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Album Review

Nick Jonas, the youngest member of the now-defunct fraternal pop-rock trio bearing his now-famous surname, seems to be making a play for sympathy of sorts on his third solo album, Last Year Was Complicated. The complication he unpacks (in detail) revolves around a woman (or women) he's broken up with.

Procuring as much sex as he wants doesn't seem to be much of a problem for the 23-year-old former Disney star. But finding lasting, satisfying love? That's a much thornier proposition for the junior Jonas Brother … in part because he's still not sure he even wants to trade all those casual carnal conquests for lasting love with just one woman.

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Pro-social Content

"Good Girls" ponders why some nice girls think they need to behave nastily to garner attention ("When did all these good girls decide to be bad?"), suggesting that it's partially because they're rebelling against their fathers ("Dancin' up on the table, getting' back at your dad") and partially because they've been conditioned to please lusty, leering men ("Don't wanna blame you for it, 'cause that's what we ask of you"). The song ultimately says a woman's appeal should be based on more than just her looks ("You know I love your skin, but is it deeper than that?/ … You know sexy isn't just what you see").

"Champagne Problems" laments, "We were the opposite of breaking up/Can't believe I'm losing you." Meanwhile, "Don't Make Me Choose" promises, "Whenever I can, I'll be there/You got a man who knows exactly what you need/ … If you wanna talk, I'll listen." "Unhinged" confesses, "You're not the first to try and diagnose what's wrong with me/I'll be the first to admit that I'm hard to please." "Voodoo" finds Jonas admitting he needs to get away from a woman he knows is a bad influence, but …

Objectionable Content

… that knowledge isn't enough to help him say no to her sensual charms. It's a weakness that shows up over and over again on Complicated. "Close," for instance, looks forward to minimizing the physical space between Jonas and a woman, even though he probably already knows this is a bad idea ("Oh d--n, oh d--n, oh d--n/I'm so perplexed").

Likewise, on "Champagne Problems" Jonas and a paramour break up, then promptly pop the cork on some bubbly and shed their clothes ("We got champagne problems/Only one way to solve 'em/ … Keep on, keep on drinking/ … How did our clothes end up on the floor?/Didn't we just break each other's hearts?") "Chainsaw" finds him violently responding to his cohabiting partner's decision to move out: "And maybe I'll just take a chain saw to the sofa/Where I held your body close for so long, so long/I'm gonna break the f---ing china/'Cause it's just one more reminder you're gone, you're gone." Later he turns to other unhealthy painkilling strategies, including alcohol ("Drink in my glass, better make it strong") and promiscuity ("Some nights wanna fill this space/A tight dress and a pretty face").

More suggestive physical fantasies fill "Touch," where we hear (among other things), "Go crazy/In the bedroom, babe/ … I wanna get inside your brain/Every part of you." Similarly sensual stuff saturates "The Difference" and "Under You."

"Bacon" finds Jonas pondering which he wants more, an always-willing partner ("Sizzling, white hot/Give me that sugar with the sweet talk") or a no-strings-attached existence in which he doesn't have to answer to anyone ("One thing I love more than being with you/And that's no ties, no drama in my life"). The same kind of self-centered ambivalence turns up on "Unhinged," where Jonas tells a woman that he's just not ready for a lifetime commitment: "I'm afraid to find out that I might be right for you/'Cause it's one step closer to life with you/And that's not me."

Summary Advisory

In the end, Nick Jonas' supposedly Complicated life isn't really anything of the sort. He's a young man who occasionally flirts with the idea of commitment. But he's much more committed to flirting—and a lot more than that—than he is making vows that would require him to subdue his self-absorption. He wants everything on his terms, but he's loath to be shackled to the self-sacrificing terms that a real relationship would demand of him.

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June 10, 2016

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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