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Album Review

The teen trio known as the Jonas Brothers—OK, yes, I know, technically Kevin is 21, but, hey, they still sound like teenagers—is back with its fourth album. Musically, there’s a bit of everything here. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll. A little punk. A little funk. A little ’70s—the band credits the Bee Gees and Neil Diamond as influences—mixed liberally with Chicago-inspired horns. Eighties pop-rock sounds are well represented, too. There’s even some rap on tap. It’s all impeccably produced, of course, given the band’s association with Disney. Equally Disneyfied are the Jonas Brothers’ squeaky-clean-but-angst-ridden reflections on young love gone heartrendingly awry.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

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Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Pro-social Content

"Fly With Me" (written for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) seems to be about making the most of our time with those we love. On "World War III," a guy decides not to respond to his ex-girlfriend's deception in kind ("Telling lies just to feel happy/But I won't retaliate"). "What Did I Do to Your Heart" involves a confused young man wondering why his girlfriend is suddenly so angry, though he says he's done nothing wrong. "Much Better" is a confessional in which Joe Jonas claims "I'm not bitter" following his breakup with another high-profile musician. "Black Keys" perhaps indicates that we can learn important lessons from painful moments, that the black keys on a piano round out the melody of life ("Black keys never looked so beautiful").

Arguably the most interesting song on the album is "Don't Charge Me for the Crime," guest starring Common (a rapper whose solo material has some significant problems). The song tells the story of a young man who almost gets drawn into the illegal activities of a peer before wisely choosing to extricate himself from that tempting and dangerous situation. The song flirts with some gangsta rap conventions, but ultimately it eschews the genre's excesses in route to a positive message. Album closer "Keep It Real" finds the guys trying to do exactly that despite the pressure and temptations of celebrity.

Objectionable Content

A conflict between two feuding romantic partners on "World War III" implies they're living together: "Tonight I walked into the bedroom/You were visibly upset." That implication is reinforced when the song's narrator worries that her angry screaming will "wake the neighbors." A breakup leaves a JoBro whining, "Consider me destroyed" and relying on doctor-prescribed medication to cope ("I'm takin' all the doc's meds"). Two tracks lament the fact that a broken romance means no more cuddling. "Much Better" takes a swipe at Taylor Swift when Joe Jonas says of his former flame, "I'm done with superstars/And all the tears on her guitar" (a reference to one of Swift's most popular songs). A proud young rebel believes he's above the law when he says, "Only God can judge me" on "Don't Charge Me for the Crime."

Summary Advisory

There's quite a lot of hurt on Lines, Vines and Trying Times. Nine out of 13 songs involve painful breakups. "Before the Storm" (featuring Miley Cyrus) is representative of the kind of the adolescent tell-it-to-my-journal angst that's all over this album: "I'm trying to keep the lights from going out," Joe sings, "and the clouds from ripping out my broken heart." Can you say drama? Throughout these high-pitched proceedings, the Jonas Brothers' wholesome image remains pretty much intact. Parents of young fans, however, would do well to remember that these guys are still moving toward maturity. Their perspective on life is long on emotion but short on the big-picture perspective that's necessary to make sense of the romantic wounds chronicled here.

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The band's fourth album debuted at No. 1 with sales of 247,000 units.

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Adam R. Holz

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