Around a decade ago, the Jonas Brothers were the squeakiest of the squeaky-clean pop brigade, their rictus grins, Disney Club membership cards and purity rings all present and correct. And if we’re honest, there was something sinister about the neutered New Jersey trio, running around the world spreading gooey pop muck like Care Bears jazzed up on cupcakes.
The brothers went their separate ways three years ago, and it’s middle one Joe Jonas – now aged 27 – who’s had the most surprising reinvention. Following a stint as a songwriter for other acts, he returned last year with a new band, DNCE, and a song, ‘Cake By The Ocean’, that’s about as pleasingly weird a sexual metaphor as the “d**k bicycle” in Ariana Grande’s ‘Side To Side’.
Two things were instantly notable: Jonas now swears (“Let’s lose our minds and go f**king crazy”) and his band look like one brought out to mime to a disco-pop track on 1990s TV smutfest Eurotrash. Much of that is thanks to bassist Cole Whittle, whose Mohawk haircut emerges not from the centre of his head, but artfully off from one side, and whose outfits could out- weird Lady Gaga.
DNCE kick off their debut album with a theme song named ‘DNCE’, a Justin Timberlake-alike track named ‘Body Moves’ and global hit ‘Cake By The Ocean’ itself. It’s safe to say if you like the latter, you’ll like what follows – a groove of quirky, fizzy, funk-influenced pop with oversexed lyrics is quickly established. ‘Toothbrush’, for example, talks of someone “standing there in your underwear and my T-shirt from the night before”, and frenetic naturist anthem ‘Naked’ describes the pursuit as being, “Natural, natural, there’s nothing dirty about it”.
Closing track ‘Unsweet’, clearly influenced by the strummy stool-based pop of Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’, seems to sum up Jonas’s intentions: he’s not that sweet Jonas Brother any more, and he wants you to know it. But his reincarnation is postcard saucy, not filthy, his new friends look like Power Rangers villains and his debut album is fun to listen to. Between Jonas and Miley Cyrus, the Disney Channel somehow churned out some of the most interesting pop stars of a generation. As Mickey Mouse himself might say, that sure is swell.