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The Jonas Brothers, "Lines, Vines and Trying Times" (Hollywood) [½ STAR]

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In these times of harrowing financial uncertainty, most major American corporations are struggling to determine how to stay profitable in the face of a skittish and turbulent marketplace.

In this regard, Disney's reigning teen-pop behemoth the Jonas Brothers is no different than General Motors.

The difficult task of staying relevant with a young audience as it graduates from the Harry Potter books to the Twilight series has challenged every bubblegum act of the last two decades--see Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Hilary Duff, etc., etc. But there's an even stronger whiff of desperation with the three well-coiffed brothers from Wyckoff, N.J., since they've already ridden and fallen off this merry-go-round once, having been embraced and then dropped by Columbia Records in the mid-2000s before the Mouse's Hollywood label finally pushed them to the top of the charts.

On their fourth album "Lines, Vines and Trying Times," which arrives in stores today [Tuesday], 16-year-old Nick, 19-year-old Joe and legal-drinking-age Kevin trot out every trick they and their handlers can think of to signify a more "mature" collection than the fizzy, sugary, vaguely New Wave pop sets of the past. But instead of a bold next step in their evolution, they wind up with a singularly ponderous and joyless mess.

This album is lousy with heavy-handed horns and pretentious string sections, super-slick production tricks, pointless celebrity cameos (including blues-guitar showboat Jonny Lang and Nick's on-again, off-again squeeze Miley Cyrus) and awkward nods to other genres in an attempt to show the boys' depth and diversity. Witness the country turn "What Did I Do to Your Heart" and the ska-lite of the bonus track "Keep It Real."

Worst of all--and finding a nadir amid such a festering pile of garbage is no mean feat--is the attempt to go gangsta rap via the almost comically awful "Don't Charge Me for the Crime." A collaboration with Common, who amazingly tops even the embarrassing pandering of last year's "Universal Mind Control," this endless dud offers one howler after another as the Chicago rapper remakes his masterful "Testify" as a made-for-the Disney Channel TV movie ("The verdict came in and they said I was guilty/I looked at the judge, 'Hey, America built me'") and the JoBros drop in on the choruses to beg forgiveness ("Don't charge me for the crime/Wrong place, wrong time").

Sorry, boys, but if you do the crime, you've gotta do the time.

Nearly as bad is the bounty of woe-is-me lyrics about the difficulties of stardom and the women who've done the JoBros wrong. "Now I'm done with superstars/And all the tears on her guitar," they sing in "Much Better," perhaps nodding to Joe's former girlfriend Taylor Swift, while in "Poison Ivy," our heroes compare romance to an allergic reaction: "I try to scratch away the issue/All I ever get is tissues/I can't wipe away my tears/Everyone's allergic to poison ivy/Everybody gets the itch/Everybody hates that."

Actually, given the fellas' much-vaunted chastity, it's refreshing to hear them admit they occasionally get the itch. But the boys have an unfailingly tin ear both musically and lyrically, especially when it comes to probing their frustrations with the opposite sex.

In recent interviews, the JoBros have said the new album was heavily inspired by Neil Diamond, with whom they bonded at a charity tribute last February. The difference is that Diamond is a brilliant songwriter who decorates his tunes with just the right touch of Vegas schlock, laughing at himself all the while. The Jonas Brothers are never less than super-serious, and there's no hint of self-deprecation. They may have been aiming for the Jewish Elvis, but they come off as humorless Wayne Newton wannabes.

The reason why posters of these goobers adorn the walls of so many teenaged girls is obvious, at least if you think for a moment like a teenaged girl. But why anyone of any age would want to listen to them remains as big a mystery as any of the shenanigans of the business world. And all we can do is hope they go away as soon as possible.

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Mr. DeRogatis,

I can't believe you gave the new Jonas Brothers album HALF A STAR!!!!

