The Jonas Brothers: lyricists, for some reason
turn that chin music up
I'm generally pro-Jo Bro. I liked Joe's essay about being a child star. I wish that Nick wasn't involved in the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert special. I have no opinions relating to Kevin. As far as their music goes, I never listened to the band in its original heyday, but I've heard their more recent efforts, together and on their own, and I support them from afar. All of that being said, I'm never entirely sure that any of the Jonas Brothers know what words mean or how to use them, which one would think might be necessary to be a songwriter.
If you've never thought too much about the Jonas Brothers, that makes sense. But we're gonna do it today anyway. Here are some of the most confusing Jonas Brothers lyrics.
"Please Be Mine"
This is the first song that the Jonas Brothers ever wrote, and they were between the ages of 12 and 17 at the time, so I suppose that I should give them a pass on this one. I won't, though. I think it shows some early warning signs in their songwriting approach that should have been nipped in the bud.
In the first verse, a Jonas Brother sings, "They come and go, but they don't know / That you are my beautiful," which is neither a rhyme nor an expression. "I try to come closer with you" he continues, with the preposition confusion of someone learning English as a second language. You can become closer with someone or come closer to them or, colloquially, get closer with someone, but you never hear someone say that they want to come closer with someone. They could have asked themselves if the word "come" was necessary at all, actually. That's an evergreen songwriting tip.
In the realm of randomly specific qualifications for a dream girl, "I'll wait for her to come / She won't break my heart / Cuz I know she'll be from Australia" is no "I want a girl with a short skirt and a loooong jacket."
Their 2008 song "Video Girl" is about annoying starfuckers, but the boys clearly couldn't say that explicitly at the time. "Get some class and kiss the past!" they snarl in the chorus, presumably after Disney told them they couldn't say "ass." The whole song is kind of casually misogynistic, and it's a little funny ten years later to hear rich celebrities describe themselves as the "victim" of the star-fan power imbalance. Also, the sneering line "Video girl rocked my world for a whole two seconds" is supposed to be a diss against her, but it sounds like a confession of premature ejaculation.
These brothers really struggle with metaphors. "Turn Right," an extended driving-as-relationship allegory, begins with the line "Pick up all your tears / Throw 'em in your back seat." My gold standard for bad writing is the line "Leave your stupid comments in your pocket" from The Room, and this line is possibly even worse. You can't pick up tears or throw them, and the back seat isn't the place for tears. Throw them out the window if you have to!
"Fly With Me"
If you can parse the lyrics through the cacophonous sound mixing, you'll hear los Hermanos Jonas assert that "Peter Pan and Wendy turned out fine." Not in the book I read, boys!
"What Did I Do To Your Heart"
This was not a good era for the boys' songwriting. It's probably for the best that they took some time apart after this album. "What Did I Do to Your Heart," a country song for some reason, attempts to inquire about growing distance in a relationship. That would be fine if the verses didn't sound so defensive. "Baby girl, I'm just a bit confused / You've been acting like you've been abused / By me lately," they sing before asserting "All I do is treat you with respect /All the best and never nothing less / You continue to cry / And I just don't know why." This sounds alarming! If she's crying like she's been abused, maybe it's not the time to insist that you actually treat her incredibly well! The second verse sounds even pissier: "All I ever get is attitude / Constant never-ending bad mood / From you, baby." Maybe she has depression or maybe you're not as great as you think you are, Narrator Jonas, but either way this is not the way to get to the bottom of it.
After a few years apart, the Jonas Brothers were back – briefly – with a confounding song called "Pom Poms." Listening to this song makes my brain hurt. I can't begin to parse it.
"More to love when your hands are free
Baby put your pom poms down for me
Come on shake it up 1, 2, 3
Baby put your pom poms down for me"
One would think that a girl's "pom poms" would be her boobs, right? But we don't have to put our boobs down so our hands can be free for loving. And who has "more to love" in this situation? Him? Her? How is that affected by whether her hands are occupied with pom poms? And rest of the song isn't even about cheerleading. "I want you on my team," they sing at one point, but cheerleaders aren't part of the team. They cheer for the team from the sidelines. Perhaps the song could be about a girl who's always championing her man, and the chorus could be like "put away those pom poms, today I'm celebrating you." The pom poms wouldn't be boobs in this case, I guess.
The extremely obvious solution here, I think, would be to say "Baby, shake your pom poms for me." Sexy! Sensical! Maybe it could be a song about a girl who's always putting the narrator down but he stays with her because she's hot. And he's like "Hey, how about you cheer for me for once? Shake those pom poms for your man." There! Fixed in two minutes! This isn't rocket science, people!!
"Pom Poms" is catchy, and there's obvious room for improvement, so I'm willing to workshop it. That's not the case with Nick's 2014 cuck anthem "Jealous." Throw the whole song in the trash. The content is bad, of course, with Nick justifying being "possessive" of a girl who "posts it all" on the 'gram because being an asshole is his "right" as her boyfriend. And look at this chorus:
"I turn my chin music up
And I'm puffing my chest
I'm getting red in the face
You can call me obsessed
It’s not your fault that they hover
I mean no disrespect
It's my right to be hellish
I still get jealous"
The near rhyme is terrible. The construction is clunky. I'm confused by the term "chin music," though Nick defined it as "attitude" in a profile for Flaunt (accompanied by photos that have to be as incriminating as his girlfriend "posting it all" online.) I would say that there's no way to redeem this song, but I was intrigued by this comment on its YouTube video:
"It's my God-given right as former Disney star Nicholas Jonas to be a monster" is a fascinating premise for a song!
"Cake By The Ocean"
This isn't an official Jonas Brothers™️ song, but it's my favorite Jonas Brothers song. It's so catchy. It's so fun. It's nonsense on purpose, which is mostly excusable. "Cake by the ocean" is a twist on "sex on the beach," which is a fine topic for a song, but Joe does make the mistake of trying to extend the metaphor at times. "I'm tired of all this candy on the dry land," he sings, forcing me to ponder what that means in contrast with the titular cake by the ocean. Dry humping and oral? It takes me out of the moment.
This song is fine! I don't have too many complaints, but I do have one, because I can't just enjoy things. I can't figure out what the Jonas husbands think that the word "subliminal" means when they claim to be suckers for "all the subliminal things" no one knows about their beloveds. I think that they meant "subtle?" Maybe "sublime?" These brothers have been writing songs for like 15 years and still haven't quite figured out that you should think through the words in the chorus.
Did we learn anything today? Probably not. I learned that Joe Jonas took a stab at pop music during the "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" era, one of our nation's dumbest low points, and that Nick Jonas had a side project hilariously called "Nick Jonas & the Administration." I'll be irrationally angry every time I see pom poms for the rest of my life. Rewarding work as always!
This week's Friendmendations:
- Please watch An American Pickle, it's an absolute delight
- "Chrissy Teigen’s fall from grace"
- "The one about mortality: Requiem for Friends"
- "Partisanship is tearing WikiFeet apart"
- "jay-z’s verse on Monster except he’s listing as many monsters as he can"