Release Date: Nov 10, 2014
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Teen Pop, Contemporary Pop/Rock
Having already locked down the female teen demo, Nick Jonas has taken a page out of the James Franco playbook, courting the LGBT community, aggressively working both the gay press and New York City's club circuit, even playing a cheeky game of Guess the Bulge. His recent spread in Flaunt Magazine inspired a think piece in the Huffington Post in which my friend Noah Michelson called the unabashed display of hair on Jonas's tan-lined lower back “radical”; it's a refreshing shift in what's presented as acceptable or sexy that dovetails with fellow boy-bander Harry Styles's recent headline-grabbing statements hinting at his hetero-flexibility. Less radical than Jonas's happy trail, however, is the erstwhile JoBro's current career trajectory.
Nine years ago, when Nick Jonas recorded his first solo album, he was a little-known preteen Christian pop singer covering Steve Winwood. (He was also going by Nicholas at the time.) Since then, he has gained and lost both a purity ring and a boy band – and this sexy throwback-R&B album is clearly meant to shed his old image, like Justin Timberlake before him. For Jonas, the new sound works well: He's sweetly confident while singing about all the adult lust that he has been suppressing in his music for years.
Nick Jonas is either the second or third solo album from Nick Jonas -- it all depends on whether the pre-Jonas Brothers 2004 set Nicholas Jonas or Who I Am, his 2010 album with the short-lived Administration, count -- but there's no denying that this 2014 eponymous effort is designed as a statement of purpose, a way to break away from his now defunct gang of siblings. Throughout this gleaming collection of stylish pop-soul, Jonas takes pains to seem modern -- he finds space for Angel Haze on the lead single "Numb"; he keeps returning to cool, glassy electronic rhythms, sometimes informed by hip-hop; somewhere he swears enough to earn this album a Parental Advisory sticker, although it's a hard profanity to spot -- but his strengths are in his classicism, both as a songwriter and a blue-eyed soul vocalist. Jonas' voice is slightly thin but he knows how to deploy it with sweetness and seduction (although swagger always seems to elude his grasp), a quality that keeps things lively even when things threaten to slide toward the sleepy (as they sometimes do when the tempos slow, which is why Demi Lovato's presence is welcome on "Avalanche").
The producer T Bone Burnett was offered, out of the blue, a batch of lyrics that Bob Dylan wrote in 1967, when Mr. Dylan and the Band were in upstate New York recording what would become known as “The Basement Tapes.” They were tall tales, surreal travelogues, love songs, existential riddles and exercises in wordplay — unmistakably Dylan. To turn them into songs, Mr.