Jonas Brothers, Hanson aim to capture more mature sound

By | October 10, 2013


The Jonas Brothers — (from left) Nick, Joe and Kevin — are presenting an updated sound on their current tour, which brings them to Milwaukee this month. The brothers (inset) were stars at the 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards.

The Jonas Brothers — (from left) Nick, Joe and Kevin — are presenting an updated sound on their current tour, which brings them to Milwaukee this month. The brothers (inset) were stars at the 2008 Kids’ Choice Awards.

Update: Less than two hours after this story was initially posted, People magazine broke the news that the Jonas Brothers has canceled its tour, including the Oct. 28 show set for the Riverside Theater, due to a “deep rift within the band.” 

It’s tough growing up. But imagine growing up with social media tracking your every move, with a brand worth millions resting on your shoulders, with the odds of long-term mega-success being slim to none.

That’s the not-so-secret life of a young adult superstar.

“There were days that were scary, and there were days that were exciting,” said Joe Jonas, 24, of the Jonas Brothers, one of the most popular bands in the world, especially among teen and tween girls, between 2008 and 2010.

“Five minutes after walking off stage with Stevie Wonder, we’d be looking at each other saying, ‘Did that really happen?’ …But a lot of people genuinely looked up to you, and you didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

“It’s different as an adult. You have your rhythm, you know who you are as a person. But we had to grow up as well.”

The Jonas Brothers are performing at the Riverside Theater on Oct. 28 as part of a crucial new campaign to establish longevity beyond its shrieking-girl demographic that’s growing up and moving on.

They’re not alone in this crusade. It’s been a newsworthy year for teen stars in transition. Fellow former Disney Channel stars Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez released more mature pop albums. Barely a day goes by without some new controversial Justin Bieber story chipping away at his once clean-cut image. Then there’s 20-year-old Miley Cyrus, the former “Hannah Montana” Disney Channel star, twerking her way into pop culture dominance on the MTV Video Music Awards in August, then following up with a sexually charged, naked performance in her controversial “Wrecking Ball” music video.

These stars have various roadsin front of them. The deeply talented can mature into A-list superstars a la Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson. They could disappear into obscurity like teen rap act Kris Kross, declared has-beens by their 20s. Or they might go the Hanson route. The band of brothers commercially peaked as kids (in Hanson’s case, with 1997’s ubiquitous bubblegum pop song “MMMBop”), but as adults, they maintain a devout following with new albums and constant touring around the world, including a show at the Pabst Theater Saturday.

There’s also another road, one riddled with drugs, legal problems or bizarre behavior, the road actresses Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes have taken.

“Part of growing up is being able to experience failure in a healthy way,” suggested Matthew Jandrisevits, a psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
“Most of us are afforded the opportunity to be self-reflective and honest with ourselves and to be able to learn. Kids in the spotlight have so many people who are almost eager to comment on their mistakes,…and that makes it pretty difficult for the young person to feel like they can grow through it.”

A ‘strategic hot mess’

As pop culture consumers, we “get a kick out of seeing who is going to crack,” offered Jeremy Schulz, brand manager for WNRG-FM (106.9), known to listeners as weekday afternoon and early evening host Cousin Ed. “Drama makes the world go round.”

Cyrus definitely understands this. Her provocative, tongue-wagging, butt-shaking VMA performance may have seemed wild, and by her own prior standards and those of other pop stars, it was. But it was, as Cyrus called it on her recent MTV documentary special “Miley: The Movement,” a “strategic hot mess.” The “Wrecking Ball” video, an edgy Rolling Stone cover story, a feud with Sinead O’Conner over Cyrus’ behavior and some self-parody on “Saturday Night Live” dominated headlines, leading up to her album “Bangerz,” which dropped Tuesday.

“People get to know you as one thing, and they don’t want to see you grow up. They want to remember you as a cute little teenage boy or girl on TV,” said Dave Adams, program director for WRNW-FM (97.3), better known as Clear Channel’s local Radio Now station. “(Cyrus) had a hard time breaking through radio and breaking into pop culture, to be considered a serious artist….She was lambasted in social media and in the press, and yet her (‘Wrecking Ball’) video was one of the fastest-growing videos on VEVO, and the song went No. 1 (on the Billboard charts). In the end it worked to put money in the bank account.”

Joe Jonas agrees that Cyrus, his former Disney Channel colleague, is “smart….Whether or not you have an opinion of her, good or bad, we’re talking about her.”

While we shouldn’t expect to see the Brothers twerking at the Riverside, “we are also going to be doing things that are shocking and different,” Jonas said

He said the band keeps making trips to the studio to revise its forthcoming “comeback” album, “V,” which the band hopes to self-release by November. Lead single “Pom Poms” featured double entendres set to a marching band beat and some cleavage shots in the music video.

“Songs on that record, some are sexual, some are about heartbreak, and some are…about being back at it,” Jonas said.

He admits he’d love to return to the band’s glory days, when it was headlining arenas and stadiums.

“But I’m not dying to do that,” he said. “We’re wanting to make music we’re really proud of, that we can, at the end of the day, be excited about.”

The new music won’t trigger a massive Jo Bros pop-culture comeback, Schulz predicted. “They’re going to have their die-hard fans, but they haven’t adapted to today’s sound,” he said.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Hanson never adapted its sound or tried to act edgy, and there was never a major drug, sex or legal scandal.

Staying rooted in Tulsa, Okla., away from Hollywood glitz and paparazzi, kept them grounded, said Isaac Hanson, 32. So did their parents, who were “always reminding us to keep our heads on straight. And even the most unsavory characters in the world are not unwise enough to try and offer drugs to an 11-year-old,” the age of youngest Hanson brother Zac when the band became stars.

As the crowds shrank, Hanson stayed true to its R&B-influenced pop sound and pleased fans with a lyrical thesis consistent in “MMMBop” and 16 years of songs since: “optimism in the face of unpleasantry.” And a humbling gesture at its concerts going back to 2007 — with the band and fans walking a mile barefoot together before nearly every show (including at 3 p.m. Saturday), to raise awareness and donations to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa, has endeared them even more.

“Ultimately, our goal was to be a band and be recognized for our songs and making records,” Isaac Hanson said. “And I think that has been the case.”




Who: Hanson with David Ryan Harris

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where:Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St.

Tickets: $27.50 at the box office, (414) 286-3663 and pabst


Who: Jonas Brothers with Bonnie McKee

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28

Where: Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Tickets: $47.50 to $89.50 at the box office, (414) 286-3663 and


Who: Jonas Brothers with Bonnie McKee

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28

Where: Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Tickets: $47.50 to $89.50 at the box office, (414) 286-3663 and

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