Does Nick have merit sans siblings?
PHOTO COURTESY HOLLYWOOD RECORDS
Published: 02/04/2010ALBUM: “Who I Am”
LABEL: Hollywood Records
I have very little shame in admitting my Nick Jonas fascination. The kid is the musical mastermind in his sibling three-piece, loves Elvis Costello and thankfully his sense of style has evolved past “pimp/grandpa.” Now he’s seeking to prove that his music prowess has also evolved with a solo album, “Who I Am.”
Here’s the equation: Nick Jonas minus brothers plus members of Prince’s New Power Generation band equals screaming girls who’ve probably had “Who I Am” on iTunes pre-ordered since July.
“Who I Am” isn’t a radical departure from the Jonas repertoire, though its blues-and-’70s-funk influenced sound feels more at home on Adult Alternative than Radio Disney. Anyone with scant knowledge in musical history can tell that baby Jonas is aping the styles of some of his heroes, nabbing Stevie Wonder’s keyboard bounce on “State of Emergency” and “Last Time Around” and attempting, but not quite succeeding, to craft a piece of music on par with Costello.
But haters to the left — the kid has talent. He plays several instruments, from guitar to glockenspiel, and he sounds relatively comfortable bossing around a bunch of older men who’ve played with the Purple One.
“Who I Am” sounds like something a 17-year-old boy eager to grow up and expand his sound would create.
But what you guys want to know is, is there anything about Miley on this record? Not really, but his tales of female adventures seem tall for a kid of 17, especially one who wears a purity ring. The toxic chicks and failed romances cause me to raise an eyebrow, and the she-devil he sings about in “State of Emergency” might be fictional.
The lead single, “Who I Am,” has baby Jonas pleading for some unnamed girl to love him for who he is, not because he’s Miley’s ex, or because he has diabetes or because he’s in a band with a Disney Channel show.
However, I think Nick needs a little more experience with the ladies to really nail the sexy blues he’s aiming for.
It’s to be expected with an ambitious undertaking and departure from the familial nest that a solo album won’t be perfect. There’s a lot of filler on “Who I Am.” Every solid pop song is framed with a cheesy ballad meant for Nick’s target teen audience, but the mechanics are done with more sophistication.
But there’s no question that Nick can pen a teenybop pop song and make it cash in. Though he insists “In the End” is his homage to Bill Withers, it appeals more to 14-year-olds. Lyrics like “When you don’t have a friend/And you don’t know who you can trust/Now you’re stuck/On the wrong side of the fence,” could easily narrate tales of getting one’s milk money stolen.
It’s not fair to write baby Jonas off because of his boy band roots; we didn’t do it to Justin Timberlake, the Beatles or the Beach Boys. Given a bit more room to experiment, maybe he’ll stick around awhile.
Even though it’s less cloying and manufactured than the work Nick does with his (less talented/hot) brothers, “Who I Am” is still a slick production with shreds of authenticity that promise good things for Nick’s future.