Friday, June 17, 2016

Last Year Was Complicated | Nick Jonas



I think it's quite easy to see that we pop music listeners like to hear our males fragile and our females confident. Fair assumption? Maybe. Let's compare Sam Smith's debut or Justin Bieber's Purpose with Fifth Harmony and Meghan Trainor's back catalogs. When a female exhibits a sign of vulnerability, she is deemed weak. When a male does the same, he gets applauded for being adorable and in touch with his emotions. With this in mind, it was no coincidence that Nick Jonas plugged his new record, Last Year Was Complicated, as the result of his break-up with Olivia Culpo.

But what's strange is the fact that we never really get that promised rawness from Nick Jonas. Bearing the backstory it does, this album could be assumed to reveal him at his most vulnerable. At times, we start to see that, like when he employs a sentiment very similar to that of P!nk's "Funhouse" to destroy every last memory of his former relationship ("Chainsaw") and when he begins to look at himself as a potential source of problems ("Unhinged"). But much like was the case on Fifth Harmony's newest album, which was supposed to be authentic as can be and clearly wasn't, the material at hand here doesn't allow Nick Jonas to convey true emotion. In fact, if anything, these watertight pop tracks keep anything from spilling out. He gives us plenty of bonafide bops, but he doesn't portray the uber-serious Nick Jonas he thinks he does.

This is a very 2016 affair: a stretched vocal range that can make just about anything -- including the word "bacon" -- sound sexy as hell, a sea of drums to keep it alive, and some grinding post-Weeknd synth tones. It's all reminiscent of Zayn's solo debut, but a bit less focused and a bit more fun -- whether or not Jonas realizes that. He really shines the brightest when he purposely has fun (as in both sonically and lyrically, like on "Bacon" and "Champagne Problems"). He wants to be a top-billing commercial pop artist, but he wants to be taken with utmost seriousness. You can't have both, but it's clear he belongs in the former -- he clearly works the title well, even if the material he delivers is made too safe to fail.

When Avril Lavigne found herself in a complicated situation, we all remember the outcome: guitars, a loose tie, skateboards, a lot of black, and if my memory serves me correctly, the destruction of an unsuspecting shopping mall. It was a very angsty experience, dudes. As surprising as it may seem, it turns out that Nick Jonas did not break out his skateboard and black cargo pants for this album. Instead, he glossed over that complication with some banging tunes sure to be therapeutic in the sense that they make listeners feel good in the moment; who needs to mope about last year when we have "Voodoo" and "Under You" (this one, by the way, gives some nods to Taylor Swift's "Style," doesn't it?) to enjoy now?

Even still, I do feel like not going all-out Avril Lavigne was really a missed opportunity, don't you?

Last Year Was Complicated is out now. Exclusive pressings can be found at Target department stores and f.y.e. media stores.

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Maira Gall