There’s a song on the new Jonas Brothers album in which Joe Jonas—he’s the one recently seen corrupting millions of tween-aged minds with his chest hair on the cover of Rolling Stone—calls himself a “one-man show.” “I don’t need no one,” he declares over his brothers’ energetic pop-punk groove. “I’ll be fine alone.” As regards matters of the heart, that may well be true. Musically speaking, though, it’s unclear if the Jonases’ creative autonomy—they wrote eight out of the 12 tracks on A Little Bit Longer (and co-wrote the other four)—is a surefire route to continued success.
Actually, they’d have trouble avoiding success right now if they tried: Provided they keep up the multimedia campaign that this year has given us Camp Rock and next year will give us a Disney Channel series called J.O.N.A.S!, these kids could fill their albums with Gregorian chant and still attract sell-out crowds desperate to see their all-American idols in the (mostly concealed) flesh. But last year’s self-titled, similarly self-penned CD proved that Joe, Nick, and Kevin are above-average songwriters capable of condensing their disparate influences into action-packed nuggets of tween-rock tune. (Listen to “S.O.S.” with your honesty cap on and then tell me it doesn’t hit the same pleasure centers triggered by Franz Ferdinand.) Here, unfortunately, the material rarely ascends to that level. Sure, lead single “Burnin’ Up” is an excellent attempt at Maroon 5–style pop-funk complete with a killer Latin-percussion breakdown, and Jack Johnson will probably lightly tap himself for not coming up with “Love Bug” first. But too many of these songs get bogged down in chord changes and lyrics likely to sound worn-out even to a 10-year-old. (“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” Nick sings in the title track.) I’m sure the Jonases are worn out: These little dudes work like crazy. But though Miley Cyrus manages it on her new one, making exhaustion seem interesting is no easy feat. Pick up the phone, guys—there’s a whole fleet of Disney-pop pros waiting to help.
The Jonas Brothers play Nikon at Jones Beach Theater August 8, Madison Square Garden August 9-11, and PNC Bank Arts Center August 16