Critical Voices: Jonas Brothers, Happiness Begins

June 19, 2019

If you woke up on June 7 thinking that you were suddenly back in 2009, don’t worry: you did not accidentally time travel. A decade after the release of their previous album, Lines, Vines and Trying Times (2009), the Jonas Brothers have finally returned with their highly anticipated fifth studio album, Happiness Begins (2019).

The 14-track album reunites the brothers—Kevin, Joe, and Nick—in songs about love, summer, and comebacks, all to the beat of incredibly catchy yet fresh sounds. While some tracks easily fall under pop, others seem to be influenced by other musical genres (“Rollercoaster,” for example, sounds like an inexplicable fusion of country, pop, and an Avicii song). Regardless of what genre they fall into, most of the songs provide clever lyrics in fast-paced, steady beats, making Happiness Begins one of the easiest albums to dance along to this summer.

No song embodies this spirit better than “Sucker,” the Jonas Brothers’ comeback single released earlier in March and opening track of the album. With a mix of guitars, bass, and occasional whistling, “Sucker” is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head—in a good way. Pair the music with the clever rhyming schemes in many of the lyrics, and it becomes irresistible. The lyrics—“I’ve been dancing on top of cars and stumbling out of bars”—are miraculously easy to sing along to. The Jonas Brothers seem to have cracked the formula on how to make their music infectious, repeating a similar pattern with the following two songs in the album, “Cool” and “Only Human.”

After the three first opening tracks, most of the songs—with the exception of “Happy When I’m Sad”—deal with themes of love, be it starting, struggling in, or breaking up a relationship. These songs all seem to handle love in a mature way: it is loving someone, wanting to solve every problem, and hopefully making it work somehow. They are not lined up in any particular way. Instead of forming a cohesive narrative together, they all seem to be standing alone, allowing for individual appreciation.

Two songs from this section, in particular, ended up drawing attention for their direct relation to one of the Brothers’ lives. The first, “I Believe,” is dedicated to Nick Jonas’ wife, Priyanka Chopra Jonas. In a calmer, pop ballad, Nick Jonas sings about his relationship with Chopra and the criticisms they received for it: “Call me crazy / And people say that we move too fast.” With the two having gotten married only seven months after they started dating, the parallel between lyrics and real life is clear. In a subtle way, the song’s nod to Jonas and Chopra’s history contains a nice “easter egg hunt” for fans and adds a touch of genuineness to the track without distracting from what is otherwise a solid, captivating song about falling in love.

The second song with real-life parallels is “Hesitate,” a quasi-love letter to Joe Jonas’ wife, Sophie Turner. The slowest song of the album, “Hesitate” is the most touching, as Joe sings about helping Turner through rough times. The song just has an inexplicably beautiful quality to it. All of the lyrics are sung with a raw, vulnerability, especially “I thank the oceans for giving me you / You saved me once and I’ll save you two.” Near the end, Joe sings in almost acapella, “I will take your pain / And put it on my heart / I won’t hesitate / Just tell me where to start.” The song ends with a  quiet moment that is very tonally different from the rest of the album. “Hesitate” is different from the rest of Happiness Begins, but it has enough power to stand on its own: it’s is the kind of song that you play over and over again, wishing you could find a love like that.

Aside from “I Believe” and “Hesitate,” the rest of the love songs in Happiness Begins, although devoid of any explicit declaration of dedication to someone, all provide smooth, unique tracks that will easily find their way into radio stations and Spotify playlists. One exception is “Strangers.” Although lacking the lyrical depth of songs like “Hesitate,” “Strangers” uses a clever, long, one-word repetition in the chorus: it’s the kind of song that is simply easy to sing along with at the top of your lungs, and it’s bound to be a crowd favorite in live concerts.

Happiness Begins transitions in its last two tracks from love to reunion songs: “Rollercoaster” and “Comeback.” “Rollercoaster” carries a nostalgic feeling, as the lyrics reminisce about “the old days” when the trio was together (“I remember low lows and high highs / We threw our hands up, palms out to the skies”). “Comeback,” on the other hand, talks about wanting a reunion with an unspecified person (“Come back to me, baby, I’ll come back to you”). If this person refers to the fans, the Jonas Brothers themselves, or someone else entirely, the song never answers to that, but the longing to reunite with them is undeniable.

Without a doubt, ending an album with these two songs provides a fascinating conclusion. The pairing creates a juxtaposition between them: one song discusses looking back at a shared history, while the other wants to reunite with someone from the past. However, to play with themes of history in an album like Happiness Begins adds a different, more genuine quality to these tracks. They’re fun, happy songs, but they also signify that this is, indeed, the comeback of the Jonas Brothers.

It may be too soon to say if Happiness Begins will be the biggest album of the summer, but it is definitely one of the best reunion albums released in recent years. All 14 tracks are surprisingly great songs with the same chemistry that the trio had a decade ago. The Jonas Brothers are back, and, hopefully, this time they are here to stay.


Voice’s Choices: “Hesitate,” “Strangers”

Juliana Vaccaro
Juliana is an English/Economics double major, a Chinese minor, and a former Voice writer. She somehow still finds time to take way too many Halftime Leisure quizzes.

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