Yes, it’s Love is Pain day. Here, have a metaphor.
Alfred Soto: For a moment I though this was The Weeknd, and why not? She wanted his soul when he offered his heart, she’s got him in chains, and so on. On his last (superior) single, he still got jealous.
Maxwell Cavaseno: This is not R&B, man! This is draped in the signifiers of R&B and hip-hop, with those little quick squelching edits, the pitch-warping on the vox, the drums. But man, this stuff could have easily been backed by “real music” drums and some hard alt-rock style eighth note riffs for drama and been the same damn song. In that regard, I still fuck with the blatant way that Nick Jonas suggests and impresses that he’s robbing, without really trying to swim among the school (he’s not Robin Thicke). This song is just a blatant, well-designed pop hit; I think I’ve forgotten each lyric every time it’s come out, and the melodies are just as irrelevant. It’s the EASE of this transition, the way he’s selling it. This is a kid who sold being a fake rock band so easily, and likewise he’s selling a fake-out of R&B just as casually. He never makes it sound like an overt steal, because it isn’t. He takes the same tropes and sterilizes them so that they no longer have the context they once held, there’s no real root. It’s evil, but in a world of garish Riff Raff lazy juxtapositions or Drakkonian curatorial excess (“Yo,” a nasal voice intones as he leads you through his manor “Look at my Migos Versace Jacket… it’s so #trill and #swaggy, right?”) where people want to show off the accessory to indicate “taste” regardless of how lame one looks while doing so, it’s refreshing to see someone being evil and doing it RIGHT.
Iain Mew: Possibly an over obvious question here, but is it coincidence that this is belatedly climbing the Hot 100 alongside The Weeknd and Ellie Goulding? It doesn’t have much else going for it beyond its theme and Nick Jonas’s commitment to sounding pained.
Thomas Inskeep: He wants to be Justin Timberlake so fucking badly, but when you’re working with no-names who’ve come up working with the likes of Demi Lovato and Jason DeRulo, this greatly diminishes your chances. Also, apparently “chains” and “change” sound similar. This is really, really dull grown-up-boy-band-pop.
Anthony Easton: The less minimal beat, the less interesting this gets; the higher his voice gets, the more he rests on a history of boyband theatrics. The first minute and the bit around 2:30 of this would be a better song than the rest of the dramatics.
Katherine St Asaph: The legitimacy — even praise! — given to Nick Jonas’s R&B dilettantism makes me think that the entire critical establishment is engaged in some kind of elaborate kayfabe or Madoff scheme, or perhaps that everybody is secretly fucking Nick Jonas, which judging by “Chains” would be a very sad experience consisting of three hours of tugging and prodding and coaxing until you give up and he cries into the necktie hanging limply from his waist. His falsetto is seldom on pitch; when it’s sharp it sounds like he’s trying to let out a fart that won’t dislodge; when it’s flat it sounds like a whining drill; when it’s loud it sounds like the first recorded attempt to go AYY LMAO in song. The chorus literally goes “you’ve got me in chains for your love / but I wouldn’t change this love.” Perhaps next he should try gags.
Luisa Lopez: There’s something about Nick Jonas’ voice that sounds plaintive in all the wrong ways (that falsetto!). His throat seems to close painfully around every run, turning what must have been meant as howls of desire into long bubbles dragging themselves through each verse. The song is a harmless whine, all that extra sound too desperate and too smug. Strange, then, that it’s saved in certain moments by its own odd nothingness, the guttural grumblings beneath the words and its sudden ending.
Edward Okulicz: Real nice verses here, with Jonas’s impression of pain more or less being as good as the real thing. I even imagine that ticking noise and the throbs could have placed this as an R&B rip of “Teardrop” or even Tina Arena’s song of the same title. Alas, it’s the equal of neither, as its chorus falls apart on the very hook it tries to rest on. Yes, love and pain is a dogeared trope, but one must do better than attempting to exploit how “change” and “chains” have a few letters in common. That’s a lyrical pair not yet overused for a reason.
Brad Shoup: Props to Nick Jonas for making the Jason Voorhees comparisons explicit.