ARTIST OF THE MONTH: JONAS BROTHERS | LINES, VINES AND TRYING TIMES (2009)
Lines, Vines And Trying Times is the fourth studio album for the teen idol trio Jonas Brothers, released June 16, 2009, in the US. Full of a dozen tracks, the album has the boys crooning about lots of relationship trouble, and teen girls should have plenty of reasons to feel sorry for these lovesick guys that seem to be taking their hits in love (see: "World War III," "Poison Ivy," "Paranoid"). The album finds the group expanding their musical horizons and covering many different genres, from their standard pop-rock to bluegrass, country, and funk. Although the tunes are accomplished, "Lines" has a patina of smarm that's less smart than the music. Every lyric is populated with some strain of stock crazy chick character who's always starting fights out of nowhere ("World War III"), refusing to get over a breakup ("Paranoid"), giving the brothers unexplainable rashes ("Poison Ivy") or being Joe Jonas' ex Taylor Swift ("Much Better").
Believe it or not, this album is mildly better than past releases, but while differences and slight improvements exist, songwriting's natural progression appears scarce. Lyrics ride the same tangent of good fun and donate occasional sparks of real-world experience. The brothers show off more experimentation with various instruments, leaning more towards BBMak than ordinary “boy bands” and earning them some respect. That is to say, I always feel more inclined to appreciate pop groups who can play music. Speaking of musical diversity, there are elements of bluegrass, swing, and the big band here that add a mature texture to an otherwise sappy record. Additionally, there are some wholesome entries like ”Fly With Me” and ”Keep It Real” bow dutifully to the Jonases’ younger fan base, but darker bits, such as the apparent Taylor Swift dis ”Much Better” (”Now I’m done with superstars/And all the tears on her guitar…. You’re much better”), cut through the NutraSweet. In the end, the reflective piano ballad ”Black Keys” feels the most honest.
There’s much hurt on "Lines, Vines and Trying Times," as nine out of 13 songs involve painful breakups. “Before the Storm” (featuring Miley Cyrus) is representative of the kind of the adolescent tell-it-to-my-journal angst that’s all over this album: “I’m trying to keep the lights from going out,” Joe sings, “and the clouds from ripping out my broken heart.” Can you say drama? Throughout these high-pitched proceedings, the Jonas Brothers’ wholesome image remains pretty much intact. However, parents of young fans would do well to remember that these guys were still moving towards maturity. Their perspective on life is long on emotion but short on the big-picture perspective necessary to make sense of the romantic wounds chronicled here.