Nick Jonas wants you to know that he’s a grown-up now: gone are the days when he dated Hannah Montana, sported a purity ring and sold out arenas full of tween girls. Now he has sex, drinks and he knows what it really means to be in love and, subsequently, to be heartbroken. Though technically still a Jonas brother, Nick Jonas is desperate for you to realize that he no longer fits the image that the Jonas Brothers used to embody. And at certain points on Nick Jonas, his efforts pay off.
At its best moments, Nick Jonas is an urban-leaning pop album with grimy, throbbing beats and sensual lyrics sung by an experienced — emotionally and sexually — Jonas. On “Numb,” which features a verse from Angel Haze, a brokenhearted Jonas reflects using a mature voice that he didn’t have before with lines like, “Fuck with my head, like it’s nothing at all” and “Swallow my pride, you swallow me whole” over a pulsating, club-ready backing. To be sure, there’s very little subtlety here — lyrics like these help him craft songs that are borderline erotic — but that’s not what he’s striving for.
As has been abundantly clear from his numerous interviews and photoshoots this fall, Jonas is conscious of the need for Nick Jonas 2.0 to exemplify an extreme departure from his previous image. In order for his fans and the general public to disassociate him from it, he needs to shock them. So if he has to pose in his Calvins (gratuitous crotch-grab included) for a magazine or proclaim that he wants his fans to have sex to his new music for people to pay attention to him, he’s more than game. And the material on Nick Jonas reflects that.
“Teacher,” a funk-infused dance jam that puts his impressive falsetto on display, sounds almost Timberlake-esque as he entices his love interest by singing, “It’s like your mama never taught you how to love / So let me teach ya.” Though Timberlake comparisons are apt — Nick Jonas is essentially Jonas’s Justified in that it signals his emancipation from being just another boy band standout — Jonas doesn’t quite stack up. Yes, there are other bright spots in the set: The album’s declarative second single “Jealous” has proven to be a sleeper hit (and deservedly so) and the foot-stomping “Wilderness” channels OneRepublic in all the right ways. But Jonas’s strong new perspective and image too often gets dragged down by forgettable material. “Take Over” brings nothing new to the table and comes across as just another nondescript pop song. “Avalanche,” a soaring duet with Demi Lovato, could easily have been recorded when the pair still starred in separate shows on the Disney Channel.
Nick Jonas isn’t what you’d normally expect from a Nick Jonas album and, in that way, it proves to be a generally pleasant surprise. Though he’s not being as groundbreaking as he probably thinks he is, Jonas has succeeded in shedding some of the squeaky-clean boy band shine that the world had come to expect from him and replaced it with a racier, more mature varnish. Nick Jonas may scream more Timberlake-lite than oozing full-on sex appeal, but it is indisputably a step in the right direction for the youngest of the JoBros.