Album Review: Nick Jonas – ‘Last Year Was Complicated’

It’s tough being Nick Jonas. One minute, you seemingly have it all. A hit solo career, a high profile romance with one of the most beautiful women in the world, and a burgeoning second career as an actor. Then, everything collapses when one of those highs turns to the lowest of lows.

What do you do when life gives you lemons? You make lemonade – and that’s exactly what Nick Jonas sought out to do with his brand new album ‘Last Year Was Complicated’, a collection of songs that embody the rollercoaster ride that was the last twelve months of Nick’s life.

The tricky, complex turns of life run as a constant throughout ‘Complicated’, but so does one other rather glaring fact: who does Nick Jonas want to be in the pop landscape? The talent is there. From the songwriting, to the musicality, to the vocal performance, he could be one of the great male pop artists of this generation. Sonically, there’s still some work to do.

A lack of evolution is really what drags down Nick’s new LP. Largely, ‘Last Year Was Complicated’ sounds a bit too similar to its predecessor ‘Nick Jonas’. The record kicks off with the Timbaland-esque ‘Voodoo’ which is nothing more than a rehash of his top 20 hit ‘Chains’. Great in 2014, but in 2016 more is left to be desired. From there, we’re greeted with more or less the same vibe we experienced two years ago when Nick decided to break out on his own.

Despite its flaws, there is some promise as to where Nick can go from here. There may be little to no new sounds on the record (‘Touch’ says hi though – the light and airy, hand-clapping guitar driven song is the album’s most intriguing moment and could prove to be a powerful single), but there’s no doubt that Nick has advanced his skills as a songwriter.

Champagne Problems’ is the strongest song on the album, without a doubt. Melodically, sonically, lyrically; it has it all and should be the blueprint of what he should do moving forward. Right behind it, ‘Chainsaw’ is another fine example of a strong lyrical moment on ‘Complicated’. Effortlessly, Nick was able to bottle up the pain of his break up and clearly paint the picture of the old house he used to bring his ex to and all the memories that reside in it. Nick even manages to one-up ‘Chainsaw’ with the album’s most revealing track ‘Don’t Make Me Choose’ – a slow burning mid-tempo that captures the breaking point in his relationship.

Our advice for Nick? Ditch the hip-hop inspired sound and trend hopping tactics. ‘Good Girls’ sounds like a mismatch for Nick as he shouts out Instagram thots and he’s beyond the act of hopping onto the tropical trend with ‘The Difference’. Frankly, he did a better job of that with ‘Close’ by making the decision to prominently feature a steel drum based production. Also, don’t accept a subpar song from Max Martin.

Instead, he needs to take the time and discover the exact sound that compliments how advanced his songwriting is. He’s teetering on something great. He’s somewhere in between pop, R&B, and hip-hop. If he goes too far into one, he gets lost in the mix and loses his identity. For the first time in a while, we have a handful of males dominanting pop. All are equally great and the competition is fierce on who will be the biggest male pop star around. With the right collaborators and creative family around him in the studio, things should be less complicated next time around.

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