Francesco Carrozzini and Jim Windolf spotlight 17-year-old Nick Jonas, whose debut solo album stakes a grown-up claim.
Pop-music history is littered with performers who hit it big in their early teens only to end up in obscurity or rehab (or both). With his new album, Who I Am, Nick Jonas, 17, is laying the groundwork for a career that will continue long after the mania for all things Jonas Brothers has passed. Backed by his new band, the Administration, he recorded the album in Nashville during a two-week break from the madness of packed arenas and reports of a Miley Cyrus–Nick Jonas “puppy love” romance. And while Nick is the baby of the family, it’s fair to say he’s the main musical muscle of the Jonas Brothers. (He wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs on Who I Am.) Nick insists he wasn’t offended when, during the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, British comic Russell Brand made fun of the brothers’ pledge to remain virgins until marriage. “I think it’s the kind of thing you have to let roll off your shoulders,” he says. “It’s understandable, I guess. They need material.” And if things work out the way he pictures it—becoming known more for his music than for his image—he won’t be such an easy punch line.