Through the Jonas Brothers’ collective and individualized discographies, Nick Jonas has always been the one to grow from his strengths and leave centralized pop music behind, for the most part. His previous album Last Year Was Complicated had a plethora of unique creations stemming from collaborators Evigan and Max Martin – to name a few, but never felt like anything special. And though the album chopped in some unique pop infusions, Nick showed immense strength when he dove into more R&B centric production and let his high sultry pitches and slightly raspy low vocalizations create beautiful contrasts in sound. His new album Spaceman takes these strengths, and along with producers Greg Kurstin (Adele’s “Hello”) weave this elegant array of spacious R&B tracks that add a little pop in the choruses to keep the infectious sounds going.
Spaceman is a slightly new and more intimate direction for Nick Jonas, as the R&B sonic overtones takes the music to new heights by implementing coats of varying instruments to heighten the song’s themes. Like the track “This is Heaven,” which incorporates these angelic and orchestral horns that bring light to the scene Nick paints on the song as he talks about his conflicting relationship with religion and life. These sonic themes evaporate and consistently recycle the drenching rain of variety the album takes from the 80s.
Many tracks take stylistic influence in the way the structures are written and each song’s undertones, except for the title track which breathes Life On Mars with exasperation. This is because there are some people, who without looking deep into the title, won’t immediately sense the David Bowie ghost dueting with Nick in your ear. The orchestral strings intermittently throughout the instrumental brings a lot of life to the song. This is an ever growing strength on Spaceman, which comes and soars with applause like it was the recent shuttle that took the Mars rover less than a month ago.
Spaceman deserves the applause with the way Nick Jonas has been directing his career recently and not letting the other work around him hinder the quality of his new music. The songwriting has matured substantially through the years and on this album, Nick shows a lot of flashes of master work in the structure from the choruses to bridges. This burrows these great and infectious melodies that stay with you the more you hear them. “Deeper Love,” brings forth that with the elegant percussion and melody reminiscent of late 80s power pop-ballads that were once dominant in the mainstream, especially the esoteric synthwave sounds that remain subtle. As well, that Foreigner melody sample from “I Want To Know What Love It” is very on point.
This reflects symmetrically on the production, which never feels redundant and grows into these intricate pieces of R&B / Pop hybrids. These effervescent sounds come in full force on the track “Delicious,” which oozes lush Huey Lewis & The News vibes. These adjunct influences slide into some other tracks on the album, like the aforementioned “Deeper Love.” But the way it keeps feeling fresh and different adds new tunes for the jukebox and become bonafide potential club tracks.
However Spaceman is far from the gushing awe and uproarious reactions. Some songs dwindle plainly into the realm of forgettability, but they easily mix in without a hindrance on the overall product. This is more apparent in the second half of the album, with tracks like “Sexual” and “Nervous.” “Sexual” is this lustry and deliciously smooth sex track for those playlists, but the melodies and songwriting are more of an afterthought.
Spaceman is more than what meets the eye, especially from the many who had preconceived notions of the artist based on his early Disney days. Nick Jonas has fully grown into his own and has unabashedly made one of the best albums, so far, this year. It fills the room with vibrant electricity, you can’t help but have most of the songs on repeat.