How serious are Joe, Kevin, and Nick Jonas about stoking a carefree vibe on their sixth full-length? Not only did they give it the hair-tossing title The Album, they’ve stock it with songs that have titles like “Vacation Eyes,” “Summer in the Hamptons,” and “Vacation Baby.” The result is a sparkling pop party full of romance and hooks, with the three brothers—along with pop maximalist Jon Bellion and other top-tier producers—flexing their songwriting and harmonic chops.
Since forming in 2005, Jonas Brothers have been making sneakily sophisticated pop songs that blend of-the-moment trends with bits borrowed from funk. The Album throws that formula back a bit, bringing in sonic cues from the glossiest moments of the Seventies—plush synths on “Vacation Eyes,” crystalline pianos on “Montana Sky,” Bee Gees-quality harmonies all over the place—in a way that makes its release at the outset of pool-party season uncannily timed.
The only true dud is “Americana,” a funk-country nugget that’s the band’s attempt at stoking connection between the country’s fractured factions. It reels off pop-culture totems—in addition to “Americana, blue jeans, and marijuana,” Jay-Z, James Dean, and Jersey Shore get name-checked—as a way of showing that yes, these states can truly become united once again. It’s an admirable effort, but one that feels too mawkish and rooted in the pre-Twitter past (James Dean??) to really mean anything.
Aside from that awkward reach across the aisle, The Album’s other attempts to dig into weightier matters have better results. “Little Bird” is a sweet meditation on parenthood that’s destined to be played at weddings for decades to come, even if there’s one Joe-sung verse that connects the dots between giving a daughter away at the altar and his own mortality (“he’s gonna love you when I gotta leave you/Gotta believe it when the Lord takes me home,” the dad of two sings heteronormatively).
Closing track “Walls” is the only song to have Bellion credited as a collaborator, an appropriate touch for the record’s hugedt track, a power-ballad-slash-hymn that uses a crying wall as its central metaphor. (“If you ever left me, I would die/And even the walls would cry,” he wails.) It opens with Joe’s voice swathed in echo and accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the strains of a church organ, and effects; eventually Nick’s falsetto leads a charging choir into the party, turning the song into a full-on revival before it floats back to earth. It’s a heavy end to The Album’s party, but it shows how Jonas Brothers’ ambition is only getting bigger as its legacy expands.