Aftermath: The Jonas Brothers, Past Their Sell-By Date At RodeoHouston
Is the spotlight fading on the Jonas Brothers for good?
Photos by Mark C. Austin / Click here for a slideshow
Is it evolutionary, do you think, or devolutionary, to value a type of music that carries with it an implied sense of shittiness - a value given to it for the simple sake of allowing the listener to access his or her own individual feeling of interpretive entitlement of an art form that seems safer when thought about by not thinking about it? To answer this question, think back to eighth-grade science class when you first heard the name Darwin, turn the volume knob to mediocre and bask in the central air of Anytown, U.S.A. - here come the Jonas Bro-rangutans. The last time Houston saw the Jonas Brothers we were treated to at least a dose of anticipatory reverie, waiting for the guys to take the spaceship stage in skinny sequined clothes below flopsy hair washed in the holy water of celibacy, but now they're just boring. Because between then and now, nothing has really changed other than the kinda-talented one sang on the new "We Are the World," and the ugly one got married. These are the guys who lassoed reality and gave it another name, a name that was becoming unrecognizable to those critics who thought they understood different forms of artistic media but really just understood the stuff that was understandable. The Jonas Brothers used to swim on pavement; they used toes to hear. They were fact when fact meant fiction, but now they're merely a listing in the yellow pages under "Has-been."
They've always been part make-believe rock band, part spectacle, but the spectacle is now eating itself, and it tastes a whole lot like rotten chicken nuggets eaten by the kids of soccer moms who cultivate in them the originality of a ringtone. At RodeoHouston Sunday, night the Bros came and sang their songs to the white-noise screams of the boppity-bop, ranging from the popular "Video Girl" and "Burnin' Up" to the ultra-popular "That's Just the Way We Roll" and "Live to Party" to "Love Bug," which could be the theme song for a middle-schooler's delusions, to snooze fests "Paranoid" "Much Better" and "World War III." More than singing, what we got was a feeling of going through the motions so the show could be over if for no reason than to say we saw the Jonas Brothers just once, and didn't they mean something at some point? The dancing was muted, the stage show was understated and the crowd smiled apathetically between chews of fried Coke and bloated skin. Aftermath doesn't know if this apathy was due to Rodeo fatigue or something more sinister; something more like coming to an understanding that time isn't kind to rock stars who were never really rock stars but child actors with church-choir voices who happened to call the right PR company at the right time, mostly because they were privileged enough to afford it. The Jonas Brothers have given way to other flavors of the year, yet they seem to maybe not know it. Or they do, and that's why Nick Jonas released a solo record this year and his two brothers feel like buying just one more house, because you can't really just buy a garage, you know? And where else are these new cars gonna go?
Sunday, the audience was in on it. They all seemed to get that the end is coming, as ends do, and they didn't look to care all that much. But the rodeo is sort of an excuse to eat super-crunchy shit while watching artists who couldn't and shouldn't expect to play in front of audiences larger than a couple thousand, so maybe we should give the Jonas Brothers the benefit of the doubt and not give up on them so soon. But that's not the feeling Sunday night had. It had more a feeling of a dead tree that's about to get chopped down and made into beige Post-it notes for Mom's grocery list. The Jonas Brothers were, and still are to a degree, a marketer's dream come true, but dreams only last so long, and it's time to pack up shop. The Brothers probably won't be making their way to Houston again anytime soon, at least in their present form; and for that we're kind of umm or at least like "Whatever, at least we saw them, right? I bet we can still beat the traffic." We once had a band who acted like rock stars pretending to be movie stars seen every Saturday morning on the tube of your family television set - three boys who were perfectly molded to blow up the barrier of what audiences thought was real - the firecracker in the church pew, if you will. Now what we have are three boys who have been forced to realize exactly what they're not, and realize it seemingly overnight. In a lot of ways, they're like that white veiny stuff that grows from the sides of a potato left for too long in a glass above your kitchen sink when finally someone says the obvious: What are we doing staring at this thing? It's just a potato - let's fry this bitch up.