Sell out.

sarcastically yrs,
-- MrJM

And the cover art looks like an Eddie Bauer clothing catalog or a Ralph Lauren cologne ad.

Jim, maybe it's time to do best- and worst-of lists regarding brotherly groups. Think about all the possibilities! You'd have the Wilsons, the Allmans, the Hansons... so many to choose from for a best-of. Plus, it'd give you another excuse to rip on both the Jonas Brothers and those pesky Van Halens.


You forgot the Oasses brothers...

-- MrJM

Mr. DeRogatis:

Today, I read the article that you published under the title 'No joy in new Jonas Brothers album'. I was informed that it was written from a few fans who were angry that it wasn't a perfect review of the Jonas Brothers, since they were such big fans, and things like that.

I also bought the album earlier today, as well as listened to it. I'm not afraid to admit that as a [pretty dedicated] fan of their music, it was not my favorite album.

Yet, still, I think your review was a bit unnecessarily harsh. Obviously, you review things to state an opinion, and it's pretty pointless telling you to change said opinion.

As I said, you write your articles to state an opinion, and I felt it was fair to share mine. The Jonas Brothers as people work hard to make their fans happy, which is what it's all about. I think that the statement you used last in your article '... And all we can do is hope they go away as soon as possible.' is pretty hurtful to the dedicated fans who have worked hard to promote them in the past.

Thank you for taking the time to read my feedback.

- Jenna W.

Hello. This is Nick Jonas here. I read the article you wrote about our album, and I really don't care if you don't like it. It's not upsetting me, Kevin, and Joe(because criticism is good.), but you upset ALOT of our fans that actually liked it. You will probably be expecting alot of rude emails from fans that now don't like you, since you decided to smartly put your email at the top of the article. Bye, now.
-Nick Jonas-

P.S. Don't give out this email adress to anyone.

*facepalm at the Nick Jonas impersonator*

You shouldn't have wasted the time to post a review on this album. It's not even worth the effort.

I listened to the previews on iTunes... don't plan on listening to anymore. I noticed in the previews that, while they try to branch out into other genres, all of their songs follow the same pattern.

And Common used to be a respectable rapper! WHAT HAPPENED?!

Half a star? Really?

All the CREDIBLE music review outlets such a Rolling Stone and so on gave much better reviews. Way to make your grudge known.

The 'Nick Jonas' poster was definitely some 11 year old fangirl, y/y?

Excellent review. Ignore the Jonas-loving Nazi brigade that's sure to come with it.

well, i agree, lines vines and trying times isn't their best album,
but it's not fair to judge the album by listen to it probably one time? may be wrong, but that's what i guess.
you have to listen to the album more often,
even to write or say that it sucks, actually.

it seems to me, that you'were a jb hater already previously..
so it's pretty mean to write a comment like that.
full of hate lines and all that cruel stuff.

i wonder how someone couldn't like the jb music.
i agree, it sounds like disney, but they already changed,
they grew up and that's what you can hear in lines vines and trying times. and when a respectable rapper, like common, records a song with the jonas brothers..
that'll mean much! don't you think?

i don't know what to do, to convince you to like the jonas brothers,
and i don't think i can do something against your hate to them,
but i can say: look at them! don't you think, they changed positively? from disney pop to their personal own sound. it's great to write an album with a few different genres in it! :)

i still love the jonas brothers and what they do!
and i think other fans still do,
their album is obviously [i love to listen to it anyway :D] not their best, but they have a big switch at the back of them. [hope you understand my english :p]

but anyway, i accept your comment to the album,
because it's your opinion
and you've got a great number of haters now :D

enjoy the short attention from jb lovers

jb rocks! :D

ps. i'm 17, from germany, not childish and a huge jb fan ;p

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on June 15, 2009 11:59 AM.

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Ticketmaster/Live Nation Update: Indie promoter sues to stop a "monopoly," and the Posion Dwarf speaks is the next entry in this blog.

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