Nick Jonas returns with a sexy, easy-going sophomore studio album titled Last Year Was Complicated. Building on his self-titled debut, this album affirms his transition from teen idol as a former Jonas Brothers star to a maturing solo artist who is able to attract new fans and appeal to a wider audience.

‘Last Year Was Complicated’ by Nick Jonas Album Review

Jonas cites the late Prince as a major influence on his music as of late, and indeed, Last Year Was Complicated has some funkier touches both vocally and rhythmically. The production perhaps alludes to an earlier era of pop, when Justin Timberlake ruled the charts. In this way the record tries to remain sonically timeless but is often on the verge of sounding a little too overdone and unimaginative. As a result, many of the tracks sound similar, which with a record as long as this one (18 songs in total) is quite disappointing.

Jonas is all over the place with his music — from downtempo seductive R&B to strong and confident hip-hop elements and his tried and true smooth pop vocals. Most staggeringly perhaps the album even has a spot for a song glorifying bacon, eponymously titled “Bacon.” But Jonas largely vacillates between two contrasting personas — the vulnerable balladeer and the confident bad boy. The singer is not afraid of revealing his vulnerability and allows it to feed his creativity. Jonas opens up about his heartbreak on many tracks such as the piano-driven ballads “Chainsaw” and “Unhinged.”

At the same time, Last Year Was Complicated also channels certain darker, sensual vibes alla Zayn Malik, though in a less streamlined way. “Champagne Problems,” for example, is a tale about excess with a catchy dance beat and zero cares. On “The Difference,” Jonas sings with impeccable bravado, while “Good Girls” too has him lamenting a gender dynamic, which causes him to sing in disbelief, “When did all these good girls decide to be bad?” The short verse by Big Sean provides an interesting texture to the track’s strutting beat, which makes us wonder why it wasn’t more prominent in place of the repetitive chorus.

The album’s lead single — “Close” featuring Tove-Lo — is an immediate standout because Jonas seems to lay it all out in a powerful, explosive ballad without trying to play a part. Tove-Lo’s vocals blend perfectly with Jonas’ and the visuals accompanying the song are just as effective. Ultimately, Last Year Was Complicated reflects Jonas’ attempt to break away from his past as a teen pop star. He shows maturity and emotional genuineness in his work, though he doesn’t quite seem to have found his footing just yet.

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