It’s been an interesting transition for Nick Jonas. The musical theatre powerhouse he started off as at the mere age of seven transitioned to the boy-band member on the Disney roster. For the past four years, however, Nick Jonas has been a solo artist, releasing music in different genres. It seems like the final stage of his transition was a simple matter of finding the right sound, and I think we have a winner in his self-titled sophomore album.
To most people, bondage doesn’t sound like much fun, but with a pop melody over an intense beat, “Chains” doesn’t sound so bad to me. A song about being trapped in a romance, Nick combines all aspects of his musical ability to perform this song with crafty lyrics that get stuck in your head. In the song, Nick sings, “Try to break the chains but the chains only break me.”
Nick’s first single, “Jealous,” is the second track on the album. It’s another amazing pop production, but traces of his rock vocal style creep in on verses like “I turn my cheek, music up / And I’m puffing my chest / I’m getting ready to face you / Call me obsessed.” The point where the sound strips down to just his voice and a light synth, and Nick’s voice is raw. There is such a thing as going too pop, and Nick was smart not to cross that line.
Speaking of crossing lines, the next song will make you forget everything your mama taught you so that Nick can teach you something… anything. “Teacher” is an upbeat song with sexy lyrics. The production is especially interesting because of how random it is. I heard a synth riff for a half measure from Gloria Estefan’s “Conga.” It’s easy to miss if you don’t know the entire score sheet for every pop song ever made. But as random as it was, it worked perfectly into the song.
A strange radio signal calls out as a “Warning” in the next mid-tempo track. One of the deeper songs in the album, Nick describes being trapped in his head. In the song, he sings, “I keep trying to escape / From this cage that I live in / This prison in my head.” The song could have been a nice ballad, but the upbeat chorus in which he squeals the word “warning” keeps that from happening. I strongly feel like this song would’ve been better as a ballad, but the mid-tempo beat works as well.
The fifth song, “Wilderness” is one of those basic album fillers every pop record has. It’s not particularly bad, but not particularly good. It does have a catchy humming harmony in the intro that is buried beneath Nick’s vocals throughout the song. It ends with instrumentals and leads to “Numb.” Is this hip-hop? Yes, this is hip-hop, I think, and Nick drops the f-bomb in the first verse. We’re all convinced now; Nick is no longer a Jonas Brother.
After that possibly hip-hop treat, Nick goes super pop in “Take Over.” It’s so pop it even has “Na Na”s in it. Perhaps he’s making up for the left hook he threw us in the previous song, but Nick’s normal vocals, as well as his falsetto, are great in this song. It’s the shortest song on the album an ends almost as soon as it starts.
The next song, “Push,” is the album’s first ballad. I was a bit underwhelmed with this song. Nick tried to excite me with more profanity, but it didn’t work. The lyrics have a lot of depth, saying “Hold me tight enough to kill me / Bite my tongue so I can’t speak / Clip my wings so I can’t fly / Bury me deep but I won’t die,” but the music just doesn’t do the song justice. It was the only song on the album that I didn’t like.
“I Want You” has a rock sound, but with pop vocals and commercial lyrics. In fact, the lyrics are a bit violent and work well with the guitar loop played throughout. In the song, Nick sings “ I want you for myself / I want you and nothing else girl / No one acting confused / I’ve got nothing to lose / I want you and I can’t have you / Then no one will.”
Faint vocals fade in, and Nick’s full voice sings so beautifully over one of the album’s best productions. It’s another very commercial song and features Demi Lovato. Together, their vocal performance in this song is an impressive one. The lyrics, however, sound like something I’ve heard before. It seems like a combination of five different pop songs were used to write it. I’m all for sampling, but originality is still important. The final song, “Nothing Would Be Better,” is a completely different matter. With melodic vocals and heartfelt lyrics, it is a flawless song.
Overall, Nick Jonas was a huge change from Nick’s 2010 album, Who I Am. Somehow, he managed to cross over into mainstream pop without losing his rugged vocal texture that people love so much. This album has Nick Jonas’ signature and borrows style from some of today’s top artists. It has a similar feel to listening to a Justin Timberlake album, but it may take Nick a little while longer to get to that exact level. Nonetheless, it was a good album that had personality and showed a high vocal and rhythmic quality; I expected nothing less from a man who plays the Glockenspiel.