‘Happiness Begins’ is anticlimactic, uninspired

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Grade: 3.0/5.0     

The Jonas Brothers have been one of the hottest topics in music this year — between new marriages, new music and new tours, everything seemed to be looking up for the ex-Disney idols in 2019. Unfortunately, considering the band’s latest release, things aren’t looking up for fans: Happiness Begins is a thoughtless collection of desperate-to-be-Top 40 tracks.      

After six years of waiting for new music from the familial trio, fans have been presented with a contrived compilation of bland pop melodies that bring nothing new to the table. Released Friday, Happiness Begins lacks the charm, creativity and lyricism the Jonas Brothers worked on mastering between 2006 and 2010.  

The first two songs on the album are the singles that have been littering radio stations for months: “Sucker” and “Cool.” “Sucker” already has more than 332 million plays on Spotify, approximately five times as many as “Burnin’ Up,” the group’s 2008 smash hit. These new songs are wild diversions from the group’s previous sound, and they reflect the style of Joe Jonas’ post-Jonas Brothers band, DNCE. While the dance-pop sound worked well for DNCE, the style doesn’t fit as smoothly with what fans might have been expecting for the Jonas revival.    

The Jonas Brothers’ early albums were focused on more of a middle to high school audience and thus featured less mature styles. But with the release of the 2009 album Lines, Vines and Trying Times, it was apparent that the boys had grown into more mature songwriters, producers and musicians. That album featured flair, branching into other genres such as folk and big-band, and a step up in lyrical quality.

All of those lessons in the virtues of style variation seem to have been lost in the past decade.

The group initially tried to reunite back in 2013 with the singles “Pom Poms” and “First Time” but broke up shortly after, canceling the release of the album V. Even these songs presented different flavors within the unreleased album, whereas many songs on the newest release sound unnaturally similar and blend together as such.

Happy When I’m Sad” is the prime example on Happiness Begins of a song that sounds thrown together at the last second. The piece lacks depth and substance, especially considering the fact that it addresses a heavier topic than the rest of the tracks on the album do. Nick Jonas’ cheery, pitched-up vocals sing, “They think I’m happy when I’m sad.” This contrast between tone and content shows how sugarcoated all of the band’s content still is — even after the conclusion of its Disney days.    

Individually, the songs on Happiness Begins are well-produced and light dance tunes, and many feature a bit of a summer beach party island twang. The entire record, however, is disappointing considering the cookie-cutter sound noticeable when the tracks are put together. After a full listen, it’s hard to differentiate between songs because of the similar production and vocal effects used. And since the album holds such a strong electronic vein, the production may not be as engaging in a live show as some of the band’s more instrumentally focused, dynamic albums of the past.  

Happiness Begins is not a bad album — it’s also not exciting and definitely doesn’t live up to the hype fans have been accumulating for months. This album may have garnered a better review if the bar hadn’t been set so high since the February announcement of the trio’s reunion, but since the Jonas Brothers love mass advertising, fans’ expectations were set to skyrocketing levels.

Hesitate” is probably the best song on the album, as well as the closest to the nostalgic sound fans were hoping for. This song is the most lyrically engaging, containing some of the most pulling lines — such as “Time only heals if we work through it now” — and heart-wrenching themes. This song, along with a choice few toward the end of the album, is significantly less forgettable than its lackluster counterparts.   

Ultimately, had the Jonas Brothers fine-tuned their music and previous style to showcase more of their instrumental talent rather than adding in fluffy production, the result would have been much different: Happiness may have actually begun for the fans and not just the artists.         

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.