Far from the familiar pop tones that Nick Jonas is often associated with, Last Year Was Complicated establishes him as a potential R&B force.
Doesn’t the curly haired Camp Rock star and purity ring-bearing Disney heartthrob incarnation of Nick Jonas seem like such a distant memory? Although he has been on the scene for years, Jonas suddenly seems to be a name on everyone’s lips. His last few years have been interesting, and Last Year Was Complicated, his third solo record and fourth without brothers Joe and Kevin, proves him to be a sexy, slick, and talented artist.
Kicking off with a bang, ‘Voodoo’ immediately introduces this new side to Jonas’ music with influences of R&B and essences of electronica with an unexpected edginess. The whole album tells a story, and the tracks masterfully flow into each other which, while a surprising tone for tracks speaking of loss and heartbreak, has an effortless way of working. As the tracks move thematically from breakups to falling in love again, the musical nature remains the same. The idea that Jonas’ last year was complicated does come through, but there also seems to be a sense of consistency that makes the album a pleasant listen.
In this style and genre of music, it can be so easy for vocals just to get lost amongst the production and various conflicting layers, yet Last Year Was Complicated really does present opportunities to show off Jonas’ steadily growing vocal ability. Though I do admit to going weak at any half-decent harmony, multiple tracks do show off some brilliant harmonies on multiple tracks on the album, and yes- admittedly I go weak at any half-decent harmony- but I do think that he’s really done a great job in that department.
Its singles – ‘Jealous,’ ‘Chains,’ and Tove Lo collaboration ‘Close’ – are definitely some of the album’s strongest cuts, and their promotion comes with good reason. Other highlights include ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Don’t Make Me Choose’ – the first because it’s a pretty epic break-up song in which he oozes emotion and harmony; the latter because it’s just so funky and smooth, serving as a reminder of low-lit clubs and cruising convertibles in big cities.
Overall, Jonas has established a comfortable new position with Last Year Was Complicated despite its contrast to his previous work. With each new track he grows further as an artist, which is super exciting to see. He still inevitably has room to continue to strengthen this presence, but the album certainly suggests that he is well on track. For now, this album is just a collection of banging songs with so much coolness, perfect to have blasting in your car on a hot day.
Last Year Was Complicated is out now via Island