The Jonas Brothers
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Join Date: Oct 2008
“FASTLIFE,” years in production, is, Mr. Jonas acknowledged, a “coming of age” album. In lieu of the lightweight pop that made the Jonas Brothers multimillionaires (they earned about $35 million annually in the last few years), the songs have a slicker, darker feel. Mr. Jonas said he approached his brothers with the idea of doing a solo record in 2009. “I wouldn’t have done it if they weren’t supportive,” he said.
He first thought he would do a pop ballad album, “something almost Michael Bublé or Josh Groban,” he said. But, spurred in part by a recent break-up, he wound up with more of a thumping R & B sound. (Mr. Jonas, famously the subject of a Taylor Swift breakup anthem, demurred when asked who his songs were about, though he was dating the actress Ashley Greene earlier in the year.)
The album presents the formerly virginal Jonas brother, now purity-ring-free, as a party-hopping authority. Mr. Jonas said his dream would be for club D.J.’s to remix his tracks.
“I want to write something that people can dance to,” he said. “I want to dance.” Thanks to a choreographer, his moves have improved since he parodied Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” in a widely seen video.
With the blessing of his label, he cycled through producers, landing on the Timbaland protégé Danja, who, as it happens, is a collaborator of Mr. Timberlake. He also co-wrote the track “See No More” with the R & B star Chris Brown, in a partnership that buffed both their images. For Mr. Brown, it was a wholesome distraction from his 2009 assault on Rihanna. And Mr. Jonas has some new street cred: Lil Wayne added a verse to a remix of “Just in Love.”
Still, Mr. Jonas said he was worried whether “Fastlife” would find an audience. In 2010 his younger brother Nick (now 19) released a solo album, “Who I Am,” which sold fewer than 200,000 copies in the United States, a pittance compared with the brothers’ multi-platinum sales. But Ken Bunt, executive vice president for Disney Music Group, which runs Hollywood Records, the Jonases’ label, defended Nick’s solo work, noting that he had a sold-out tour with it.
“His side project was a success in that this was an album that he basically escaped for a couple of weeks and made,” he said. “It wasn’t an intention for it to be some giant blockbuster.”
By contrast, Joe’s album is getting “a pretty large campaign,” Mr. Bunt said, including a tour with Jay Sean, and opening for Britney Spears in Europe. “It’s a global rollout, so we have high expectations,” Mr. Bunt said. “We’re very bullish on this album. We think we’ve got quite a future with Joe as a solo artist and as a Jonas brother.”
The Jonas boys (there are four; Frankie, the “bonus Jonas,” is 11) grew up in New Jersey, where the oldest began performing at amusement parks as teenagers. Their father, Kevin Jonas Sr., was an evangelical pastor before he became a manager of his sons’ group; their mother, Denise, home-schooled them. The family remains close; Joe credits them with keeping him levelheaded, and indeed he is exceedingly polite, with excellent table manners.
“My mom always trained us to eat as though one day we’ll be at the president’s table,” he said. “And we eventually sat and ate at the White House.” (They brought mom; she cried.) “And my dad always said this, which we always lived by, which was: Live like you’re at the bottom, even if you’re at the top.”
Mr. Jonas now lives on his own in Hollywood, in a loft whose décor he picked out; he favors modern styles, vintage video games and the work of street artists like Curtis Kulig, a friend whose tag, ‘Love Me,’ adorns his phone. His closet, he said, pops with color (“I have no problem wearing pink shoes,” he said) and he prefers outré accessories like tie-dye sneakers. For his birthday this summer his parents gave him a pair of Louis Vuitton high-top boots. (“My dad has more Louis Vuitton shoes than I think any other guy out there,” he said.)
During Fashion’s Night Out, Mr. Jonas’s fashion credentials were cemented when he met Anna Wintour of Vogue. She dropped by for a quick hello before his performance at Saks Fifth Avenue. In a makeshift green room in the men’s wear department, Mr. Jonas, dressed in a black wool suit with a grosgrain stripe lapel by Mr. Spurr, chatted with her about the evening and promoting it as a shopping event. Ms. Wintour did not stay for the performance, but her visit made an impression.
“I wish I had a list of questions to ask her,” Mr. Jonas gushed afterward. “She’s a legend.”
Thus anointed, he made way for a more typical fan, a little girl in a T-shirt with a big heart on it, who posed for a photo with him. Still blushing furiously afterward, she was barely able to stammer out her age: 8.
Soon enough Mr. Jonas was out on stage, singing with his eyes closed, his hips stopping just short of a thrust above the heads of hundreds of shrieking girls.
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