Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss Jonas Brothers' Massive No. 1 Album Debut
On this week’s Billboard 200 albums chart, the biggest story is the biggest debut week of the year. Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins, the reunited trio’s first new full-length in a decade, scored 414,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in the week ending June 13, of which 357,000 were in pure album sales. Those figures each represent the largest week of the year for any album.
While the JoBros have been a topic of conversation in the pop world for much of 2019 — especially with the album’s lead single, “Sucker,” becoming their first Hot 100 chart-topper — the album bow is a particularly momentous achievement for the reformed group. To put the Happiness Begins debut in context, Billboard staffers discussed the No. 1 album, what’s next for the group and what other pop act should follow in the Jonas footsteps.
1. How shocking is it that the Jonas Brothers, out of any artist with a new album released this year, just scored the biggest album debut figure of 2019?
Stephen Daw: I'm certainly not surprised that the JoBros managed to debut at No. 1, but seeing them surpass the 2019 record for both single-week album sales and overall equivalent album units seems pretty shocking to me. I'm very happy for them — Happiness Begins has a lot of grade-A pop music throughout, and they deserve to see this kind of success for their hard work. But to pull off the feat they did in the same year as monster albums like Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next and Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is, to me at least, mind-blowing.
Gab Ginsberg: The boys are about to embark on a major arena tour -- their first tour of any fashion in about a decade -- and per the norm these days, there were ticket bundles involved. With that in mind, 357,000 in album sales might not be a terribly surprising number, but it is still impressive. The JoBros having the biggest debut week for an album in 2019 is a well-deserved honor, no matter which way you slice it.
Joe Lynch: I think you can explain it away with a number of talking points – ticket bundles, the perfect nostalgia gap between this album and their heyday – but anyone who's telling you they went into 2019 expecting a JoBros reunion to be THIS successful is lying.
Taylor Weatherby: I'm pretty biased when it comes to thinking these guys are great, but I'm not sure I foresaw this kind of success! While I definitely expected the album to debut at No. 1, the fact that it even outsold Ariana Grande is mind-blowing. Sure, a lot of their album sales came from their concert ticket/album bundles, but to me that says they're even bigger than the numbers: People aren't just wanting to listen to the music, they're eager to see the Jonas Brothers live, too.
Jason Lipshutz: Obviously the Jonas Brothers’ comeback album received a huge boost from a legitimate smash of a lead single and a lot of interest in the trio’s upcoming arena tour, but if you time-traveled back to the start of 2019 and told slightly-younger me that the biggest album debut of the year’s first half would be from the JoBros, that version of me would have scoffed pretty loudly at you. Comebacks of this magnitude simply do not happen in modern pop music, and what the Jonas Brothers have accomplished extends far beyond one successful single or bigger-than-expected album bow. This is a full-on triumph that will, no doubt, help define the narrative of pop music in 2019.
2. Most casual pop fans could have streamed “Sucker” and disregarded its parent album. What do you think is the biggest factor for such high interest in the new Jonas Brothers full-length?
Stephen Daw: I do think that the brothers were smart to time the release of their juicy documentary Chasing Happiness so close to the debut of their new album, and it likely gave them a big boost. But I also think it's important to look at the way the group broke this record — the album had almost as many direct album sales (357,000) as Grande's Thank U, Next had in overall equivalent units (360,000) for its debut back in February. Jonas Brothers fans spoke with their dollars this time around, which is likely due to a grassroots movement amongst their fan base to support the band and their return. Clearly, that worked.
Gab Ginsberg: Shortage of supply. JoBros fans waited a decade for new material, and even if “Sucker” didn’t grab us, we sure as hell weren’t going to give up before listening to anything else. I was personally lukewarm on second single “Cool,” for example, but I knew the rest of the album had the potential to sound completely different. Fortunately, I was totally blown away.
Joe Lynch: "Sucker" is a great song, and their comeback wouldn't work if it were limp, but the reason for their success isn't "Sucker" (especially since its sound isn't typically what's landing at radio these days). They're benefiting from a massive flood of goodwill and nostalgia from fans who were tweens when they fell in love with Joe, Kevin and Nick, and now have purchasing power and – incredibly – undiminished interest in seeing these three guys back together. Why is that interest undiminished? Maybe we're more invested in seeing families reuniting, versus just a collection of random dudes a label forced into a band together.
Taylor Weatherby: I think it comes down to a few things. One: “Sucker" is a smash that left people wanting more just like it; it made people curious to hear what else the Jonas Brothers had in store. Two: Happiness Begins is their first album in 10 years, and after leaving fans hanging in 2013, thousands of people were dying for another Jonas Brothers full-length. Three: As Republic Records' Monte Lipman pointed out in our cover story (shameless plug), “They're the kind of band that's bigger than anybody realized." I don't think people who weren't in the fandom understood the passion, and those same die-hard fans are still supporting them in the same way. On top of all of that, they've garnered so many new fans with their side projects that I bet tons of people were wondering what 2019 Jonas Brothers music would sound like — especially since "Sucker" is such a banger.
Jason Lipshutz: I think part of the answer lies within the JoBros’ level of ubiquity over the past three months: Nick, Joe and Kevin have seemingly been featured on every morning and late-night show, appeared on multiple magazine covers (including our own), and squeezed in a celeb-filled, headline-dominating pop-up wedding in the middle for good measure. Fortunately, the Jonas Brothers are so likable across demographics and generations that we collectively seem to never have gotten sick of them during this promo blitz, and ultimately wanted to experience their full body of work upon its release. The Jonas inescapability raised awareness for Happiness Begins’ release, and contributed to a massive debut.
3. “Sucker” from Happiness Begins has already topped the Billboard Hot 100, while “Cool,” its follow-up, has reached No. 27 thus far. Which song from the album do you think would be the most successful follow-up single?
Stephen Daw: I just don't think that the trio are going to be able to come even close to the success of "Sucker," truly one of the best pop songs released this year, and still far and away the standout track on this album. I'd say their best bet for a follow-up would be "Don't Throw it Away" — it's got fun synths and beautiful harmonies, and it's probably the purest pop song of the bunch. It would make for a nice summer single, and I do think it would do well, but even their most successful follow-up is still going to ultimately pale in comparison to the pop-rock perfection that is "Sucker."
Gab Ginsberg: “Only Human,” and I’m not just saying that because it’s one of the album’s streaming leaders so far. The reggae beat is an unexpected but brilliant move for the guys, and the chorus contains one of my favorite melodies on the album. It’s a jam and a half.
Joe Lynch: "Only Human" seems like the perfect update for these GroJoBros (Grown-Up Jonas Brothers, I'm working on trademarking that). With references to drinking and dancing, it's sexy, but not overtly thirsty. A lot of Disney kids go the R-rated route to announce that they're a Mature Adult now, but "Only Human" smartly shows the Jonas Brothers maturing without losing their homespun charm.
Taylor Weatherby: "Only Human,” the only track that debuted on the Hot 100 after the album release. The guys are clearly feeling the song too, as they performed it on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the week after the album dropped. All that aside, "Only Human" is simply a freakin' bop: It has an infectious xylophone hook and brass-tinged melody, as well as sultry lyrics that fit the Jonas Brothers' mature new vibe.
Jason Lipshutz: Please let “I Believe” blast from every pop radio station on warm summer nights. In the same way that “Sucker” acted as the jolt to reignite the JoBros’ mojo a few months ago, the ‘80s groove of “I Believe” could be the immaculate slow roll to sustain that success.
4. Happiness Begins is the Jonas Brothers’ first album in a decade. Name another long-dormant pop act that you think would achieve a similar level of success if they came back in 2019.
Stephen Daw: If we're strictly talking pop music, I'm pretty confident that a Spice Girls reunion album would do pretty well on the charts, especially if they kept some of the camp and humor from their '90s days but then translated that feeling into a modern pop sound. Just imagine it — "The Spice Girls, featuring Billie Eilish." But if I can cheat just a little, I would also say that if OutKast were to make a follow-up to Idlewild (which, let's face it, will never happen at this point), that album would become a mega-hit.
Gab Ginsberg: Where the heck is Fun.? While the indie pop trio is technically "on hiatus," the band hasn't released an album since 2012, and most every member has gone in a different direction since (which isn’t a bad thing -- I mean, I’m totally grateful for everything Jack Antonoff has created). Nate Ruess tried the solo career for a while, but has been quiet since 2015. As for Andrew Dost, well... he’s been writing music for dogs. All extremely noble pursuits, but now that the JoBros have made their comeback, Fun. is the next group on my list that I’m starving for content from.
Joe Lynch: I'd be curious to see if Big Time Rush could pull off a similar second act. My inclination is "no," especially considering that they were never quite as much of a household name as the Jonas Brothers, but I bet they could get some nostalgia dough if they regrouped.
Taylor Weatherby: *NSYNC. Their Coachella performance with Ariana Grande sparked so much buzz, and after the Backstreet Boys ignited serious nostalgia with a 2019 album, I feel like there's some '80s and '90s babies eager to also get some new *NSYNC tunes, too. While I don't think they'd reach Jonas Brothers-level numbers -- especially if Justin Timberlake really isn't going to be involved -- I think they could achieve similar success to BSB, whose DNA album earned 234,000 equivalent album units in the U.S. in its first week in January.
Jason Lipshutz: Can you imagine the fanfare surrounding a new Destiny’s Child album in 2019? Beyonce reforming her beloved trio with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, updating their sound, bringing their many hits on the road, reaffirming their everlasting bond and place as one of the most important girl groups of the new century. If they found their own version of “Sucker,” they could certainly hijack Top 40 radio, and add a new chapter to Queen Bey’s legendary run.
5. What’s one song on the album that you definitely need to see the JoBros perform live when they embark on their arena tour later this summer?
Stephen Daw: I have said it before, and I will say it again — "Sucker" is a perfect pop song, and I will never get tired of hearing it. It's got the energy, the melody and the groove needed for an amazing live performance, as we've already seen. I have eyes only for "Sucker."
Gab Ginsberg: This answer is really gonna shock everyone: “Only Human.” Joe, in particular, is going to catch a vibe during the performance of that one. Mark my words.
Joe Lynch: I'm going with an obvious pick. Their performance of "Sucker" at the Billboard Music Awards was jaw-dropping – a visceral reminder that even before the Disney cameras entered their world, these guys can actually rock.
Taylor Weatherby: "Don't Throw It Away." Its anthemic chorus struck me the first time I heard it, and I think its echoing melody would make for such a powerful live performance. It's also not super guitar-driven, so it'd likely give Nick a chance to work the stage a little more than when he's playing an instrument -- maybe even Kevin, too!
Jason Lipshutz: I would like to see some misty eyes and onstage hugs during “Rollercoaster,” please.