I remember the moment vividly: it was a Wednesday morning and unlike most Wednesday mornings during the holidays, I happened to be up before 9.30 am (when The Jeremy Kyle Show starts). Switching on GMTV I found the gormless Fiona Phillips telling me that the Large Hadron Collider was about to be switched on and that this could possibly be the end of the world. Now this part sailed over my head; nowadays we can’t really go two whole days without being told that the end of the world is nigh, but what followed chilled me to the bone: “and now music from the Jonas Brothers”. Suddenly I realised that if this was the end of the world, then the very last piece of music I would hear would be the Jonas Brothers. I should have turned it over, but I could only watch transfixed and horrified as they gurned and mimed their way through what could have been my last ever three minutes. Thankfully the world didn’t end. and the Large Hadron Collider turned out to be amusingly useless, but I was left with that horrible feeling that the Jonas Brothers had almost soundtracked my very own apocalypse.
In the days that followed, the Jonas Brothers were everywhere. It was arguably a good week for them: at the London premiere of their film Camp Rock the ‘band’ were greeted by hundreds of screaming fans, played the Hammersmith Palais and found themselves being publicised in every paper from The Sun to The Times. In many respects they make for an extremely easy story, three wholesome God-fearing brothers with those ever visible silver promise rings, sort of like a mix between The Osmonds, Busted, and Rod and Tod Flanders from The Simpsons. They are in many ways unintentionally hilarious; first and foremost it’s the fact that they are three, apparently, devout Christians who never once mention Jesus in their lyrics. However they do have a song about living with Diabetes. The cringe inducing ‘A Little Bit Longer’ (sample lyric “Got the news today/ Doctors said I had to stay”) has to be heard to be believed. Then there’s the whole business of those now infamous silver promise rings that are clearly in view in each Jonas photo shoot. The thing about the rings is that it’s not just that the idea itself is essentially cruel and unusual, but that the movement in the USA is marred by a history of hypocrisy. The brothers (if they have any sense) are most likely knee-deep in all sorts of unwholesome mischief. I’d like to point out that one of the most famous people to have worn such a ring before the Jonas Brothers was Britney Spears, and we all know how that ended.
In many ways the Jonas Brothers are reminiscent of Britney pre-meltdown. Musically they are slick and antiseptic; the sound of whatever is cool and contemporary, debased and freebased into a product guaranteed to achieve maximum market gain. In this case it is the sound of Greenday and Paramore with all the edges sanded down. New single ‘Burnin’ Up’ (the very same one they had mimed on GMTV) is a perfect example of that sound, flat, bland and overcooked. The band isn’t bad in a musical sense, they are just uninspired and boring. If you were being kind you would call them inoffensive, but really a band being inoffensive is the worst crime I can imagine. Essentially this means that the Jonas Brothers are pointless.
However this is probably not the way that the people at Hollywood Records see things. For the Disney-owned record label, the Jonas Brothers are just the latest in a long line of successful teenybopper pop acts that include Miley Cyrus (otherwise known as Hannah Montana) and Jesse McCartney who was responsible for co-writing the abomination that was ‘Bleeding Love’. What Hollywood Records have done is essentially developed an extremely successful way of hawking all sorts of tat by using music as a front for multi faceted brands. Miley Cyrus, daughter of fifth rate country singer Billy Ray Cyrus (the one who did ‘Achey Breaky Heart’), in particular is a key example of how this works. Her abomination of a television show, Hannah Montana, is all the usual Disney froth, and is needless to say about as funny as a particularly bad case of the clap, but it acts most importantly as a gigantic advert for not only her own boring and insipid music but also as a launch pad for her label mates. The Jonas Brothers themselves were launched on the Hannah Montana show. Her recently released breakthrough album is the ultimate example of the sale of a product over any actual talent. The songs, which make the Jonas Brothers sound like The Sex Pistols in comparison, are just boring, uninspired and badly written. What makes it worse is that she is clearly not that talented, consistently her vocals sound as if they have been excessively tampered with, showing that she clearly couldn’t carry a tune if you gave her a large bucket to do it in.
Now I’m not suggesting that any of this is new. Record labels have always been mysterious and Machiavellian, there has always been a market for awful teenybopper pop music and most importantly the Disney Corporation has always been willing to put their name to anything annoying and nauseating. What gets me about the current situation is how insane it is; how are a bunch of complete Normans such as the Jonas Brothers, bereft of either personality or a single decent song, able to catch the attention of so many, despite how fickle many of these fans inevitably are? It’s the fact that they come as commodities, just a disposable product with a sell by date. Music is supposed to be vital, it is supposed to change lives and at its best it can be considered art. After more than forty years after their first releases an artist (in every sense of the word) such as Bob Dylan can remain twenty times more vital and confrontational as ever. In forty years will anyone really care about the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus? Or, more importantly, will anyone actually care about them in four months?