The Jonas Brothers didn't go into hibernation immediately after the 2009 release of Lines, Vines and Trying Times, but they did slowly slip into a hiatus that lasted the better part of a decade. The trio may not have been working together, but they never seemed absent, not when Kevin appeared in a reality TV show, while Nick toiled away at a solo career and Joe took a brief journey through dance clubs before settling down with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. Combined, it was enough activity to make their splashy 2019 return to action feel not quite like the comeback it was intended. And, make no mistake, Happiness Begins was designed to push the Jonas Brothers back into the big time, arriving with the support of a documentary called Chasing Happiness that chronicled their ascendency, plateau, and recharge -- all part of a campaign that helped the spry "Sucker" become the trio's first number one single prior to the album's release. "Sucker" feels bright and colorful, yet its tempered disco bounce doesn't quite feel contemporary. Elsewhere on Happiness Begins, some modern sounds are threaded into the mix -- deep, elastic bass anchors even sweet pop songs, and there's a digital glassiness to the arrangements -- but the entire vibe of Happiness Begins feels proudly out of step with 2019. The Jonas Brothers have no time for the kind of depressive party music that fuels so much of the late nights of the late 2010s; they still pledge allegiance to good times and sweetly sad tunes meant to comfort and console. Such openheartedness and melodicism does mean Happiness Begins feels immediate in way so many big pop albums of the twilight of the 2010s do not, but individual tracks are crafted to slide onto as many cross-genre play lists as possible: the strummy pop of "Cool" winds up bouncing to a big beat, "Only Human" grooves to a spruced-up reggae rhythm, and "I Believe" is a sleek bit of retro-'80s nostalgia that works as well in the day as the night. This eclecticism can glide by unnoticed, since the Jonas Brothers -- with the assistance of executive producer Ryan Tedder -- polished Happiness Begins so it's so slick it gleams, but the understated savvy is another reason why the album is so appealing: the album offers old-fashioned pop values in a form that feels distinctly fresh and modern.
Happiness Begins Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine