Unlike his brother Nick Jonas, whose first solo album was an attempt to present Nick as a serious musician in the Stevie Wonder/Winwood tradition, Joe Jonas wholeheartedly embraces pop life on his own debut, 2011’s Fastlife. Filled with stomping R&B beats and smears of fat hands-in-the-air synths, aching vocals, and radio-ready production tricks, this is a record made for the clubs and the radio. Very modern clubs and radio, since unlike Nick, who looked to the '70s for inspiration, Joe looks all the way back to the 2000s and Justin Timberlake for his main inspiration. They share the same spidery vocals, love of a slinky groove, and a producer -- Danja, who worked with Timbaland on FutureSex/LoveSounds. Luckily for Joe Jonas, and anyone who buys the album, he’s not just a JT clone. Joe and his team of writers and producers put a lot of care into the sound of the record, making sure the uptempo tracks really have punch, the ballads have some grit, and the midtempo grooves have a believable amount of soul. Joe injects some personality into the sound, too, writing lyrics about heartbreak and other slightly more adult topics than he did with his brothers, and doing it with style, if not poetry. Most importantly, a large part of the album is made up of songs with big melodic and rhythmic hooks that will propel you onto the dancefloor or have you singing along. The first single, “Just in Love,” is almost on par with JT’s finest moments and certainly is near the top of the quality charts as far as pop music in 2011 goes. The rest of the album isn’t far behind and there are no embarrassing moments or weak tracks. In fact, the only jarring moment comes on the second version of “Just in Love,” when Lil Wayne drops by and earns the parental advisory sticker. It’s not bad, just a little unnecessary. Though in fairness, JT would have done the same thing had he deigned to make a record in 2011. It’s a minor blip on an otherwise immensely entertaining and enjoyable pop record -- inspired, tons of fun, and positioning Joe Jonas as a worthy successor to Justin.
by Tim Sendra