Aftermath: The Jonas Brothers Put the Art In Wal-Mart at Toyota Center
Photos by Daniel Kramer
The robot eggs have hatched and out come three marionettes, made entirely out of cheese, slathered in the holy sweat of Jerry Falwell, packaged with a bow, and placed in the clearance aisle of the toy store at a mall for starving rats. The price? Your soul. Here come the Jonas Brothers - the boys who put the art in Wal-Mart.
Their marketing campaign is absolutely without capitalistic flaw. Three brothers, all squeaky clean, outfitted with promise rings to God, who star in a Disney Channel sitcom playing characters who are rock stars encumbered with the growing problem of their own celebrity ("Can't we just have one dinner together as a family without your bodyguard here?," says their fake TV mom). They go on to tour sold-out venues the world over - as themselves, seemingly, not their TV characters - all the while promoting a 3D concert film, that is sold to fans as a documentary, where the Brothers get chased around New York City by a throng of screaming girls who, it turns out, are paid extras put in place by the director to create the perception of something akin to Beatlemania (more on that later). It's all contextualized by the "documentary" being entirely scripted, something like a 90-minute episode of their sitcom.
It's the fake Jonas Brothers playing the real Jonas Brothers, relaying memorized lines that have the fake Jonas Brothers explaining the real tour the real Jonas Brothers are about to embark on, in what seems like a sneaky way to promote the fictionalized documentary film. This film stars what fans think are the real Jonas Brothers acting out lines in front of green screens as the fake Jonas Brothers from their fake TV show.
It's the perfect manifestation of the postmodern meta-narrative, but there's only one problem: postmodernism now has a pimp, street name: lunch money. The highest art of all is the 30 minutes directly following a reality show where the studio hosts have to pretend to believe in something. That perception of Beatlemania, though, has now morphed into a beast who drinks Beatlemania out of a sippy cup. This is a gargantuan phenomenon, unprecedented in the history of any art form. Bigger than Elvis, bigger than the Beatles, bigger than Madonna, bigger than New Kids on the Block. There are no comparisons to be made here that would make you understand what's going on. To wit, at least three girls we spoke to had camped out overnight for two nights, and they had reserved seats. The woman in the seat next to ours brought her daughter and paid $1,000 for the tickets. To fully understand how loud it was inside Toyota Center Friday night, try sticking your face in some thunder at a Harley-Davidson convention held underneath a landing airplane beside a screaming baby, and then multiply by infinity. More than 17,000 sardine fans hopping up and down in a synchronized pogo line, 75 percent of whom are now missing vocal chords due to an explosion of the throat brought about by pure bubble-gum joy. Jonas Brothers can do no wrong.
The show was what you'd expect from the biggest and most complicatedly simple band in the whole wide world - a huge rotating stage (three parts, the middle part with trampoline), fancy light show with shooting smoke, girls with marriage proposals glittered on poster board - Joe Jonas wins with the most, which is understandable, because Joe Jonas is wicked dreamy - Mean Girls-style moms dancing like strippers as their daughters look on in disbelief, elementary school boys with terrified looks on their faces, likely due to the fact that they know social studies is just around the corner and well, they're wearing Jonas Brothers T-shirts, ear plugs to your right and to your left because parents are old, and 8,000 camera flashes per half-second. The songs came fast, with hardly any dead time in between, though there was one pretty touching moment when Nick Jonas spoke about his Type 1 diabetes, explaining the charity he's created to raise money and awareness about the disease. Each song sounded like a No. 1 radio hit, with every person in the audience singing every single solitary word. It was amazing. It's hard to differentiate the mood each one elicited, because they all elicited a mixture of screams and tears; but if we had to say which songs the audience loved most, they would have to be "Just the Way We Roll," "Hold On," "Poison Ivy," "Gotta Find You," "A Little Bit Longer" and "Much Better."
At the same time, though, the songs are completely immaterial. The Jonas Brothers are about being a part of something bigger than music, and almost bigger than the culture they're helping create. These guys are actually defining reality, and helping us all see that there may not be such a thing, and if there is, who cares, because reality isn't as much fun as the circus. The world we live in is one in which musicians no longer need to be good, only interesting; and the Jonas Brothers are the most fascinating people on the face of the earth. They're writing themselves into the most brilliant story ever told, one in which television shows are concerts, concerts are movies, movies are coloring books and the buyer couldn't care less that they're paying money to be duped by teenagers and corporate conglomerates who now control the postmodern experience. The Jonas Brothers are America.
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