There are two types of people in the world: those who publicly worshipped the Jonas Brothers during their 2008 peak and those who buried their appreciation deep. The point is, if you had a pulse and access to Disney Channel, it was hard to avoid this trio of brothers, and even harder to dislike them. With a sound echoing the softer edges of late–90s and early–2000s radio rock, the Jonas Brothers infused the airwaves of Radio Disney with a pop–punk sensibility. “Year 3000,” a cover of a song by iconoclast pop punk group Busted, has all the beginnings of a pseudo–emo classic: jabs at boy bands, a pleasantly heavy guitar melody, and just enough social commentary to anger parents. Even their bigger hits, like “Burnin’ Up” and “SOS,” were reminiscent of a prior era, where boys in bands actually played instruments. In short, the Jonas Brothers used to rock—but their comeback single, “Sucker,” doesn’t.
Their first release in almost six years, “Sucker” offers a preview of what a Jonas Brothers return could sound like. It’s blissfully poppy, romantic, and slots nicely into the 2019 music landscape of mid–tempo hits. But, make no mistake, this is not the Jonas Brothers of our collective childhoods, with horrendously flat–ironed haircuts and endless love triangles. Despite Disney's near–omnipotent control, the Jonas Brothers were messy, and in their unrefined existence, exciting. Now, they are polished. They dress like Instagram streetwear models and have happy, adult relationships. Arguably, they may be best comeback of 2019, using nostalgia as a catalyst, not a crutch. However, they might also be a bit boring.
“Sucker” aims to be a love song with teeth. Detailing a relationship teeming with commitment and lush displays of affection, the band of brothers, with assistance from hitmaker Ryan Tedder, temper the romance with heady imagery. The pre–chorus talks of singing on the tops of cars and stumbling drunk out of bars. It even shadows the pop–punk trope of dangerous romance with the dissonant lyric, “You're the medicine and the pain, the tattoo inside my brain.” The song pantomimes an edge that isn’t there, with the video depicting the brothers and their fianceés/wives being avant–garde in a Victorian castle. Ultimately, the Jonas Brothers attempt to recapture what made their youth so successful: mischief and experimentation, which fade, rightfully and naturally, with age. Much of their new release feels like a lightning–fast yet ineffective “coolhunt,” with the band latching on to a basic cultural trend, like Carpool Karaoke, but using it in a way that feels derivative and safe. Now the Jonas Brothers want to rock, but can’t.
That being said, “Sucker” works remarkably well when it isn’t trying. Nick’s voice dominates every verse, flitting naturally between a Justin Timberlake–esque falsetto and sultry low notes. Meanwhile, Joe’s swagger pervades every inch of the video and note of the chorus. Remnants of his days with DNCE peek through, his voice mimicking the vibe of a casual kickback. Kevin does what he always did, crafting a minimalistic, but impactful, guitar–heavy beat for his brothers’ voices to shine. Overall, what makes “Sucker” isn’t so much its content, but the band behind it.
This release represents a return to form, not sound. Each member slotted easily back into his old role: Nick overpowers, Joe enhances, and Kevin supports. Combined, they’re a recipe for a success, just not rock’n’roll.