As a Jonas Brothers fan who spent a considerable amount of her teenage life writing fanfiction where the girl always falls for Nick Jonas, I’ve found it hard in recent years to reconcile the R&B chart-topping Nick Jonas with the mild-mannered JoBro with the ‘fro whose face was plastered all over my bedroom. While his musical maturation seems only natural, I have major qualms about the variety of “love” and relationship songs he’s got at the top of these charts these days (in retrospect, the JoBros sang plenty of questionable things about love, too) as well as the narratives presented in their music videos. Even if the songs aren’t sappy “love” songs in the vein of JB, his discussion of relationships and sexual attraction isn’t healthy and definitely not worth having stuck in your head for days.
While “Chains” is probably one of the least problematic singles, I still question how he sets himself and this relationship up. The image of “you got me in chains for your love” paints the female love interest as dominating Nick and how their relationship plays out. Yet, in the music video, his love interest is hardly active, at most pushing Nick over in a chair that he’s chained to. During the most intense moments where people are clashing with the police in riot gear, Nick is the one clawing through the police and people to reach the girl who is just standing, passively watching the chaos around her. I’m not sure if Nick’s actions in the music video are intended to contradict the dynamic he croons about, but I’m unsettled by the blame he puts on such a passive female when he’s clearly the one putting himself in danger to stay with her.
“Jealous” was the first song that raised the red flags in my mind and continues to make my stomach turn. There’s so much that’s problematic in this song:
“I turn my chin music up / And I’m puffing my chest / I’m getting red in the face / You can call me obsessed / It’s not your fault that they hover / I mean no disrespect / It’s my right to be hellish / I still get jealous / ‘Cause you’re too sexy, beautiful / And everybody wants a taste / That’s why I still get jealous.” Nick simultaneously paints himself as the victim and the hero, while the woman he’s talking about exists as nothing more than a sex object for Nick to fight over with everyone else who “wants a taste.” Furthermore, the justification of acting on these feelings, claiming it’s his right, is absolutely terrifying. Can’t the girl police her body herself? To me, Nick’s behavior and his justification of it sounds a lot like abuse, and it doesn’t help that the girl acts just as unhealthy: “‘Cause you know I get excited, yeah / when you get jealous too.”
Continuing the masculine, rough and tumble warehouse aesthetic seen in the previous music videos from Nick’s debut album, “Levels” lyrically isn’t too bad. It feels a bit like love and relationships are a video game, and Nick is more interested in beating the other dudes than winning the girl’s affections. What I found to be extremely off-putting were the female dancers in the music video, who are nothing more than sexy objects to decorate the background or serve as a prop for Nick. Honestly, you could put some lingerie on a broom and have him dance with that and there wouldn’t be much different. The women certainly don’t contribute to the music video’s narrative or have any agency; they’re merely there to create a “sexy” atmosphere and bolster Nick’s credibility as a man who can level-up so high that “heaven can’t reach us” and “we’re high-fiving Jesus.”
As someone who’s dealt with an ex who didn’t respect my desire to not have them in my life and consequently received a fair amount of texts (sometimes drunk) either telling me I was a terrible person or questioning why I had cut them out, “Area Code” makes me anxious and feel hunted. While Nick may be painting himself as a victim– he’s entitled to his feelings because you feel what you feel– but acting on them like this, and preying on the girl is not okay. Somehow people still find Nick attractive despite these severely problematic behaviors (reminds me of how everyone pined after Adam Levine in Maroon 5’s “Animals” music video even though he’s a stalker/serial killer, but it was okay because he’s so hot).
If any of the previous songs didn’t have you concerned about Nick’s mental health and violent tendencies, then “Chainsaw” should definitely throw some red flares that his favorite emotion is anger and setting a house on fire is his “healthy” way of dealing with a breakup. There are plenty of people (read: the ones you should date) who don’t take a chainsaw to sofas, break china, or set houses on fire because a relationship ended. But the people who do are the ones who often end up on the news for murder-suicides and other violent acts. In no way should Nick’s reaction to a break up with a girl he “loves” (hard to call it love when he holds her against a wall at one point) look like this.
