Bad Blood Brothers?

Something is apparently rotten in Jonas world. We’ve written extensively about the various charms of the power-pop glorious siblings – from their place in the Disney Machine to solo efforts and critical cliches – but the latest round of news is more dire. The band recently dismantled its Twitter account and canceled its upcoming tour, leading to speculation that the Jonas Brothers is now inevitably sliding into oblivion. There alledgedly is a “deep rift” within the band, and I was not exactly comforted by anonymous sources claiming the cancellation was due to disagreement about its creative direction. Things like these happen all the time, but as Hanson attested to just recently, there are ways to work around them, and hope that cooler heads – and perhaps the instinct of self-preservation – will prevail.

My immediate reaction was to always approach reports based on anonymous sources skeptically. My second reaction was that if there’s substance to the story, “disagreement about musical direction” sounds like a euphemism for something potentially more ominous, but since no one has expanded on those remarks, I’ll go with that for now. Creative tension is the lifeblood of any lasting pop success, and until now, the Jonas Brothers have actually been quite open to incorporating a multitude of influences into their music. Granted, on my favorite albums, Jonas Brothers (2007), A Little Bit Longer (2008) and Jonas L.A. (2011), they stuck relatively close to the sunny bubblegum pop formula, with occasional outburts of 1990s-style college rock, but their uneven third album, 2009′s Lines, Vines and Trying Times, had traces of everything from country music to hiphop. Likewise, Nick and Joe’s respective solo efforts, Who I Am (2010) and Fastlife (2011), at times expanded into funkand floor-filling dance music. What’s new this time, it seems, is that these influences have spilled uneasily into the Jonas Brothers realm, with the potential to blow up the band.

You probably can’t be an ambitious or successful artist without an outsized ego, and until we get credible word of something else, we have to assume that this is the driving force behind the so-called “rift”. Other sources in the same reports insist that the schism is entirely about music, and that the familial bonds remain strong. I hope that’s true. Whether the true reasons for the impending split/hiatus have been glossed over or not, it’s vital for the band as well as the family that they’re able to separate professional conflicts from the personal. Breakups are always hard, but rifts in a family can be even harder to overcome. Whether this ends in the band’s dissolution or not, I really hope the Jonases are able to stay on good terms.

As with Justin Bieber, I’ve long been kind of “protective” of the Jonas Brothers. Part of it obviously has to do with the fact that I like their music (and, let’s be honest, other aspects of their appearance, too), and also that their respective brands of music tend to be singled out for critical and popular scorn. Music with a particular, often calculated, appeal to pre-teen and teen girls (and, though rarely ever acknowledged, to gays of all ages) usually have a hard time with the Guardians Of Good Taste, not least because it has to struggle to be considered as music, and not just a marketing ploy. When I discovered that I liked both acts, after having initially dismissed them along those very lines, I happily threw my forceful support behind them, making it something like a point of pride and principle. Regular readers would recognize a similar pattern with my long struggle toward self-acceptance as a Fanson. Reading about the trouble in Jonas world brings out the same almost paternal instincts. I’m a fan, yes, but even more than I want them to be successful, I want them to make it through this rough patch as friends and partners.

As I’m writing this, everything seems to be up in the air. This could be a temporary crisis that is eventually resolved, with the band making a tour schedule and rethinking the album strategy. But since the band has not given additional comments after the cancellation news, and tabloid reports hint at problems that transcend a conflict about musical direction, it’s hard to know what to believe. According to some reports, even the upcoming album release could now be in limbo. But maybe – just maybe -that’s a good thing? I don’t know if it’d be good for the band to release a new record at a time when there’s palpable discord in its ranks, with the risk that it’ll be basically disowned, if promoted at all. I’d like to have a new album eventually, but it doesn’t have to be right now.

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