The Jonas Brothers: Then and Now

The Jonas Brothers were an integral part of my identity growing up. On my first day of fifth grade, I wore an “I Heart Joe” pink t-shirt to declare my undying love for my favorite Jonas whose wispy 2008 hair made me swoon. I was known as “the girl obsessed with the Jonas Brothers” in my elementary and middle school. For my tenth birthday, I attended my first concert–you guessed it, a Jonas Brothers concert. My bedroom was adorned with Jonas Brothers posters, including a Jonas Brothers 3D experience theatrical poster given to me by my fifth grade teacher and the infamously risque 2010 Rolling Stone cover reading “God! Girls! Guitars!”

Rolling Stone Jonas Brothers Poster - Contemporary - Prints And Posters -  by Trends International | Houzz

Having effectively grown out of my Jonas Brothers phase in middle school, opting instead for the next boy band from across the pond, I still held a dear place in my heart for Kevin, Nick, and Joe. I still hold a place in my heart for them, filled with reminders of a simpler time. That’s why when my best friend asked me last minute to attend a Jonas Brothers concert for $20 a few weeks ago, I obviously said yes. 

Clad in my 2009 Jonas Brothers World Tour t-shirt, I was ready to bask in the nostalgia. The last Jonas Brothers concert I had attended was over a decade ago while I was in fifth grade. I hold precious, blurry memories of seeing how loud I could scream, feeling overwhelmed with how excited and happy I was, and being able to sing along to every word. Now, as a a grown ass woman with a 401(k) and a greater appreciation for musical artistry, how would the Jonas Brothers fare?

When the Jonas Brothers hit their peak in the late aughts and 2010, their cultural relevance depended primarily upon their boyish good looks and charm, as well as a claim to authenticity due to their familiar relationship. Although the Jonas Brothers are perhaps more authentic than similar boybands, such as the formulated Nickelodeon group Big TIme Rush, it is an unavoidable fact that the Jonas Brothers were major cash cows for Disney and Hollywood Records with plenty of merchandise, concert tickets, albums, and posters to siphon off to fans who thought they’d one day be a Jonas Sister. 

Of course, their music was catchy and fun, but it was what one could expect from a Disney Channel boyband–bubblegum pop with a pinch of teenage innocence and a smidge of cringe. Because the music wasn’t necessarily anything special amid other comparable releases from Disney Channel heartthrobs, the Jonas brothers leaned heavily on their sexuality, all made possible by purity rings and their wholesome Christian image (see South Park‘s “The Ring”). Now, with their fans at a more appropriate age, the brothers still depend on their attractiveness, this time with marriage rings on their fingers. While extenuating their attractiveness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it seemed a bit disingenuous amidst their pretentious “Music Memory” montages that played throughout the most recent concert (including the introductory sequence narrated by the poor man’s Matthew McConaughey). 

Despite no longer having to exude Disney’s image of holy virginity, the Jonas Brothers continue on to follow Disney’s model of commercialism, literally playing a POST IT COMMERCIAL prior to their entrance to the 2021 tour. If that wasn’t enough, the brothers toured with Jordan McGraw, whose father is none other than Dr. Phil, everyone’s favorite TV pseudo-psychologist. McGraw seemed to fully represent the Jonas Brothers’s departure from Disney’s purity, with McGraw openly discussing his love for smoking weed and having sex. Simultaneously, McGraw’s connection to the amoral capitalist core of the entertainment industry speaks to the Jonas Brothers’s continued legacy as money makers.

Interestingly, my recent experience at the Jonas Brothers concert begs philosophical questions regarding artistic integrity–if the Jonas Brothers weren’t making any money and never did, would their music be considered more authentic? Is their music any less “artistic” due to their good looks, businessman-like tendencies, and its general simplicity? Does music have to be “intellectual” in order to be respected? Can music simply be fun and silly and still be considered “genuine” music?

Even with all this in mind, the Jonas Brothers concert was actually quite enjoyable. As a now moderately jaded 23 year old, I am more privy to the lack of artistry and obvious ploys for money put forth by the Jonas Brothers; but that’s just capitalism, baby. Even with this in mind, I still felt a wave of excitement as I got to shout out the lyrics to some of my favorite childhood songs alongside my best friend. I am grateful to have been able to have this experience not just with my best friend, but with hundreds of other individuals, especially after having endured stringent lockdowns for the past 18 months; it’s clear the Jonas Brothers were similarly grateful to have been touring after this mandatory touring hiatus, and were grateful to have fans still willing to see them live.

Even though these men may have been drunk off their asses (especially Joe), their musical abilities and singing voices had clearly improved since 2010, as did their chemistry. Having surpassed personal obstacles and copious solo projects since then, it was also heartwarming to see the brothers supporting one another’s solo work (being “all in this together,” as Disney alumni are wont to say).  

The Jonas Brothers may not have pulled a Beatles–transforming from a once scoffed-at boyband stealing the hearts of teenage girls, to perhaps the greatest musical group of all time–and their songs may not be profound, but their music and the experience of it is pure fun. Perhaps I am a bit biased given my roots as a die-hard Jonas Brothers fan, but the night felt wholesome, nostalgic, and wonderfully memorable. Even as a self-professed music snob, I can accept that not every band can or should be exceptionally insightful or erudite; but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyable and entertaining. 

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