“Bacon” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Once again, Nick seems to prefer to place the blame on girls. “One thing I love more than being with you / and that’s no ties, no drama in my life,” sings the guy who smashed up a house and set it on fire in a previous video. Worse, is the “boys’ club” vibe the music video has at Nick rolls with his crew, all of them wearing LYWC (“Last Year Was Complicated”) snapbacks, and he makes himself right at home in this diner. Nick’s bravado is meant to come off as charming and attractive, but I mostly feel for the patrons and diner staff who have to put up with him and his crew’s shenanigans.
Once again, we’re met with a smashed up house in “Under You.” While this relationship drama doesn’t seem to be a breakup, it does involve a great deal of sexual frustration from Nick. I’m not quite sure of what to make of the girl’s behaviors in the music video, from her lying seductively on his messy bed to throwing a lamp at a wall to her tear-stained mascara to her flicking him off to her waiting for him in the shower. Regardless of what her actions were, Nick’s reactions are totally inappropriate. Anger and sexual frustrations should never be dealt with by destroying a house, and somehow he seems to place some of that blame on the woman he’s singing to (a similar move he pulls in “Voodoo”), trying to connect her unwillingness to have sex with him as the reason for his mental state and violence.
Similar to “Levels” and big bro Joe of DNCE’s “Body Moves,” the music video for “Champagne Problems” includes some male gaze-y shots of women’s legs and butts at a club as Nick sings from the floor (why are you on the floor, dude?). This might be the closest we get to Nick ever claiming an ounce of culpability in his relationships’ problems, still, lyrics like “How did our clothes end up all on the floor?” distance himself from the questionable behaviors. While this video or song isn’t blatantly problematic, even though it centers around a messy, drunken relationship, what we don’t directly see or hear but is hinted at raises some concern about consent. I might be reading too much into this, but it’s hard not to assume the worst when Nick’s image has been built on hyper-masculinity and violence paired with substance abuse (in his lyrics and real life–he’s always drinking and smoking in the YouTube docu series “Last Year Was Complicated”) along with lyrics that avoid accepting blame and declare his right to unhealthy behaviors and actions. These are the attitudes that make up a large part of rape culture.
“Remember I Told You” is Nick’s most recent single from his upcoming fourth album. While the music video is tame and polite, lyrically, it still echoes so many of the sentiments his other songs and music videos do. Guest vocalist, Mike Posner sings, “Hate is just a fancy way of saying I care,” which has so many abusive undertones and plays into every “being mean to you means he likes you” girls have heard since they were kids. Worse is what Nick said about this song in an interview, “With this song, I love this message – I feel like it’s a position so many people have been in, where they feel like they’re not being heard, I love that first line. I feel like it’s a really humble way of asking for someone’s attention and begging to be heard after you’ve given so much to them.” In short, he believes that because he’s given so much to this girl that she owes it to him to hear him out. In case you weren’t aware: No, she does not.
I’m not sure what to make of Nick’s abusive image, and whether it really is just the persona he adopts as a musician and not what he really believes or feels. It’s hard to write it off as a persona, though, when he claims this music is the most honest he’s been. Maybe it’s shocking that this is the truth, or at least, his truth.
Of course, female musicians also use violence and anger in their music videos, but those videos are often exaggerations, not reflections of their real behavior, as in the case of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” and Halsey’s “Now Or Never.” Even sexual attraction plays out differently in female musician’s videos, such as Charli XCX’s “Boys,” where the males are mostly doing innocent, silly things in their regular street clothes, and the more scandalous, shirtless scenes feel tongue-in-cheek about the hyper-sexuality.
The fact is we’re living in a post-Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” world where male artists’ celebration of abusing women fills songs and videos. Even when the abuse becomes reality, artists like Chris Brown continue to top charts, win awards, and maintain their significant female following. The pervasiveness of these sentiments in Nick’s music and videos as well as the other musicians who guested on Nick’s tracks suggest he is just another male musician who paints his hyper-masculinity as charming and preaches abuse as love to the thousands of females caught up in the catchiness of his hits and the musculature of his body. That’s the biggest crime of all: leading thousands of fans to believe these are the healthy ups and downs of relationships and that Nick is the aspirational symbol of romance and/or sex.
Featured Image: Gossip Cop