You’ve heard of the record, now get ready for The Album, the debut – uh, sorry, (checks notes) sixth studio full-length by the Jonas Brothers. If that strikes you as kind of a placeholder title, wait till you hear the actual songs, which are so asinine and largely void of personality you’d probably be inclined to dismiss them if this actually were some sort of introductory statement. Following their return in 2019 with Happiness Begins, the superstar trio is both playing it safe and shooting for the stars here, recruiting Jon Bellion for lavish, glistening production that adds all the pop sheen to songs that rarely deserve it. Despite its preponderance of styles and recurring references to flying away, The Album mostly just stays in one place, the perfect soundtrack to an overhyped holiday you must already have some stake in to really buy into. And if you don’t, even half an hour of harmless fun and positivity can seem to drag on forever.
More than just setting the tone for The Album, opener ‘Miracle’ provides the template for what the Jonas Brothers attempt, to varying success, on nearly every song; ‘Sail Away’ even goes as far as to basically recycle the same premise over a less upbeat – or, as they put it, “transcendentallistical” (the word exists nowhere else on the web, I checked) – tempo. The entire collection is buoyed, for better or worse, by Bellion’s production, but no amount of gloss could cover up cringeworthy lines like “Sweeter than a pastry/ Winter with the AC/ Colder than a snowflake on me.” Still, ‘Miracle’ is one of the more solid cuts on the record, and it’s followed by ‘Montana Sky’, probably its clearest, most endearing highlight. Though the album earnestly draws from the group’s formative influences of ’70s pop and soul like the Bee Gees and the Doobie Brothers, there’s also a sense of wanting in on the same retro party that’s propelled acts like Silk Sonic and Harry Styles to the top of the charts. Yet the smooth Americana of ‘Montana Sky’ is a good fit for the song’s nostalgic outlook, which doesn’t come off as cloying or manufactured.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of The Album, which goes downhill quickly. The way ‘Americana’ breezes by at exactly two minutes, you’d venture not even the Jonas Brothers were entirely sold on its concept, which they begin to lay out by rhyming “blue jeans and marijuana” with “type of friends that show their love by picking on ya.” Similarly questionable is the single ‘Waffle House’, which makes the prospect of loved ones working things out through “deep conversations at the waffle house” sound shakier than it already seems. ‘Celebrate!’ and ‘Vacation Eyes’ both invite the audience to coast on fresh and past successes, but the album spends too much time coasting with little to stand on or show for it.
You could throw any of these songs onto a celebratory playlist and they’d probably do the job fine, but pack them together and they don’t necessarily cohere into a satisfying whole. In case you didn’t already sense a theme, two songs in a row have the word “summer” in the title; but lest you thought this was a family-friendly affair, one of them bafflingly repeats the line “sex like summer in the Hamptons.” (Not to worry, though – besides lacking any meaning, its delivery is also totally sexless.) The album closes with ‘Walls’, which credits Bellion as a featured guest and sets the lyrics “If you ever left me, I would die/ And even the walls would cry” against the sonic equivalent of confetti. It’s the kind of obvious finale that makes it clear every part of and reaction to the show has been neatly mapped out, assuming you’ve already bought a ticket. It’s as pleasant as it is forgettable, which is the last thing you want your dream (ie. regrettably expensive) vacation to be.