The first words out of Nick Jonas’ mouth at the top of the Jonas Brothers comeback single “Sucker,” before a stitch of music kicks in on the track, are “We go together.” Ostensibily, Nick is directing that lyric at the romantic subject of the comeback single instead of his two older brothers. Regardless, if you’re a JoBros diehard, they’re the words you’ve waited six long years to hear him say.
Truthfully, it’s been well more than six years since Nick, Joe and Kevin functioned as a best-selling recording group in a meaningful way. The Disney-bred brothers, who enjoyed a meteoric rise as teen pop-rock heartthrobs in the mid-2000s, last released an album in 2009 before briefly disbanding. Their 2012 reunion produced a handful of modestly charting singles, including the kicky “Pom Poms,” but the brothers pulled the plug on that homecoming in 2013 before a new full-length could be created. Since then, Nick has carved out a niche in pop as a solo artist, tossing out truly great radio htis like “Jealous,” “Chains” and “Levels.” Meanwhile, Kevin eschewed a follow-up musical career to become a doting father on reality TV, and Joe smoothly pivoted from a lackluster solo bid (justice for “See No More”!) to become the face of goofball pop group DNCE, whose song “Cake By The Ocean” became one of the enduring Top 40 hits of 2015.
A reformed Jonas Brothers stepping out of their respective solo lanes, re-joining forces after more than a half-decade apart and trying to recapture their underage magic could have played out pretty clumsily — in fact, given how much time has elapsed since the JoBros’ heyday, this could have been a high-profile disaster for everyone involved. And yet “Sucker,” the first taste of a proper full-length coming later this year from Republic Records, sounds remarkably unforced, as if a few old friends are popping back in for an unexpected hang, instead of plotting a highly orchestrated comeback bid with gobs of major-label money at stake. From those first words to the final refrain, everything clicks on “Sucker,” more than it has any right to — more than perhaps any JoBros hit during their original run outside of “Burnin’ Up.” Who knew we needed a great new Jonas Brothers anthem this desperately?
Credit goes to producers Frank Dukes and Louis Bell, as well as co-writer Ryan Tedder, who worked extensively on the upcoming JoBros project and whose fingerprints are all over “Sucker.” Tedder specializes in highly manicured pop hooks that incorporate jabs of falsetto, and the back half of the “Sucker” chorus — “I’m a sucker for a-l-l-l-l the subliminal thi-i-i-i-ings no one knows about you, about you, about you” — serves as a fulcrum for the rest of the boys’ cheeky confessions. Meanwhile the details of the arrangement, from the handclaps to the whistle bridge to the bass riff that guides the verses, coexist without ever drowning out the Brothers, or each other. It’s a cleanly organized affair that doesn’t overstay its welcome, a quick three minutes with one extra second added for Nick to breathe “I’m a sucker for you” one final time.
What would “Sucker” have sounded like if it has been recorded six years ago, before Nick had blossomed into a viable solo artist? Listening back to the songs recorded during the trio’s first reunion six years ago, the group was clearly still figuring out how to function as proper adults — and hadn’t established the youngest Jonas as the alpha that appears on “Sucker.”
Joe’s voice provides a nice changeup on the pre-chorus, and the harmonizing during the hook is effective as a sonic tool as well as a nostalgia play. But make no mistake, “Sucker” is Nick’s moment: His pillowy voice dominates the mix, and his established solo star power will undoubtedly help draw listeners to the track that wouldn’t necessarily care about a Jonas Brothers comeback. This project will allow all three members to shine, yet there’s a reason why Nick is standing in the middle of the first step forward.
Recently, Top 40 radio has proven an increasingly difficult platform for pop stars of bygone eras to crack; unless you’re Maroon 5, you probably aren’t receiving heavy rotation if you were a music star at any point during the George W. Bush years. But given Nick Jonas’ recent success, the quality of “Sucker”, the general curiosity that results from a high-profile pop comeback and the oncoming promotional onslaught — a future Carpool Karaoke episode will anchor a week-long takeover of The Late Late Show with James Corden — the Jonas Brothers have a real shot at making some noise this year. Few would’ve predicted it, but here we are: It’s 2019 and there’s a new Jonas Brothers song, and those two things go together a lot better than we ever anticipated.