After just a six-year hiatus, the Jonas Brothers have officially announced their return with the release of the new single “Sucker,” set for midnight tonight. Yet while the very existence of new music would seem to dispel any notion of rumors that drama had led to a decision that it might be best for the health of their relationship as brothers to end their relationship as bandmates, the single’s art cover does not find each brother on equal footing.
Nick Jonas takes a definitive Beyoncé-like stance in the artwork, Joe and Kevin Jonas cast behind him in a way that Kelly Rowland and Michele Williams wouldn’t even tolerate. Nick stands a full foot or more closer to the camera than his two brothers and takes the center spot. While Nick is allowed to point his puppy dog eyes directly at the camera—and you, the viewer—Joe and Kevin look timidly off into the distance, perhaps at nothing at all, like they’ve just been yelled at by Olivia Colman in The Favourite. This is to say nothing of the styling choices. (Poor Kevin: While he’s wearing a Dries Van Noten shirt recently seen on Beyoncé, unlike Beyoncé, his stylist didn’t even bother to steam it for him first.)
Sure, in every band group photo, someone has to stand in the center, but the whole vibe seems like a deliberate choice to draw focus toward Nick, which, frankly, flies in the face of a long held notion: Joe is the true star of the Jonas Brother and I thought everyone knew that?
Now, some personal perspective: I am a bit too old to be in the demographic of a Jonas Brothers fanatic, but far from too old to have been immune to the original media sensation in general. Which is to say, I didn’t necessarily listen to their music, but I did perk up when they were on TV and note their journey from Disney Channel novelty to increasingly accepted mainstream entity. Some may say this means I have no right to even comment on the hierarchy of Jonas brethren, but let’s be honest with ourselves, while several people are Jonas Brothers music devotees, several more are casual fans who can name, like, three songs tops.
So all this time, I (and I’m willing to bet much of the rest of the world) was under the impression that during their time as a band, Joe Jonas was the indisputable lead Jonas.
Did he not sing lead on most of their songs? Did he not get the lead role in the Disney Channel original movie Camp Rock? Did he not have the first tabloid-baiting celeb relationship of the band (with Taylor Swift, no less)? Was he not the first to book a major-magazine cover solo? Does no one remember the April 2011 edition of Details magazine? Yes, apparently “Nick Jonas and the Administration” was a thing, and, yes, Nick Jonas’s V Man cover exists, but let’s be real: For a very defined amount of time, Joe was just on another Jonas tier.
If this was any other photo then perhaps it wouldn’t warrant so much conjecture. But it was chosen to signal the return of the band and set the agenda for a new era of the Jonas Brothers. There is no other way to read it than that Nick is now most definitely the focus of the band.
There’s no denying that things have changed in the six years they’ve spent apart. Joe’s solo career never truly took off, but he did find some measure of success with his band DNCE. Nick found a bit more musical success as a solo artist, and also some modest success an actor, ready to step into whatever role Zac Efron’s schedule can’t accommodate. He also had a highly covered whirlwind courtship and wedding with Priyanka Chopra. He’s certainly kept a higher profile, proven by the fact he has about 12 million more Instagram followers than Joe, and likely needed this reunion the least.
Yet you can’t rewrite history. Victoria Beckham may have become an icon in her own right after the Spice Girls split, but that didn’t mean that when the band reunited (the first time) she took center stage and forced the other girls into the background. Fleetwood Mac knew better than to do this during their various reunions. Not even Gwen Stefani took up so much space when she reunited with No Doubt in 2012.
I’m not asking much here, and I’m not asking for us to deny Nick’s place in the culture. All I’m asking is that we don’t deny the original hierarchy of the band and to at least let poor Joe take a step forward and look at the camera.