Nick Jonas has spent over a decade in the business as a performer, but with his latest solo album, Last Year Was Complicated, the singer-songwriter is revealing a vulnerability and diving deeper into R&B in his follow-up to 2014's Nick Jonas. But Jonas' history goes deeper than being in a boy band, the Jonas Brothers, as a teenager. The eclectic star launched his career at the age of 10 with his Broadway career before transitioning to Christian pop solo star. Even during the Jonas Brothers, he spread his wings to explore his love of Springsteen and blues-rock with the Administration. All the while, the youngest JoBro shined as a songwriter, penning almost every song on his projects. Here, we take a look back at his journey as not only a star but a songwriter as well.
Jonas has always been surprisingly classic rock in his taste, and he showed off that fact at the age of 13 years old with his official solo debut, Nicholas Jonas. The album was Jonas' Christian pop foray, with the cherubic singer serenading his faith "Higher Love," with help from his father and two older brothers. He hasn't reprised the cover since, but it's a clear and early indication of the booming vocals that would be to come from the tiny, then-burgeoning star.
Originally on Nicholas Jonas, "Please Be Mine" was the first recorded song to have songwriting credits from solely the three brothers. The passionate, intimate ballad ended up closing out the band's official, pop-punk-y debut It's About Time, which was released before they fully made the jump to Hollywood Records and Disney. The song is also of high importance to the group's history because it's the track that ended up getting the trio signed as a group by Columbia Records at the time.
At the time, "S.O.S." became the Jonas Brothers' biggest hit and set the youngest Jonas on the path to becoming their primary songwriter. The cheeky, playful tune was written solely by Nick and highlights the romantic concerns of any teenager with silly references to how overrated hugs are over an impeccably catchy beat. In a 2008 joint interview he did with hero Elvis Costello for Rolling Stone, the pop star revealed that the lyrics for the single had came to him in the middle of the night.
"When You Look Me in the Eyes" was another track that originally appeared on his pre-JoBros solo debut, but it got a grandiose makeover for the band's version. The group's first big foray into the power ballad territory gave their Hollywood Records debut (and Disney crossover) some depth and primed them to become the era's big pop-rock boy band.
The irresistible "Burnin' Up" made the Jonas Brothers even bigger as they reached the Top Five for the first time with this track. With a feature from their body guard Big Rob, the track was pure summer fun over a crunchy guitar solo, showcasing how truly arena-ready the trio had become. At the time, the funkiness of the track got a comparison to Prince, with Entertainment Weekly stating that it "was inspired by the Jonas Brothers' unlikely appreciation for the work of babe magnet Prince."
Nick Jonas has struggled with diabetes for most of his life, and he tackled his illness head-on with the power ballad "A Little Bit Longer" off the Jonas Brothers album of the same name. The track not only gave a younger face to a disease that's seen as an issue for many older people, but it also showed off Jonas' maturity as a songwriter, gaining a solo writing credit in the extremely personal track. "I had a day when my sugar was out of range, and I sat down at the piano and wrote it in 20 minutes," he said at the time. "I had this strong inspiration. A lot of people told me it's inspiring."
Before the Jonas Brothers split, the teenage Jonas decided to explore his rootsier rock side with the band the Administration, his blues-rock side project that had him showing off his guitar skills and soul vocals. Along with three of the original members of Prince's New Power Generation, he went for a much different vibe and style inspiration than the tones of Drake and Justin Timberlake that pepper his current solo music. "I'm kind of modeling it after Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band," the New Jersey-raised singer told Radio Disney at the time. "It's kind of the look we were going for stylistically on the album cover and just the project in general… [Springsteen] pours so much passion and emotion into all of his songs every night and I hope I can capture that too."
"Jealous" was a gamechanger for Jonas, proving that the Christian singer turned boy band leader turned now solo pop star could be a sexy hitmaker. With his chest puffed out and falsetto rising higher and higher over the course of the song, Jonas transformed into a leading man with the fiercely confident electro-R&B vibe. Before the song came out, he described it as a "new-agey Lionel Richie vibe," hitting the nail on the head in the instant dance-ability his first big solo hit achieved.
As Jonas continues to experiment outside of rock, he's found a bit of a niche by becoming the full pop answer to Drake. Playfully autotuned over a sexy, slowjam beat, Jonas is drunk-dialing his ex a la Drake on "Marvins Room," and he even dropped the song discreetly on SoundCloud the way the Toronto rapper has done with various accidental hits over the years. And while Drake has his past relationship with Rihanna to play with in his lyrics, Jonas toys with a teenage romance with Selena Gomez, referencing her hit "Good for You" in the lyrics — "You say I never been good for you/But you can't deny I gave it good to you" — and coyly favoriting tweets from fans speculating that a VMA afterparty hang between the pair inspired the track.
At 23, Jonas becomes his most exposed yet with "Chainsaw," his second single off Last Year Was Complicated. The slowly pulsing R&B-pop song not only shows off the progression of his songwriting but the increasing strength of his voice, belting out the passionate, heartbroken lyrics of the track. "In a couple hours my most personal song I've ever written will be released," Jonas tweeted prior to releasing the video for his new single. "Hopefully my vulnerability speaks to you."