A Little Bit Longer
It's always been a little bit too easy to compare the Jonas Brothers to their teen pop forefathers Hanson, as they're also an adolescent trio of brothers who play their own instruments and write much of their original material, all rooted in classic guitar pop. Initially, this comparison made sense, as their 2006 debut, It's About Time, bore an unmistakable similarity to Middle of Nowhere, but just two years later when the group delivered its third album, A Little Bit Longer, it was clear that the Jonas Brothers were a pop phenomenon in a way Hanson never were. Of course, the Jonas Brothers were helped immeasurably by the marketing might of Disney, who turned the group's 2006 stiff into the bona fide 2007 hit Jonas Brothers through saturation play on Radio Disney and countless TV appearances, including a guest-starring spot on Hannah Montana. By the time A Little Bit Longer appeared in late summer 2008, the trio's popularity rivaled that of Miley Cyrus, but they were better poised for a cross-generational crossover than the former Ms. Montana, as they had a stronger grounding in classic pop. A Little Bit Longer trades heavily on that foundation, so much so that it seems it was designed to be a teen pop album adults wouldn't be embarrassed to play. All the lingering goofiness of their first two albums has been stripped away — there are no songs about taking rocket trips to the year 3000 — along with any ounce of fat, which gives the album a mildly mature vibe, particularly when the power ballads surge toward overly dramatic choruses. Fortunately, this maturity doesn't dominate, as there is plenty of levity here — most appealingly on the mellow shuffle of "Lovebug" and the good-natured dig at shallow groupies on "Video Girl" — and as most of the record is devoted to punchy power pop like the addictive opener, "BB Good," A Little Bit Longer winds up with a nice, skillful blend of bubblegum and ballads, never tipping too far in one direction of another. It's a nifty trick that's much harder to pull off than it seems — countless other teen pop bands have stumbled as they attempt this balancing act that the Jonas Brothers pull off so effortlessly here — but the key to its success is that it is pitched perfectly between frivolous, disposable pop and meticulous mature craft, so as the Jonas Brothers continue to grow they might wind up losing that sense of fun that is integral to their music, but with this record they hit all the notes just right.