Supposedly the most talented of the three Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas actually recorded a solo album before his family trio was quite correctly deemed more marketable to the Disney set. Taking another stab at a career independent of deadweights Joe and Kevin, Nick has united with several members of Prince’s New Power Generation, now dubbed the Administration, for Who I Am. The album stands as a welcome reprieve from the trying-to-pass-a-kidney-stone yelps that Joe attempts to pass off as singing with the JoBros, but there’s precious little else to recommend it to anyone outside of the brothers’ core constituency.
The arrangements are certainly a step up from Nick’s usual backing band (there’s a competently performed blues guitar break on “Olive and an Arrow,” and “Conspiracy Theory” boasts an actual rhythm track instead of a slick facsimile of one), but there’s nothing all that inspired or novel here. It’s still a too-polished, kid-friendly approximation of a rock record, splitting the difference between the ill-fitting maturity of 2009’s Lines, Vines and Trying Times and the lukewarm soul affectation of John Mayer’s Battle Studies. Jonas isn’t convincing in either mode: The seriousness of the inexplicably titled “Vespers Goodbye” turns the song into a full-on dirge, while his falsetto on would-be reflective ballad “In the End” and mealy-mouthed slurring on the title track are equally awful attempts at demonstrating range.
When he sticks to a more straightforward pop hook, as on “Last Time Around” and “Conspiracy Theory,” Jonas gives at least a glimmer of hope that he might have the chops to transcend his place in the now-fading teen-pop cycle. But Who I Am more frequently suggests that he’ll need to step up his game considerably if he wants to extend his time in the limelight. And it confirms the already obvious point that he’s no Prince.