of all of the Jonas Brothers (self-nicknamed “the J-sisters”) had a major influence on Happiness Begins. From the infectious “Sucker,” the flirtatious “Only Human,” to the boy band ballad “Love Her,” most of the songs seem like they’re about the Brothers’ now-wives. They were even unofficial consultants on the album: “Priyanka [Chopra] and Sophie [Turner] love pop music and listen to Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits or Apple Music all the time, so they were a really good gauge, like, ‘Does this sound good?’” Nick Jonas explained to Billboard. He went on to explain that Priyanka and Sophie each have a song devoted to them specifically on Happiness Begins. The synth-heavy pop rock track “I Believe” is a tribute to his and Chopra’s whirlwind engagement and wedding. While Nick takes lead vocals on this one, his trademark falsetto is noticeably (and thankfully) missing, leaving us with a soothing track worthy of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys. The romantic ballad “Hesitate” is Joe’s track for Turner, which discusses the different ways they’ve each saved each other.
Happiness Begins is a solid reintroduction for the Jonas Brothers. The album shows off their vocal talent, both individually and harmonically, seamlessly blending what they’ve individually been working on over the course of their six-year hiatus. Vocally, it gives both Joe and Nick the chance to shine, generally alternating verses and harmonizing when the song calls for it. This new music shows heavy ‘80s influence and is marked by pop guitar, heavy synth work, and electric drumbeats in the case of the Avicii-esque “Rollercoaster.”
Unsurprisingly, Happiness Begins proves that the Jonas Brothers’ sound has definitely evolved, the album featuring more mature themes and smoother harmonies than their earlier Disney-style pop confections (never forget “The next time I see you, giving you a high five/’Cause hugs are overrated just FYI” from “S.O.S.”). Their lower-key pop sound and more mature outlook on love make for a more universal listening experience. However, past the singles the songs feel a little one-note; with the exception of the oddly bouncy “Happy When I’m Sad,” the themes and sound of the tracks blend together a bit. However, while these songs don’t exactly break the mold, it’s important that they’re honest and emotional, which is just what the Brothers are striving for in their reunion.