Statistically speaking, Joe Jonas has had a pretty good year. After brainstorming dance-rock band DNCE with now-drummer Jack Lawless, Jonas has become the front man of the four-person group. Joined by guitarists Cole Whittle and JinJoo Lee, DNCE released its debut single “Cake by the Ocean” in September 2015. Since then, DNCE has performed during FOX’s television special “Grease: Live” and opened for Selena Gomez during her Revival Tour.
DNCE’s self-titled debut album showcases 14 tracks that range from slow acoustic ballads to pop-infused dance anthems. Opening with aptly named “DNCE,” Jonas chants “D-N-C-E” a cappella before launching into a groovy, funky dance vibe. Making good use of their branding, the bulk of the song consists of the lyrics, “Won’t you come on D-N-C-E with me.”
“Doctor You” focuses on bass guitar and quick lyrics to emphasize its sexy club sound. But the song speeds up as it progresses and falls into a rut of sounding extraordinarily similar to all the others on the album. The chanting in the background of the chorus, “Who call the doc? / Said you gonna call the doc?” is the only thing to distinguish it from the rest.
“Blown” featuring Kent Jones, continues the same musical themes, building up an intensity until the beat drops to make way for Jonas’s lyrics: “I’ll never let you go / My sweet tooth is too strong.” Jones’s rap verse adds a new dimension to an otherwise cliché sound, but it still sounds like a song from the closing scene of a Disney Channel original movie.
Segueing into “Good Day,” the track starts simple and acoustically with just claps and the mantra that “Today is going to be a good day.” The whole song stays fairly low and monotone throughout the verses, failing to progress beyond a happy song to wake up to in the morning.
“Almost” is the first slow song of the album, transitioning it to more introspective and relaxed lyrics. Jonas showcases both his emotions and his vocal range as he sings, “Baby, we were good / We were almost perfect,” while light vocalizations harmonize in the background. “Almost” never strays too far from the baseline set early on, but gives the listener something other than upbeat dance hymns to enjoy.
“Naked” opens with an aggressively electronic intro and continues to maintain the dance-based electric tones. Jonas speaks the verses’ lyrics and shows off his impressive falsetto in the chorus when he sings, “I wanna be naked with you / At least I’m telling the truth.”
The second acoustic track, “Truthfully,” tugs at the heartstrings and narrates the ups and downs of falling in love again. It’s full of cliché metaphors and simple phrases such as, “Speaking truthfully, I love you more than you love me. As DNCE channels its inner Taylor Swift, “Truthfully” recounts universal feelings of love and loss.
Closing with “Unsweet,” DNCE ends the way it began. With a few flashes of greatness, DNCE never strays from what it knows best. As the songs begin to blend together, the album starts to sound like one long dance hymn. With a little more initiative and experimentation, DNCE could have set itself apart from the rest but instead falls short of groundbreaking and leaves the listener feeling slighted.