It's complicated



Grade: B-

It’s been an interesting year for Nick Jonas.

His latest album, “Last Year Was Complicated,” follows Jonas as he navigates a breakup with his ex-girlfriend Olivia Culpo. The relationship lasted for a reported two years, before ending in 2015.

It’s been described as “R&B-leaning,” but officially categorized as pop, which is as close to accurate as I can pin down. Nick Jonas is straddling genres, sometimes successfully, other times, less so.

“Last Year” opens with “Voodoo,” where he poses the question “Fakin’ the rush / Is almost like callin’ it love / So why are you callin’ it love?” This song sets the tone for the entire album. Jonas questioning the authenticity of the relationship, unpacking how it broke down and the fallout that followed.

In the end, last year wasn’t complicated enough, I guess.

The album feels like I’ve heard it all before. “Last Year” sounds surprisingly similar to his last album, the self-titled sophomore release, “Nick Jonas.” Singles “Chains” and “Close” could have very well been back-to-back tracks, just with different themes. A simple before and after.

And what’s more, is with lyrics like “So I’ll never get over / Never get over not getting under you,” I still have to work to reconcile the images of him from those days singing “Mandy” with that of a man who drinks, has sex and uses language that you wouldn’t expect of a minister’s son. All things adulthood is often marked by.

And thus presents one of many problems with emerging from child stardom: the desire for many of these celebrities to shatter all illusions of Disney purity.

But the thing about it, Nick, we’ve been there since the beginning. We were there since you released “Dear God.” We were there when you were diagnosed with diabetes We were there when you rocked the curly fro and skinny jeans and when you started wearing your purity ring.

And we are never, ever going to forget it.

Perhaps my complaint is that this whole thing feels forced. The whole image — past the album and into his team’s entire marketing strategy — cultivated to make him seem more mature. Like, I don’t know, someone we could mistake as an honest-to-God sex symbol.

But ultimately, Nick’s music just isn’t that fun anymore. And I think I just miss when it was.

Maybe I’m projecting onto Nick my hesitation about growing up, about leaving everything that was simple in the past. I mean, we’ve more or less grown up together, Nick and I. Or maybe the album really is as underwhelming as I thought.

But the thing is, if this album is his graduation to adult superstardom, I can’t say I think he earned his degree.

Leah Johnson

leadjohn@indiana.edu | 
@byleahjohnson

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