Originally published on So So Gay on 11 February 2015.
With writing credits on all but album opener ‘Chains’, Nick’s eponymous second studio album is clearly a strong reflection of his maturing musical direction. Out are the nods to Him upstairs that were present on his first studio album (at the tender age of 13), and in are the effortlessly cool production values and mature subject matter; even the occasional swear word – what would the baby Jesus think? Hopefully He’s a fan of well-written and superbly produced R&B/pop, because then Nick is undeniably safe.
Like throwing the Scissor Sisters, Newton Faulkner and Timbaland into a pop blender, the insanely infectious ‘Wilderness’ is the album’s standout moment. The irrepressible beat and a brilliant vocal performance by Jonas surely marks it out as a future single, even though it sits amongst a sea of potential hits. One of the most impressive things about this album is the flexibility and range of Nick’s voice, which he employs with verve across the record. A prime example is ‘Push’, which features one of Nick’s most fragile and emotional performances. Sung almost entirely in his upper register, it’s a beautiful and striking gear change to mark the middle of the album.
It’s clear the young singer has more than enough talent to carry a song, even without his brothers around him, but a few collaborations have been included here. The most successful is with upcoming rapper Angel Haze, with her rhythmic swagger on the trap-flavoured ‘Numb’ complementing Nick’s restrained falsetto perfectly. On paper, the Demi Lovato duet, ‘Avalanche’, would seem to be the unison most geared for commercial success, but it’s one of the few good-rather-than-excellent moments on Nick Jonas, even if it does have a suitably epic polish to it. The deluxe edition finishes with ‘Closer’, and it’s another highlight – though Mike Posner’s input should probably have remained as a behind-the-scenes co-write, since his fairly crass rap adds very little. Thankfully it doesn’t diminish what is otherwise a sublimely sensual slice of R&B/pop made from a twinkling and throbbing soundscape.
Much like the moment in 2002 when Justin Timberlake got a sexy haircut, left *NSYNC, and then unleashed his excellent debut album Justified on the world, Nick Jonas feels like it ought to be as equally a significant musical event. In one album, the young Texan deftly shows his dexterity for handling uptempo pop (‘Teacher’), earnest balladeering (‘Nothing Would Be Better’), and mature cuts of contemporary urban-flavoured pop (‘Closer’). Anyone who avoids this album on the belief it’s another tween pop-rock record in the style of The Jonas Brothers will be missing out on undoubtedly one of the finest albums of 2015.
Standout Tracks: ‘Jealous’ / ‘Teacher’ / ‘Wilderness’ / ‘Nothing Would Be Better’ / ‘Closer’