The Week In Pop

Their Name Is Jonas: The Surprising Post-Disney Success Of Brothers Joe And Nick

Once upon a time there was a band called the Jonas Brothers. They were called that because they were three brothers, and their last name was Jonas. With the help of the Disney Channel, this fraternal family band from New Jersey delighted millions of adolescents and pre-adolescents — and undoubtedly quite a few of their parents, what with their squeaky-clean pop-rock hits and handsome, unthreatening smiling faces and public chastity pledges. All the while, the kind of adults who take inordinate pleasure in mocking entertainment designed for children derived their usual inordinate delight from said practice, delivering various Jonas Brothers punchlines to their friends and family in a demonstration of maturity and/or masculinity. All this carried on for a few years, and then the Jonas Brothers went away, and that was that.

Except that’s rarely the end where child pop stars are concerned. More often than not, they attempt to make the leap into grown-up pop stardom. And sure enough, that’s what we’ve been seeing with the now-lowercase-b Jonas brothers over the past two or three years. Nick Jonas has launched a solo career, while Joe Jonas has a new band called DNCE. The poor remaining Jonas — whose name is/was Kevin, it turns out — chose the route of reality TV stardom and was last seen getting fired by pre-terrifying Donald Trump on The Celebrity Apprentice in early 2015. (I’m assuming somebody saw that. I didn’t personally see it.)

I have no idea if Kevin Jonas intends to continue in show business, but if so, he’s failing. His other brothers, though, have become weirdly inescapable. Nick’s songs are all over pop radio, and he seems to find his way into every major music industry event (including some opportunities he should probably have skipped). He’s even the musical guest on Saturday Night Live this weekend; he’ll probably act in a sketch or digital short, too, given his Disney experience and latter-day work as a gay UFC fighter on Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Joe’s band DNCE is a couple years behind Nick on the promotional saturation front, but their debut single “Cake By The Ocean” is making up ground fast. It topped out at #9 on the singles chart and is unmissable on pop radio right now. Joe just signed a major publishing contract for his songwriting work. And with appearances in Zoolander 2 and Grease Live this year plus a role in the upcoming film The Highway Is for Gamblers, Joe is keeping one foot in the acting world too.

This is a wild turn of events because Jonas Brothers were essentially a boy band, and boy bands almost never generate two career solo artists. Many of them, even some of the biggest such as Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men and New Kids On The Block, never even produce one legitimate solo star. The Jackson 5 gave us Michael Jackson. *NSYNC bequeathed us Justin Timberlake. Menudo wrought Ricky Martin. That’s usually how it goes. To say Drew Lachey followed his brother and 98 Degrees bandmate Nick Lachey into stardom feels like a stretch; even Nick is more of a TV personality than a successful solo musician. Unless you count the Beatles, the only multi-star boy band I can think of is New Edition, which spawned Bobby Brown plus respectable careers for Johnny Gill and offshoot group Bell Biv Devoe.

It’s especially surprising that of all groups, the Jonas Brothers are the ones spinning off multiple stars. Despite their massive popularity among the Disney Channel demo, the band never transcended the teen-pop world to become a culture-saturating phenomenon the way *NSYNC or One Direction did. The average adult on the street probably doesn’t know their songs. Had they stayed together, they might have been able to follow in the footsteps of Hanson, another teeny-bopping band of brothers who’ve managed to maintain a fervent cult audience well into adulthood. (They even have their own craft beer company called MMMHops; not joking.) About three years ago, that seemed like the ceiling for the Jonas Brothers. Instead, Nick and Joe are pulling off something that has historically been extremely rare.

Maybe it’s becoming more common, though. We’ve already seen the post-One Direction ascent of Zayn Malik, and it seems preordained that his former 1D comrade Harry Styles will successfully go solo this year as well. It may be that with fewer boy bands competing for attention compared to the TRL-era boom years, the market has room for more boy band spinoff stars — less candidates vying for the cream of the songwriting crop, radio rotation, TV appearances, etc.

That theory makes sense given recent chart history. As of a couple years ago the concept of the young male pop star was almost extinct, with women ruling the top of the charts throughout most of 2014 and no clear heir to Justin Timberlake in sight. In early 2015, just before the resurgence of Bieber and the rise of Zayn, Grantland had to stretch the definition of pop all the way from D’Angelo to Luke Bryan just to field a list of viable male solo stars, and they ultimately concluded that the biggest male pop stars were actually just the most famous male rappers: Kanye, Kendrick, and Drake. Although I don’t know anyone who’d be mad to hear those guys in top-40 rotation, radio remains frustratingly racially divided, so the industry predictably has raised up some new light-skinned lads to fill the airwaves. And with name recognition going a long way in every wing of the entertainment business these days, former teen stars are the ones most likely to find their way into the promotional machine.

On the other hand, boy bands may be spinning off multiple stars these days because boy band members are getting smarter about how to pull off the transition into the adult mainstream. Zayn’s joyless sex jams don’t inspire me, but after a #1 single and a #1 album, there’s no denying the success of his career makeover. Nick Jonas was going nowhere until he steered hard into the gay audience, who likely did not comprise much of the Jonas Brothers’ fan base. And Joe Jonas is flexing his songwriting skills to follow in the footsteps of OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, a guy who pens hits for lots of other artists and holds a few back for himself. If pop music is doomed to repeat its own history, at least these guys are learning from it.

