The first records I remember loving as a kid were some 45s by the 1960s group Herman’s Hermits, which I inherited from my older siblings. I’ve loved my bubblegum bands ever since; from the Bay City Rollers in the ’70s to Wham in the ’80s to Hanson, 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys in the ’90s. I even liked 98 Degrees.
Why then have I not taken to the Jonas Brothers? They should be right in my sweet spot, musically and aesthetically, and yet I’ve remained totally un-Jona-fied. Granted, I’m way older than their average fan but that’s never stopped me before. I saw “Step Up” in the theater on opening weekend … and “Step Up 2.” So what’s the hold up?
I could say it’s because I’ve been obsessed with current events and the presidential election in a way I’ve never been before but that’s a hollow excuse. You can watch “Bill Moyers Journal” and still make time to download “Burnin’ Up,” which I hear is the big hit I should already have memorized. I mean, even the Grammys and Barbara Walters are ahead of me on this one. That’s shameful.
“It’s not your fault, Dennis,” my pop culture guru friend Dave assured me. “The Jonas Brothers weren’t marketed to you. Back in the days of 'N Sync and Backstreet, the teen bands were launched in a more mainstream way, like on MTV or whatever. Now, with the Disney Channel, they shoot that junk right into the tween veins.”
This makes sense. After all, Miley Cyrus wasn’t on my radar at all until she took her top off in Vanity Fair and “The View” ladies were forced to chime in.
“So stop beating yourself up,” Dave told me. “The Jonas Brothers weren’t aiming for you.”
Keeping up with the JonasesWell, they’re getting me now whether they want to or not. The goal was simple. I planned to be up to speed on all that is Jonas before their new film, “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” opens this Friday. That way, I could revel in the 3-dimensional, Dolby digital splendor with the other J-Mates, assuming that’s what they call themselves. I clearly don’t know.
It wouldn’t be easy, I knew. I have a job and a financial meltdown to keep track of — not to mention “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — but I’d stay up late and skip church if I had to.
I started my quest with a trip to Amoeba Records in Hollywood where the counter guy, Mike, offered a bit of Jonas intrigue. In 2006, he told me, before the trio signed with Disney, they had an album out called “It’s About Time” on the indie Christian label INO.
“It’s almost impossible to find now,” Mike explained. “When we get one, it sells for like $250.”
What happened there? Did the old label drop them or did the House that Mickey Built shut that action down? I like to imagine the Seven Dwarfs showing up at the INO offices with torches, gasoline and an army of lawyers.
I’m bought two previously owned CDs, “A Little Bit Longer” and “Jonas Brothers,” and loaded them into my car stereo. I was soon bopping to the Jonas beat but, I must say, the packaging situation is a bit of a bummer. The Partridge Family used to give you swag with their albums, like notebooks and shopping bags, but the discs I got didn’t even have lyrics or liner notes. I still didn’t even know who was who.
Ask the expertsIt was time to call in an expert in the form of my college friend Julie’s 12 year-old daughter, Melissa. Melissa describes herself as “a fan but not a super, crazy loser fan.” Funny enough, that’s exactly what I was shooting to be by Friday.
“Let’s start with their names,” I said. “There’s Nick, Joe and Josh, right?”
“There’s no Josh,” she said. “There’s Kevin.”
“It seems like there should be a Josh,” I insisted.
“Well, there’s not,” she said, “but there is another younger brother, Frank. He’s not in the band but he’s going to be on the new show on the Disney channel, ‘J.O.N.A.S.’”
“Maybe Frank’s going to be like Jimmy Osmond,” I mused. “Sort of dorkier and less romantically intimidating that the other brothers but really popular in Japan.”
“I have to go,” said Melissa, who then hung up.
Barbara Walters, on Oscar night, was of little help because she was clearly too turned on to really pry. She did bring up the much talked-about purity rings, but the boys don’t like to go into that stuff.
A word of advice to teen stars, present and future: Don’t talk about your virginity ever because once you do, people will demand constant updating. Did we learn nothing from Britney? Keep us guessing, even if you’re 12.
For me, the biggest take-away from the Barbara interview was that the youngest Jonas, Nick, is clearly the heart, soul and mastermind of the whole operation. As he talked the band’s future and his struggle with diabetes, he seemed far older and much wiser than his 16 years — and my 40-whatever years, for that matter. This Nick Jonas kid gets it. He thinks big picture. Can we get him to take a look at health care?
So now it is three days and counting till the “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” and there are still huge gaps in my Jonas Brothers knowledge. Like which one jilted Taylor Swift? So much to learn, so little time.
I guess I’ll have to compensate for my late conversion with sheer enthusiasm and maybe a glow stick. I’ll gaze at the band adoringly and move my mouth like I do know the words even thought I don’t.
It seems to work for Oprah.
Dennis Hensley is the author of the books “Misadventures in the (213)” and “Screening Party.” Read more from him at www.dennishensley.com.