Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss the Jonas Brothers' Hot 100 No. 1 Debut For 'Sucker'
Longtime teen pop and Disney Channel enthusiasts rejoice: the Jonas Brothers are back, and apparently better than ever. Billboard announced Monday (Mar. 11) that the trio's reunion single "Sucker" -- Nick, Joe and Kevin's first ensemble effort since a short-lived 2013 return -- has debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart.
This would've been nearly impossible for us or anyone else to see coming at the beginning of the year. That's in large part because the JoBros' plans to reunite were mostly hidden until a couple weeks ago, of course -- but also because pop-rock singles like "Sucker" have been scarce in the chart's top tier in recent years, and because during their original run as hit makers in the mid-to-late '00s, they never even got within a couple spots of the chart's top spot.
So how did the Jonas Brothers manage such a resounding return? Is "Sucker" really the group's best (as well as now their biggest) hit single? And now that the trio is back at pop's center, will they be able to stay there? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more about the Bros' stunning chart achievement below.
1. On a scale from 1-10, how unexpected is this No. 1 debut to you?
Gab Ginsberg: Let’s go with 6. I knew from both the chatter within my personal/professional circles and the buzz online that this song (and the band’s reunion) was a big deal, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be such a monster on the charts, especially helped by factors outside of streaming. When our chart department told us the song was headed for No. 1, I actually thought he was talking about our Pop Songs chart, and I was like, makes sense. But he meant NUMBER 1 No. 1 -- on the actual Hot 100! I was thrilled.
Jason Lipshutz: I'd say an 8. Although pop -- that is, non-hip-hop, dance-adjacent hits -- has enjoyed a pretty good recent run at the top of the Hot 100, thanks to Ariana Grande, Halsey and “Shallow,” there hasn’t been a song that sounds like “Sucker” at No. 1 since… Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”? Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You,” if you squint a little bit? Not only is “Sucker” an outlier in terms of the rap-heavy sonic DNA that is dominating the pop charts, but it’s not like the Jonas Brothers had a long history of crowning the Hot 100 back when they were in the midst of their original run — the highest they ever soared on the chart was No. 5, with “Burnin’ Up.” A dedicated fan base was always going to be interested in a JoBros reunion, but the fact that this pop-rock track was able to cross over to casual listeners so mightily in its debut week is truly surprising.
Chris Payne: There’s so much that’s surprising about this. I'd say 9 and only not a 10 because of how strong the song is. As soon as I heard “Sucker” I thought it’d be successful, but only in time once radio kicked in, since you wouldn’t expect the Jonas Brothers to be a streaming powerhouse. Well, here we are and the song is still atop the U.S. Spotify charts. You don't see that from many pop artists, let alone those that had been inactive for half a decade: Only three or four pop songs topped the Hot 100 in all of last year.
Andrew Unterberger: I guess I can't say 10, since the Jonas Brothers do at least have a decent history of established chart success -- it's not like this is The Knife or TV on the Radio emerging from a long career in the underground to slay the Hot 100. But I will say 9, because I legitimately can't remember ever being more blindsided by a Hot 100 debut. I've already owned up on Twitter to having prematurely dismissed a co-worker's day-of-release guess that the song would debut at No. 1 -- hell, I wanted to pat him on the head and go, "Aww, that's cute that you think that." I've certainly been wrong about the charts plenty in my time at Billboard, but rarely quite this spectacularly.
But in my defense: This never happens. A pop-rock group going to No. 1 with a comeback effort, over a decade past their commercial prime? A boy band having easily their biggest hit as adults? There's just no precedent for it -- the only possible exception I can think of is New Edition's "Hit Me Off," lead single from 1996's post-reunion effort Home Again, which also became that group's highest-charting Hot 100 effort, debuting at No. 3 (one spot higher than "Cool It Now" in 1985). But even that was a once-in-a-generation-type exception: Usually, these comebacks end up looking a lot more like it did when the Bros first returned from a career pause with "Pom Poms" in 2013, a middling song with an unremarkable chart presence.
