With Bieber fever finally starting to wane, and with Justin Timberlake still busy doing his try-hard movie-star thing, Top 40 radio currently has a space for a young male pop star with A-list producers and a vague R&B influence. Enter Joe Jonas and his solo debut, Fastlife, in an attempt to make the rare successful transition from tween idol to pop lothario, and with producers like Rob Knox, Brian Kennedy, and Danja at the mixing board, and a halfway decent slate of contemporary pop tunes, Fastlife surprisingly gives Jonas a decent shot at pulling off that difficult jump.
One of the major problems with the Jonas Brothers’ albums was their insistence in placing Joe’s constipated yelp of a voice front and center on almost every track. While Fastlife makes it clear he’s still a technically awful singer, the album wisely emphasizes its slick production and massive pop hooks rather than Jonas’s thin performances and underdeveloped personality. He completely botches the low notes in the verses of “Sorry” and generally lacks energy on the title track, despite singing about how the girl he’s trying to pick up may not be able to keep up with him. He fares better on “Take It and Run,” which doesn’t have much range in its melody, and on “Just In Love,” on which he sings at half volume and more or less stays out of the way of Knox’s layered, club-ready production.
The five tracks produced by Danja are the set’s strongest. “All This Time” sounds like a more full-bodied spin on Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right,” which is a fine single to crib from, while “Make You Mine” has the same kind of forceful stomp that made Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want from Me” and Pink’s “So What” radio anthems. Jonas certainly can’t match someone like Timberlake in terms of a defined aesthetic or presence, but at least he and his team had the smarts to enlist producers who know how to construct solid pop songs. That may not make Fastlife much of an artistic statement, but it does make it a better pop album than any of the Jonas Brothers’ albums or Nick Jonas & the Administration’s Who I Am.