2023 was the year to be outside, as Beyoncé may have coincidentally prophesied in 2022. Live music events, most notably Taylor Swift and Bey’s blockbuster stadium tours, seemed to dictate everyone’s summer budgets and travel plans. Along with the box office success of Barbie, these tours proved—or maybe just reemphasized—women as leaders in entertainment and even boosters of the economy. Scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, you would never even know that Drake, arguably Swift’s male equivalent, was also performing shows across the country.
Rather abruptly, though, 2023 has also become the year of the Jonas Brothers, who managed to carve out a space for themselves in an otherwise banner time for women in pop culture. The term “managed” is used lightly here, as the handsome trio have never really gone away, nor have they publicly experienced the sort of burnout that their female Disney Channel peers have openly endured.
Nonetheless, the illustrious siblings have, once again, taken over the zeitgeist. Given with the bombshell announcement that middle brother Joe Jonas filed for divorce from Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner earlier this month—plus the Kevin and Frankie Jonas-hosted reality show Claim to Fame becoming ABC’s latest hit—you’d be forgiven for thinking we had collectively stepped into a time machine, “Year 3000”-style. Only instead of arriving in the future, we’ve been yanked back to 2008, when skinny jeans and flat-ironed side bangs were acceptable styles for men.
Such retrospection has proven to be an efficient PR strategy for the Jonas Brothers, who have pulled off the rare second act for an American boy band after years of toying with solo projects and false starts. It all started with their 2019 comeback single “Sucker,” from their fifth (and third No. 1) album Happiness Begins following their breakup in 2013. But their latest phase, both a salute to their newfound maturity as fathers and a sentimental trip down memory lane, feels like its own behemoth.
Back in May, the former Disney Channel stars released their sixth studio album, simply titled The Album, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 1 on the Album Sales chart. Nonetheless, the announcement of their own version of Swift’s Eras Tour—titled Five Albums. One Night. World Tour—seemed to make a much bigger splash than any of their newly released music. In early August, they kicked off their latest series of live shows with a bang: two consecutive, sold-out dates at Yankee Stadium.
The choice to promote their latest album by highlighting their old discography (by playing every song from their first five LPs, minus their debut) has been met with both confusion and enthusiasm among fans—though mostly the latter, thanks to its intrinsic nostalgia bait. This year, the brothers even nodded to their Christian-crossover days, recruiting gospel legend Kirk Franklin for a Saturday Night Live performance in April and releasing a cover of Switchfoot’s “A Beautiful Letdown” for the 20th anniversary of the Christian alternative group’s eponymous album last month.
The Jonas Brothers, however, have always been underrated PR magicians, in the way that someone like their contemporary Taylor Swift is often recognized (and maligned) for. Similar to Swift, who briefly but infamously dated Joe in 2008, the siblings have relied on their famous leading ladies to boost the Jonas brand and draw attention to their otherwise uneventful personal lives. The music video for “Sucker” famously featured each of their spouses—Danielle Jonas, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Joe’s soon-to-be ex Turner—and in their first televised performance of the single at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards, all three women were filmed fangirling in the crowd.
Since becoming an A-list act again, the brothers have gone above and beyond to establish themselves as family men, or more dubiously, “wife guys” following Nick and Joe’s marriages—with their spouses’ compliance, it seems. Nick and Joe both publicized their respectively lavish and eccentric weddings on social media. All three brothers have spent recent press cycles answering questions about married life, discussing their “epic” proposals, and gushing about their three-way dates. It wasn’t a surprise when a friend of mine informed me, with an eye roll, that the siblings each walked their partners to their seats before beginning one of their shows at Yankee Stadium last month.
Anyone who’s followed the Jonas Brothers’ career since its infancy, though, understands that they’re an extremely industrious and hustle-prone family, perhaps because of their not-so-glamorous upbringing as the sons of a traveling minister and a teacher. Or maybe it’s because their initial time in the spotlight, like most American boy bands, burned out relatively quickly. That work ethic was especially on display after they had finally been released from Mickey Mouse’s glove and struggled to find a new, more mature fanbase in the early 2010s, before ultimately parting ways in 2013.
It’s interesting to note, however, that while the Jo Bros’ popularity was dwindling, their female Disney counterparts—particularly Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato—continued to rise in the ranks of pop stardom. Compared to boy bands and male teen idols, young women have historically been easier to market and transition to an adult audience. Still, these women’s prolonged success came with intense, gendered scrutiny and subsequent mental health problems—none of which the Jonas Brothers have ever dealt with publicly, aside from some cringey purity ring jokes. Thus, it seemed like that double standard allowed them to remain fame-hungry rather than want to retreat.
Likewise, the band revealed, after an initially vague breakup announcement, that they split up because of their separate solo aspirations and not because they wanted to get out of the limelight. That became clear as both Nick and Joe kept the family name relevant by embarking on semi-successful solo journeys—even if they weren’t nearly as famous on their own. While Kevin started a home construction business, the two younger brothers made their own albums, did some TV work, and, of course, dated famous women. Nick’s efforts to maintain his celebrity even included courting the gay community, though not without controversy.
By the time the siblings reunited, it seemed like the six-year hiatus was part of their career calculus all along. Not only did they give their Disney-era fans time to miss them, they also picked up younger fans and older listeners, who may have missed out on their Disney days, along the way. In a 2019 Billboard profile heralding their triumphant return, Monte Lipman, CEO of their new label Republic Records, gushed that the band “was bigger than anyone ever realized.” The group seemed equally enthused and proud of their achievements in the cover story, with Kevin humorously pondering if they could be “nominated for Best New Artist twice” at the Grammys. (The answer is no, but they did get nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance later that year.)
All in all, the Jonas Brothers’ embraced comeback and adored public image in recent years has been hard-earned. But it may be slowly starting to unravel, as news of Joe and Turner’s divorce has shed a negative light on the affable middle brother. Since the announcement of their breakup, sources close to the “Cake by the Ocean” singer have accused Turner of essentially being a bad parent, which has led folks on social media to suspect foul play on Joe’s part. Given the band’s hefty ambitions this era, it wasn’t exactly surprising to read that Joe allegedly “pressured” the Dark Phoenix star to attend more press events after the birth of their second daughter.
That said, the couple’s separation and the PR battle surrounding it has been difficult to get a firm grasp on, given the contradictory statements from both sides. The couple released a joint statement claiming that they were “amicably” ending their marriage, but Turner’s outing this week with Swift has thrown a wrench into the already confusing news story, with many interpreting the publicized uniting of Joe’s exes as a sign of war.
Regardless, it seems like the type of buzzy scandal that could’ve boosted the Jonas Brothers’ profiles years ago and provided a salacious aspect to their public image that was never really there. If ever there was a moment for one of the typically inoffensive brothers to get caught up in a messy breakup, now seems like the right time. It is their year, after all.