When the Jonas Brothers' ALittle Bit Longer album came out last August, I gave it a few listens,found myself largely unimpressed, and went back to adulthood. Recently though,I was given a couple chances to reevaluate the stylishly coiffed siblings, asthey played with Stevie Wonder at the Grammy Awards and then performed twosongs on this past weekend's SaturdayNight Live. My opinion hasn't changed.
The main problem isn't the music. Hit songs "Lovebug" and "ALittle Bit Longer" are pleasant enough doses of puppy-dog melodic pop. Thething that bugs me about the brothers--21-year-old Kevin, 19-year-old Joe, and16-year-old Nick--is that they seem so foolishly intent on positioning themselvesas a real band and not just Tiger Beat meat. Take the Grammyperformance. While they were playing their own "Burnin' Up," with Stevie Wonderhelping out on keyboards and the chorus hook, the band sounded fine. That songrequires little more than the right amount of pre-pubescent yelping in thevocal in order to get across. But that's not enough for the JoBros. They'reserious musicians, the kind who play songs like Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
The band was equally unconvincing on SNL. Their first song was "Tonight," an upbeat break-up rocker.Kevin and Nick adequately handled the moody, stock new-wave guitar parts, butJoe's lead vocal was almost unlistenable. The thing is, he sounds like a nicekid from New Jersey.But he also seems determined to sound like something more. Whenever he tried toinject some grown-up urgency into his vocals, he instead sounded like he wasgetting pinched.
Later in the show, "Video Girl" was even worse. This time,to flaunt his versatile musicianship, Nick was playing drums. It sounded likehe was playing Rock Band, thwackingaway at the kit with no sense of touch or feel. Similarly, Kevin tried todisplay his chops with a guitar solo that was little more than a bunch ofbeginner blues licks strung together. Again, the overall effect was of a bandtrying way too hard.
The guys should take some cues from Taylor Swift. The19-year-old country-pop star never tries to be more than she is--a sweet,well-adjusted teenager. She writes musically simple songs about high school,falling in and out of love, and her mom. And she does it with tons of heart.When the Jonas Brothers stick to songs like the adorably innocuous "Lovebug,"they approach charming. For them, that should be enough.
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