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Nick Jonas - Spaceman (Album Review)

Friday, 19 March 2021 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Anthony Mandler

Great pop records aren’t simply conjured from thin air, they are engineered from the ground up. To preside over one isn’t only to write a brilliant batch of personality-filled songs, but also a recruitment exercise and a rigorous test of an artists’ understanding of prevailing trends and their future longevity. Get any element wrong and you could potentially appear to be behind the curve, lacking in sharp enough hooks or the right production swatches.

Feed Nick Jonas’s ‘Spaceman’ into a computer and you might come up with a 60% match against these competing elements. The album—inspired by the otherworldliness and isolation foisted upon us by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic—knows what it’s doing. It lives in the slipstream created by Justin Bieber’s adventures in pop-house, calling on Jonas’s uber-crisp falsetto to sell melodies that are just so. But it falls apart, its knees buckling, beneath the weight of its ambition.

This isn’t a concept piece, but it is concept-adjacent. Its songs are driven by the desire to explore different elements of pandemic life and are grouped together beneath four umbrellas: distance, indulgence, euphoria, and commitment.

The reality, though, is that its constituent parts are best served in even smaller segments. Pick and choose the hits, ditch the rest.

A few moments—the opener Don’t Give Up on Us, the sax-scarred midpoint pick-me-up This is Heaven, the panpipe vibefest Deeper Love, which shares DNA with Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is—draft in elements of Lionel Richie’s party-starting ‘80s cheese. They stick out from a self-serious running order and demand redeployment to a few thousand separate playlists. In their shadow much of ‘Spaceman’ feels one-paced.

These songs speak of the comfort and nostalgia that many have sought during this period in time, but they represent a lose-lose dynamic. A whole album in this style? Too much. In this setting? Not enough. In that way Jonas has nailed the grey, miserable days under the yoke of Covid-19, where most things are struggling to fill a void bigger than their wingspan.

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