From the Beatles and the Monkees to One Direction, boy bands are a pop commodity that will never — and should never — go out of style.
Every generation has had its share of them, with some cornier than others. But all the greats have delivered polished love songs, cute guys, and lots of posters for tweens to tack to their bedroom walls.
For young girls coming of age at the end of the 2000s, the Jonas Brothers expertly filled that role. Joe, Nick, and Kevin — or, as Miley Cyrus called them in an episode of Hannah Montana, “the cute, funny one”; “the cute, sensitive one”; and “the cute, romantic one” — became the kings of Disney via their infectious power pop and boyish looks.
The New Jersey natives grew up idolizing the Beatles and call the group one their biggest musical influences alongside Prince and Elvis Costello.
The brothers began playing as a small Christian band in 2005, but they eventually caught the eye of Disney, which marketed them as its premier band on Radio Disney. That move, along with starring roles in the Disney original movie Camp Rock and, eventually, their own Disney sitcom, further fueled the Jonas fan fire.
By 2008, they were the biggest boy band on the planet. Their third album, A Little Bit Longer, debuted at the top of the Billboard album charts and included their biggest hit yet, “Burnin’ Up.” The album was warmly embraced by critics for its songwriting and power-pop flair. Rolling Stone praised its “fuzzed-up guitars, three-part harmonies, and cotton-candy choruses of Big Star and Cheap Trick,” and AllMusic called it a “skillful blend of bubblegum and ballads” with a strong “grounding in classic pop.”
The nods to the Beatles are evident across the record. Opener “BB Good,” which offers a vivid fantasy of going on a date with a Jonas, is basically their take on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Both songs are equally chivalrous and playful. One of the album’s bonus tracks is an energetic cover of the Fab Four’s Magical Mystery Tour song “Hello Goodbye.”
The Jo Bros' 3D concert film, a rite of passage for Disney acts, also alludes to the first Beatles film, A Hard Day’s Night, with the boys being chased by crazed fans around New York City. The Beatles imagery was intentional — Nick Jonas said that although they didn't compare themselves to the seminal '60s band, they “look to them as a source of inspiration.”
The Beatles, in their earliest, pre-psychedelia incarnation, were in many ways the inception of the boy band. Beatlemania in and of itself became the goal of every music executive trying to re-create the success of the Fab Four.
For the Beatles, boy-band stardom came organically. There was no Lou Pearlman or Simon Cowell making Paul the cute one, George the quiet one, Ringo the silly one, and John the cynical one. Their personalities simply shone, as did their songs of love, captivating girls across the globe. Similarly, though the Jonas Brothers later became a commodified product, the band began with the siblings jamming in their home.
The Jonas Brothers strove to replicate the Beatles’ effortless magnetism by playing instruments, wearing suits and floppy haircuts, and writing their own songs. The brothers were also instrumental in the debut of fellow Disney star Demi Lovato, whose first album had Jonas written all over it. In fact, many of the songs were co-written with the brothers and had that signature punchy pop-rock sound they’d since perfected.
The Jonases, despite their commitment to their music, struggled with the media frenzy most teen idols attract. They were mocked for their squeaky-clean image and the choice to wear purity rings, which they revealed predated their fame.
Following the success of the mighty A Little Bit Longer, they released the horribly titled Lines, Vines and Trying Times in 2009. The bloated album was scatterbrained in its sound, dabbling in everything from funk and country to '80s soft rock and rap.
Critics called it overproduced and premature, saying the trio's eagerness to grow up too quickly clashed with the album's Disney sound. After a year of smooth sailing, the Jonases were beginning to run out steam while at the same time taking on more projects with Disney.
Following a sequel to Camp Rock and the second season of their Disney sitcom, the brothers went on hiatus in 2011. Nick and Joe ventured into solo projects, and the band cut ties with Hollywood Records, the label every Disney star was signed to at the time.
They regrouped in 2012 to gear up for a new album and accompanying tour, but they dropped both projects in 2013 as they announced the band was splitting up due to creative differences.
Six years later, the Jo Bros are back, Disney-free, all grown up, and with a number one single —
the catchy summer tune “Sucker” — and a new album, Happiness Begins.
The brothers have also released a new documentary, Chasing Happiness, which traces their history and rise to teen stardom. It also explores some of the family tensions that led to their shocking breakup in 2013, along with many of their frustrations working for Disney.
One of their biggest regrets, as revealed in the documentary, was starring in their sitcom, Jonas. Nick said it stunted their growth, set them back creatively, and infantilized them.
Happiness Begins symbolizes a new chapter for them as a band and as brothers, one in which they can continue to pen clever pop songs without the pressure of the machine that molded them into stars. They're finally at a place where they can reap the benefits of their impact and give back to their fans, most of whom are now adults as well.
Their fun, Beatles-esque take on teen pop has adapted and matured with them. The Jonases are now embracing their status as a legacy boy band and, a decade later, relishing the sweet nostalgia of it all.
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