Not many former childhood stars are willing to embrace their pasts. Just look at Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, who are still trying to live down their Disney Channel personas and establish themselves as more than puppets controlled by a major TV network. Moreover, not many bands find their way back together after a breakup, especially when the breakup provides an opportunity for individual experimentation and success.
Despite all the factors working against them, the Jonas Brothers defied the odds with their new album, Happiness Begins. Their first in ten years, Happiness Begins pleasantly documents the power of familial ties and how the concept of family has changed for the three brothers.
The album starts out with “Sucker,” which already soared on the charts back in April. With a blend of electronic dance elements from Joe’s career with the pop band DNCE and the sexy, raspy vocals of Nick’s solo work, “Sucker” provides a modern twist on the traditional Jonas sound.
“Sucker,” along with the album’s other single, “Cool,” have already proven successful on the radio, and songs such as “Only Human” and “I Believe” have followed suit as they continue to pick up streams on Spotify. While each song maintains its own unique subject matter and sound, a common theme is a mellow, laid-back vibe, whether it be found lyrically or musically. “Only Human” takes on a modern reggae style with its unhurried tempo and prominent synthesizers, while “Cool” lyrically paints a picture of a couple friends just hanging out and feeling confident in themselves.
Happiness Begins includes a lot of radio-friendly nuggets, but buried in the mix is also a collection of deeper, emotion-driven tracks. Songs like “Love Her” and “Trust” dive into the ways love takes over a person’s everything and often leaves them feeling out of control. “Hesitate” is a ballad about laying down everything to be there for the person you love.
But the album isn’t all sappy love songs and radio hits. “Rollercoaster” is an upbeat tune about life, celebrating the adventure of love for all its twists and turns. Hidden within the song’s lyrics are the words “happiness begins,” which brings the themes of renewal and letting go back in, full circle.
The most notable aspect of the album is the way it holds onto the old while still introducing something new. Instead of trying to brush their old image away and start fresh, the Jonas Brothers gladly revisit their past work, whether it be recreating old YouTube videos or performing their old music at live shows. Happiness Begins exemplifies this contrast of old versus new in how the band was able to hold onto their roots while presenting their audiences with more relevant and mature subject matter. While the new album doesn’t sound much like the garage boy band the Jonas Brothers used to be, they were able to hold onto some crucial elements, like Nick’s vocal riffs and the band’s sing-songy harmonies.
The album closes with a softer, reflective tune titled “Comeback” in which the brothers repeatedly sing, “Come back to me, baby, I’ll come back to you.” While the song most obviously points to how the band was able to overcome their differences and reunite, the blaring theme of family is also hard to overlook. It’s heartwarming to see the beloved boy band of our childhoods come back to give us more of the music we love, but brotherhood is not the only type of family the Jonas Brothers are concerned about in this album. As much as it may break the hearts of young girls, all three Jonas Brothers have tied the knot and are starting families of their own, so the idea of happiness beginning stretches beyond the Jonas family we grew up knowing. Happiness begins as the Jonas Brothers start a new chapter in their music careers but also as they mature and find happiness within the families they are just starting to create.
Happiness Begins triggers some feelings of nostalgia, but the changes in this new album makes it feel like they’re meeting us here in our adult lives. Reliving such an influential era in your twenties is borderline magical, and the brother trio deserves a huge round of applause simply for bringing back the childhoods of millions of young people around the world.