I know what you’re thinking.
The Jonas Brothers are bad pop, the kind that is created and pushed down our collective throats by a mega-corporation. Why would I give them any more attention than the mainstream media already does? Why am I furthering their plot to ruin music and the minds of young girls everywhere?!
Because Nick Jonas makes me feel hopeful.
A little background first: The Administration is Jonas’ side project. He’s got an album out in February with producer John Fields, who has also produced Andrew WK and Rooney. This performance is the first time he and the band have played live in front of a crowd, one that was made up of music industry giants, musical royalty, and, of course, his brothers, Joe and Kevin. And while the performance could go either way (depending upon your location on the puberty line graph), it had an impact on Jonas himself and maybe for the future of mainstream music.
For those who think I am a tool, I am willing to make concessions: The song, “Who I Am”, isn’t that great. It’s that same kind of Jonas-ified rock, that vaguely pre-pubescent Paul McCartney mixed with some less than stellar Stevie Wonder, topped off with a final dash of blues that’s as emotionally dense as any sheltered white male can muster. So, no, the song isn’t something to be excited about, but what is truly great about the performance and the video are the tiny, underlining details it offers.
First and foremost, for good and bad, this lets you bear witness to a beginning. Whether you rock a Jonas Brothers half t-shirt or have started an Internet chat group damning their existence, there is something wonderful about witnessing the first time a performer takes the stage. A crystallized moment that, years from now, you can say you saw and that your feelings toward the act were justified from the very start or how you can trace the path of love to hate or hate to love or even sheer indifference. A site like YouTube offers us that opportunity to see and be connected to something, and while you may never want to watch a Jonas brother get down, this is a perfect example of the power of the medium.
The deeper you dig for context and clues, the more important this performance is. Take, for example, the intro by Kevin and Joe. For reasons of band cohesiveness and album sales, the band has always been pushed as the closest of close. If you hate the brothers, take special joy in sampling the faintly detectable bile the two have during their little intro. And it gets even more scrumptious during the crowd applause bit, where the two show even less emotion then they ever have before. Coupled with the exaggerated applause of Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, your day should be made. But if you look at it like I did, you felt a sense that this is Nick Jonas doing something outside his Disney-mandated sphere. Sure, they’ll profit just the same, and nothing new and dynamic will probably come of it, but it felt like a real, unplanned moment that is brimming with awkwardness and potential.
But the best moment is at the end (around 4:20 or so) where the triumphant young Jonas has gotten through the performance without throwing up. The crowd is elated (again, except for his brothers, whose only smiles seem to be smirks that the camera has finally come home to their dreamboat faces) and all is right. And with victory in the air, surely it’s time that our hero celebrates. Jonas surveys the crowd, bows a few times, and the video ends to the cheers of approval, all while Jonas never cracks what should be the biggest, goofiest smile. It was a lackluster performance, punctuated by several visible errors, and he realizes it, looking not fulfilled, but severely disappointed. That moment makes this video. It instills within me a sense that the youngest brother in the band who are the leaders of a new school of pop actually cares about music. He believes in it so much that he isn’t happy with the boatloads of adoration and was looking to craft something real and rocking; he recognizes his failure and isn’t pleased to let the corporate machine make it all better.
This is one little performance that most people have surely forgotten about. But whether you want something to laugh about or an earnest shot at seeing something visceral from something so glimmery and clean, the video should make its way to your playlist. I may be reading too it much into, but maybe I’m just hoping that something so insignificant has meaning because so much doesn’t. Mainstream pop is a world we all love as kids; top 40 hits are the only reason many of us discover music in the first place. And while we look at the Billboard charts as a cancer to the real music of the world, this performance instilled with me the notion that maybe it’s not that bad after all, and there is musical responsibility and not just noise for the sake of pleasing a largely unknowing crowd.