Taylor Weatherby: Even as a Jonas Brothers die-hard, I’d say 8. Though I’m ecstatic about it, I genuinely did not see this No. 1 coming. Looking at it from a charts perspective, how could anyone have thought they’d top the chart with their first song in six years when they didn’t even do it in their prime? In less-technical thinking, I guess I just assumed there weren’t millions of people who still cared about the idea of the Jonas Brothers reuniting. Boy was I proven wrong, and boy am I so not mad about it.
2. What do you think is the biggest factor behind the JoBros’ big debut?
Gab Ginsberg: While Nick and Joe’s solo music careers never reached quite the height that the collective trio did in their prime Disney days, it’s worth noting that in the interim, the brothers became bigger celebrities than ever. They dated high-profile models, musicians and actors over the years, launching them into a completely different stratosphere of fame. Nick’s recent wedding to Priyanka Chopra made headlines daily, as did Joe’s dating and subsequent engagement to Sophie Turner, star of the juggernaut that is Game of Thrones. One could argue that the brothers never actually left the limelight, so a reunion -- which in other instances, cynics might view as an opportunity for tired former stars to make some cash -- took everyone by (pleasant) surprise.
Jason Lipshutz: Obviously the enthusiasm of Jonas Brothers diehards still exists all these years later — the trio did fill arenas in the late 2000s, after all — and the new fans scooped up by Nick through his solo work and Joe through his DNCE days likely helped generate buzz around the song’s release. Yet “Sucker” doesn’t get close to a No. 1 debut if it also isn’t really, really good. This song represents the best-case scenario for a Jonas Brothers reunion single: slick harmonies, airtight production, a falsetto-heavy hook that immediately sticks with the listener. “Sucker” is the type of song that sounds great on headphones while walking around on a cold day, and will sound great on summer barbecue playlists in a few months. General interest in new JoBros music surely existed, but the high quality of “Sucker” greatly amplified that curiosity and produced the biggest hit of the trio’s career.
Chris Payne: They came back with a good song. "Sucker" sounds like the sort of thing their core demo -- 25-or-so-year old pop fans -- would want to listen to as adults. It's a catchy pop-rock song contextualized by Nick's solo R&B success. Its video shows them all with their significant others. They're back, but not to beat you over the head with nostalgia. So instead of listening once, having a laugh and moving on, fans kept coming back for more.
Andrew Unterberger: "Sucker" is great, of course, but let me focus here instead on streaming as the previously missing ingredient in the group's chart success. The JoBros came up during the height of the iTunes era, and most of their biggest hits were sales-driven -- they scored five top 5 hits on Billboard's Digital Song Sales chart in the '00s, but never even scored a top 50 hit on Radio Songs. The trio hasn't lost their sales touch ("Sucker" debuts atop Digital Song Sales this week), but streaming, first introduced to Hot 100 calculations in 2013, is the difference-maker -- providing a second, chart-quantifiable path for fans to express their support for the Bros' music, and largely removing the need for a quick radio embrace of the song in order for it to make an instant Hot 100 impact. (FWIW, though, radio also does appear to be cottoning to "Sucker" as well: It debuts at No. 46 on the chart this week.)
Taylor Weatherby: I think the biggest reason “Sucker” shot to the top is because no one expected that there would be a new Jonas Brothers song in 2019. The guys have said themselves that even just last year they weren’t looking to reunite, and with each of them pursuing their own projects even into this year, most fans had likely let go of any reunion hopes. In turn, the fact that they announced the reunion and immediately followed it up by releasing the single is another factor, because the frenzied excitement then turned into a massive amount of streams. But also, “Sucker” is just an all-around fantastic pop tune – so even those who don’t really care that the Jonas Brothers are back are getting into it.
3. Where do you personally rank “Sucker” among the Jonas Brothers’ biggest hits?
Gab Ginsberg: “Sucker” is on par with “S.O.S” and therefore a 10 on the Earworm Scale. "Tonight" and "Pushin' Me Away" never really resonated with me, so it's ahead of those two, but it’s maybe one step below “Burnin’ Up,” which is my all-time favorite. “Sucker” sounds like classic JoBros filtered through contemporary production, is objectively insanely catchy, and is only helped by the fact that it involves whistling. Whistling is probably my kryptonite.
