The Jonas Brothers’ ‘Happiness Begins’ Is A Nostalgic Ode To Growing Up

06.10.19 1 week ago

Republic

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At his first job, Don Draper worked in-house at an old fur company. His mentor, Teddy, shared an important piece of wisdom. Most people think the best way to sell something is by creating an itch for something new and selling the only way of scratching it. But the best salesmen know that the only thing that inspires more desire than something new is something old. People ache for the things that remind them of childhood, love, and happiness. In the season one finale of Mad Men, Don Draper told a room full of Kodak executives this:

“Teddy told me that in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine.”

The Jonas Brothers know their way around a time machine. In their first big hit, 2006’s “Year 3000,” Nick, Joe, and Kevin sing about a trip to the future. They come home during lunch to discover a neighbor, who might be Doc Brown from Back To The Future, has made a time machine that can take anybody who’s interested to the year 3000. Rather than focusing on how the world had changed (the fact that everybody lives underwater is a footnote in the song), the JoBros are obsessed with their own legacy. “I took a ship to the year 3000 / This song had gone multi-platinum / Everybody bought our seventh album / It had outsold Kelly Clarkson,” they repeat in the song’s boom-clap, earworm bridge.

“Year 3000” itself is a time machine. The song reminds me of middle school summers and aimless, half-finished creative projects with friends, the time where I loved the music so much that I wouldn’t waste time listening to anything else. The lyrics of “Year 3000” are burned into my brain, along with the rest of the Jonas Brothers’ discography. Listening to their music sparks that “pain from an old wound” Draper was talking about, except the opposite. Listening to the Jonas Brothers brings back years’ worth of sunshine.

The Jonas Brothers’ reunion has been criticized by some as an empty nostalgia trip. Nick, Joe, and Kevin’s return to music, their first new album as a band since 2009, has been booed as a ploy to squeeze twenty-somethings with disposable cash for some easy tour bank. Anyone tossing off such cheap criticisms obviously hasn’t listened to Happiness Begins, and they could sit down and learn a thing or two from the wisest middle-aged white dude. The only thing we want more than something new is something old.

After a decade pursuing solo ventures and discovering their voices on their own, Happiness Begins sees the Jonas Brothers reuniting in complete harmony. As its title might suggest, Happiness Begins is a pretty cheerful album subject-wise. All three brothers are happily married, and as with several other of this year’s best records, stability and bliss make for solid, thoughtful songwriting. “Love Her” has a similar catchy guitar riff to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” but with none of the sarcasm. Think of it as a grown-up version of “Lovebug,” the same you’re-my-whole-world affection the Jonas Brothers mastered a decade ago, but with a groovier, more adult sound.

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