Chances are, you’ve heard of DNCE by now. About a year ago, the band made a splash with its first single, which generated buzz based on two intriguing facts: 1) the song was called “Cake by the Ocean” and 2) the guy who sang it was Joe Jonas of the iconic Jonas Brothers. Eager to understand the single’s obscure title and see what Joe had been doing since the Jonas Brothers’ breakup, countless people gave it a listen… and then hit “replay,” realizing that they had discovered something as wonderful as a slice of Funfetti. Once “Cake By The Ocean” had had its day, DNCE continued to impress listeners with similarly quirky songs like “Toothbrush” and “Body Moves.” Now, the four-piece pop group has released its debut album, and it’s every bit as fun and funky as its name (“DANCE” with one letter missing) would suggest.
The celebration begins with “DNCE,” a simply, but aptly titled track that serves as an appropriate theme song for the album. A cheery, horn-studded ode to partying and, of course, “DNCE”-ing, it’s the perfect introduction to the assortment of eclectic characters who make up the band: Joe Jonas, the charismatic frontman with an impressive range; JinJoo Lee, the guitar goddess behind the band’s unforgettable riffs; Jack Lawless, who gives each track an irrepressible impetus with his upbeat percussion; and Cole Whittle, whose groovy basslines and attention-grabbing style help the band stand out. The track showcases all the elements that have led the band to success: memorable hooks, singalong-ready choruses, and lyrics that are rooted in silliness and revelry but refrain from being banal.
Shortly after “DNCE” comes “Cake by the Ocean.” Due to the way it dominated the radio waves recently, you probably have it memorized at this point, but it would be a crime not to mention it in this review. Sure, the song is goofy, but it’s intelligently goofy, and that makes all the difference. First, the bassline, backed by energetic handclaps, seizes your attention. Then the guitars kick in, giving the song a glossy disco vibe. Before you know it, Jonas is singing a variety of interjections such as “Huh!”, “Ah!”, and, most notably, “A-ya-ya-ya-ya!” with joyful abandon, and you’re nodding along to the beat.
Many of the other songs on the album, such as “Toothbrush,” have a similar pace and vibe. “Almost,” though, veers in a completely different direction, which makes it stand out as one of DNCE’s most memorable tracks. If there’s a DNCE song that grown-up Jonas Brothers fans are sure to love, it’s this one—a bittersweet, guitar-laced ballad that throbs with emotion while showing off Jonas’s maturity. Heartbreaking lyrics like “I’d say it’s your fault, but you don’t deserve it” show that the band isn’t living in an escapist fantasy—it’s willing to get serious and speak earnestly about the dark side of relationships when the moment calls for it. A few more tracks in this vein would be welcome.
Two of the last songs on the album—”Zoom” and “Pay My Rent”—are especially entertaining. A lighthearted love song with a soaring falsetto chorus and verses that are faintly reminiscent of the Bowie classic “Fame,” “Zoom” would definitely be fantastic live. “Pay My Rent” is even better—the epitome of a flawless single. Listening to it is like being at a party where a new group of guests walks into the room every fifteen minutes, and there are so many sights and sounds you don’t know where to direct your attention, but everyone’s laughing and everyone’s smiling, and confetti rains down and you realize that you’re having the time of your life. The multilayered bop has everything—slick guitars, “woo-hoo!”s, handclaps, and a hook that sounds like Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” chorus with an added dose of fun.
Consistently retro and consistently delightful, DNCE is a release you don’t want to sleep on. Although it’s not the place to look for existential musings or social commentaries, if you’re in the mood for a carefree good time, let this album be your soundtrack.