Jason Lipshutz: It’s been less than two weeks since “Sucker" dropped, but it’s gotta be near the top already, right? The Jonas Brothers’ discography contains some highly enjoyable pop tracks, “Burnin’ Up” and “S.O.S.” chief among them, that fall just short of classic status: As big as the Bros became within American pop culture near the end of the ‘00s, they never released a single that was either truly inescapable or championed by pop critics. With “Sucker,” they may have finally stumbled into a song that is both: It's already a huge success for the reformed trio, and its chorus possesses the confidence and charisma that some of their early hits lacked. The JoBros' whole catalog is worth a revisit, but “Sucker” should already be in the discussion for the group’s most impeccable single to date.
Chris Payne: It's up there. As I said already, this is a good song. It's got style, it's got chill; it's got buildup and release. It sounds like it belongs on pop radio right now, just like "S.O.S." in 2007 or "Burnin' Up," in 2008. It doesn't carry the memories or mythology of those songs of course, but it's got the chips to be at the same table. The Jonas Brothers don't have one signature song that towers above the rest and "Sucker" definitely benefits from that.
Andrew Unterberger: Agreed with my co-writers that "S.O.S." and "Burnin' Up" are the two Jonas standard-bearers in this discussion; I might also throw the sublime new-wave anxiety attack of "Paranoid" (overshadowed a decade ago by a contemporaneous and much more convincingly paranoid "Paranoid") into the discussion. "Sucker" is certainly of that general class, and arguably even more proficient as a pop song -- but perhaps inevitably as a result of it being a comeback, it carries a little less of the spark unique to the brother band. It's a winner, but if a radio DJ had intro'd it as being by Fitz and the Tantrums or Foster the People, would you have even double-taked?
Taylor Weatherby: It’s definitely top 10. The funky beat, playful narrative and breathy vocals are pretty classic JoBros, with a whistling hook and bouncy melody that makes it instantly as infectious as a song like “S.O.S.” While I wouldn’t say “Sucker” is quite on the hype level of “Burnin’ Up,” its rhythm is more fun than “Paranoid,” and the lyrics are as spirited as “Year 3000” or “That’s Just the Way We Roll.” “Sucker” fits right in to the Jonas catalog, yet its synthesized production feels current, and makes me even more excited for their forthcoming music than I was when they first announced their reunion.
4. Do you think the Jonas Brothers will be able to sustain the success of their reunion from here?
Gab Ginsberg: Yes, but they’re going to have to give us more ASAP. In terms of what could be next on their agenda, I’m hoping for a tour announcement and maybe a few more singles. Not that I’d look a gift Jonas Brothers LP in the mouth, but judging by the energy at the secret show I attended on “Sucker” release day, nothing compares to seeing the JoBros in the flesh. Their concert was the first one I ever attended as a tween without parental supervision, and I want to relive that magic. Also, I finally get the hype surrounding the reunions of bands like Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, both of which I missed the boat on by being a few years too young.
Jason Lipshutz: The Jonas Brothers are essentially playing with house money with their reunion: Even if the trio’s first new album in a decade doesn’t produce another big single, the fact that they were able to score their highest-charting hit to date at this point in their career justifies whatever else is coming from a commercial standpoint. Frankly, “Sucker” is such an accomplished single, driven by the initial interest in the reunion upon its release, that duplicating its success will be difficult regardless of what the next of the new music sounds like. Yet to have a legitimate smash to anchor a reunion tour, and pick up hordes of new fans in the process, is likely more than the JoBros could have ever hoped for.
Chris Payne: Why not? They've already overcome their biggest challenge -- nudging their pretty-boy pop-rock back into the cultural conversation without appearing dated or embarrassing. They scored the hit single. Post-"Sucker," everything else is more in their wheelhouse: a studio album a lot of people will want to buy, a (likely) world tour a lot of people will attend. Toss in a couple award show performances, a Carpool Karaoke, maybe an SNL gig, and you've got the type of 2019 managers and publicists dream about.
Andrew Unterberger: From a chart perspective, I'd have to guess no, simply because the song's success still feels so unlikely and because it's doubly hard to catch that kind of pop-rock lightning in a bottle twice in a row these days: As huge as "Feel It Still" and "Youngblood" were on the Hot 100, neither Portugal. The Man or 5 Seconds of Summer even graced the chart with their respective follow-ups. But I'm not betting against them at this point -- and anyway, you could argue that even one chart success story was one more than the group needed for their comeback, since the continued post-prime success of Man Bands like Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block shows contemporary hits aren't imperative for such veteran pop groups to remain major live attractions.