CHART WATCH

Although he didn’t do it entirely on the strength of streaming, the fact that Kanye West got The Life Of Pablo to #1 with streaming comprising 70 percent of his equivalent units is still seriously wild. Billboard confirms that Pablo tops the Billboard 200 this week with 94,000 units, of which actual album sales account for only 28,000. Kanye’s 66,000 SEA (streaming equivalent albums) are the second highest ever following the 67,000 Justin Bieber racked up for Purpose last year. Per Billboard, “The 28,000 sales reported for the album were from the two web sites, and album/ticket offers with West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden in New York on Feb. 11, and its simultaneous live stream movie theater event.”

Kanye needed those sales, too, because Chris Stapleton’s Traveller climbs back to #2 with 73,000 units (59,000 in pure sales). Per Billboard, that’s a 138 percent gain following another primetime TV coronation. (Previously the album went to #1 after Stapleton’s viral duet with Justin Timberlake at the CMA Awards; this time it jumped back to #2 after Stapleton won big at the ACM Awards).

Debuting at #3 is Danish soul-pop act Lukas Graham’s self-titled effort, which accrued 59,000 units (34,000 in pure sales). Weezer’s self-titled “White Album” enters at #4 with 49,000 units/45,000 sales. And extremely close behind is Big Sean and Jhene Aiko’s duo Twenty88, whose self-titled debut album bows at #5 with 49,000 units/40,000 sales.

Kanye’s influence lingers over the Hot 100 singles chart this week as well, as Desiigner’s “Panda” — which appears as “Pt. 2″ on Pablo in marginally altered form — climbs to #5, becoming the broads-in-Atlanta-having New York rapper’s first top-10 hit. The scenery around him is fairly unchanged, though: Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” stays at #1 for an eighth straight week, with Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” Meghan Trainor’s “No,” and Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” in succession behind it.

As for the bottom half of the top 10, Billboard notes that by spending its 21st straight week in the top 10, Justin Bieber’s #6 “Love Yourself” matches Maroon 5’s “Sugar” and Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” as the singles that have stayed in the top 10 longest after debuting there. Mike Posner’s #8 “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” and Fifth Harmony’s #9 “Work From Home” each reach new peaks.

POP FIVE

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me (Patrick Stump Remix)”
In which the lead singer from Fall Out Boy drains the life out of one of the best pop songs in recent memory.

Pitbull – “Messin’ Around” (Feat. Enrique Iglesias)
These guys have scored major hits together before, and they might have another one on their hands here. Pretty crazy how much Iglesias has switched up his style since the “Bailamos” days.

Adam Levine – “Go Now”
This ballad is so blasé that it actually makes me appreciate Maroon 5. I’ve been wondering for more than a decade when he’d finally launch a solo career, and after hearing “Go Now,” I’m still wondering.

Will.i.am – “Boys & Girls” (Feat. Pia Mia)
The weirdest Blur remake you’ll ever hear. (Just kidding: It’s not a Blur remake, and it’s not weird.)

Phoebe Ryan – “Chronic”
So much of this is dumb. The video is dumb. The lyrics are dumb. But like the song says, it hits me good.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • In a new Vogue cover story, Taylor Swift says while she’s always writing songs, she wants to take some time now to become the kind of well-rounded person who can make a good drink and save somebody if they’re drowning. [Vogue]
  • Bastille debuted a new song “The Currents” at Snowbombing fest. [YouTube]
  • Buzzfeed reminds us Lana Del Rey was a treasure on social media in 2011. [Buzzfeed]
  • The Angry Birds Movie soundtrack will include a new Charli XCX song, “Survive,” and Demi Lovato’s cover of “I Will Survive.” [Idolator]
  • Ariana Grande debuted her Macy Gray collab “Leave Me Lonely” in Las Vegas. [Celebuzz]
  • Grande also clapped back at a Facebook commenter who criticized her “Dangerous Woman” video. [Cosmo]
  • Britney Spears’ new album is out in a month according to a tweet from Robin Leach. [Twitter]
  • Justin Bieber is pretty good at piano, as these hotel lobby renditions of “Hotline Bling” and “Work” demonstrate. [Billboard]
  • A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that Pharrell and Robin Thicke will not have to pay Marvin Gaye’s family’s legal fees. [THR]
  • Demi Lovato wrote a song with Miguel. [Twitter]
  • Joe Jonas, Tegan And Sara, The Lonely Island, T-Pain, and Ben Folds will appear on the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang!, premiering on IFC 6/3. [IFC]
  • Kanye West reportedly filmed a video for “Waves” in Scotland. The owners of the country hotel where he stayed described him as the “perfect guest.” [Daily Record]
  • Katy Perry will ultimately be allowed to buy that Catholic Convent in LA despite protests from two nuns. [Variety]
  • Iggy Azalea and Kesha went horseback riding. [Twitter]

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