Taylor Weatherby: I want to believe so! I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the fans that have shown up for the group's comeback so far, so I would hope that this hype continues as the JoBros release more music in the coming months. It’ll be interesting to see how their follow-up tune fares, as I’m curious if this initial reaction is just fueled by a rush of nostalgia that will fizzle after the first single. My gut says that they won’t be able to keep up with the popularity of hip-hop these days, but maybe a little throwback pop is what people have been wanting amid the rap-dominated era. At the very least, if and when an album arrives, I do think they’ll be able to top the Billboard 200 albums chart pretty easily – so long as Drake or Rihanna don’t decide to also drop their own projects on the same release date.
5. Now that the JoBros are back and a huge success, we all know what boy band everyone’s gonna look to next — how long do you think until One Direction announces their comeback, if ever?
Gab Ginsberg: Not anytime soon. Harry immediately enjoyed a major solo career -- on a different level than Nick or Joe ever did outside of the Jonas Brothers -- and Niall found his niche, too. The other guys are just starting to make their own debuts, and while there are a few members of 1D who would likely be down to reunite at a moment’s notice, until Harry’s on board, I just don’t see it.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d guess it will someday happen, but that it will be a while. There’s a reason why the One Direction members classify themselves as being on “hiatus” instead of broken up -- I do believe that they plan on getting the band back together at some point, although they’re all still exploring their solo talents, and have generally found a success in doing so. Perhaps the 2020s will be kind to the Directioners and feature, at the very least, some reunion shows with Harry, Niall, Liam and Louis in tow, or (all the fingers crossed) maybe even a new tour or album. Whether or not they’ll ever reconcile with Zayn is anyone’s guess, though.
Chris Payne: Sorry, it's not happening. Unless you count the sort of blink-and-you'll-miss-it "reunions" done by *NSYNC and Destiny's Child at the VMAs and Super Bowl. I just can't see Harry or Zayn being down -- they appear to be on completely different wavelengths than what a full-fledged 1D reunion would entail. You could probably get away with 1D minus Zayn since they actually existed a while that way, but no Harry, no reunion. Sure, the JoBros got Nick back in the fold, but his handful of solo hits is no comparison to the post-1D millennial Mick Jagger aura of Mr. Styles. Could you really picture him singing "Best Song Ever" to an arena of very old teenagers in Phoenix when he could be, I dunno, collaborating on menswear designs with John Varvatos and Father John Misty?
Andrew Unterberger: There's still a number of obstacles in the way of a full starting-unit reunion of One Direction, but the advantage of One Direction having a five-man lineup (and one of non-relatives) is that it can maybe weather a no-show or two. Not that a reunion without Zayn or Harry would ever feel totally right, but this isn't quite the all-or-nothing proposition of *NSYNC with Justin Timberlake: None of the 1Ders ever quite towered over the group to that dramatic an extent, during its lifetime or since. I think we're less than five years away from at least a 3/5 majority of One Direction efforting some kind of comeback -- though admittedly, I'd be pretty damn surprised if it went anywhere near this smoothly.
Taylor Weatherby: One thing I recently realized is that the Jonas Brothers had a release schedule that paralleled One Direction’s during their heyday, both putting out an album each year for five years straight amid touring and all of their members' respective extracirricular ventures. So, in hoping that this means 1D is on the same timeline -- with new music coming after a six-year layover since their first official hiatus -- it seems 2021 is when we’d see the boys back together.
But as much as it pains me to say (unsurprisingly, I’m a Directioner as well), I honestly don’t foresee One Direction making music together again. Their paths have all proven to be very different musically, so I think if they do reunite, it will be similar to what the Spice Girls are doing this summer: reuniting for a tour, but no new music. Most of the 1D guys have remained mum as of late, but Louis Tomlinson just released his first single with Arista Records on March 7, seemingly hinting he’s not thinking about a reunion anytime soon. But hey, the Jonas Brothers reunited and have the No. 1 song in the country, so you can never say never, right?