Words Trey Taylor
Photography by Tom Munro
Styled by Cathy Kasterine
Put on “This Is Heaven” by Nick Jonas and toss your limbs toward the ceiling like the GIF of Scarlett Johansson dancing in A Marriage Story. Line the walls with an LED light strip, pour a glass of the singer’s tequila, Villa One—I recommend the añejo on the rocks—and debate texting your ex while “2Drunk” loosens its dopey counsel on your decisions. Beat your air drums to the subaquatic thump of “Deeper Love” while you mime the soaring backing gospel choir (“Deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper love!”).
Whether you’ve had the vaccine by now or not (Jonas hadn’t at time of speaking but had plans), there is already a soundtrack to this fast-approaching, post-pandemic Roaring ‘20s: Jonas’ new album, Spaceman. A jubilant return to the maximalist pop sound of the ‘80s, it was inspired by the Rubenesque soundscapes of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News, and Steve Winwood. In 2019, the singer presided over hyperventilating fans throughout 92 arenas as part of the Jonas Brothers’ Happiness Begins comeback tour. Now, just a few years later, Jonas seems comfortably settled into married life with his wife, actress Priyanka Chopra. His solo album, which was released just a few weeks ago, bubbles over with a story of solitude while weaving in the long emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s a chance you may not have heard it, though. The lead single, “Spaceman,” only climbed to 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (By contrast, his song “Sucker,” which Jonas released with his brothers, is the artist’s only song to hit number one.) But as Jonas is continuously underestimated by critics, he has had the last laugh. He is the most comfortable and happy he’s ever been, making music for himself—and, it should be noted, his superstar wife. “This is caviar with some Pringles,” he sings of married life in “Death Do Us Part.” Is it possible that this scion of centrist pop is not overlooked, but underrated?
“That’s an interesting question,” Jonas responds. He’s dressed today in a loud marine Berluti shirt and wearing only one Airpod like an in-ear monitor at a concert. “It’s most artists’ dream to be respected and be awarded by their peers. In some ways, I feel like I have been. In others, I don’t. I’m not going to assume that’s because they don’t get [my work], but perhaps I need to get better and push the envelope, push myself.”
Jonas thinks about it more while I neck back more of his tequila. To me at least, who has already downed one glass of añejo before our midday call, it seems as though he’d like to reach through the screen, shake my shoulders and yell “YES!!!” Yes, he has not released a solo album since 2016’s Last Year Was Complicated, which was given that title by Jay-Z and spawned four Hot 100 songs. Yes, he has been plugging away on Spaceman for a year with producers Greg Kurstin and MoZella, scrawling down lyrics run through with themes of isolation and being separated from “your person.” Yes, Spaceman is a disproportionately joyous listen given its dour lyrical content; all 13 songs sound like if The Weeknd wasn’t a narcissist. I urge you to try it, preferably with a lime to spritz into your drink.
Finally, after considering all angles from which his answer could be dissected, Jonas diplomatically adds, “I don’t think I’m underrated, I’ve got room to grow and get better every day.”
At 28, Jonas is currently in London with his wife, who is filming Citadel, the Russo brothers’ spy series for Amazon Prime. They are frequently spotted by paparazzi; Chopra warming her hands in Jonas’ jacket pocket on a “loved-up” stroll of the neighborhood that, for even the most jaded of romantics, is heartening to witness. Months earlier in the first lockdown, the couple rented a spot in Malibu with some of Chopra’s family, as well as friends of Jonas who “got stuck” with them in quarantine. To get some alone time, the pair planned a date night. They ordered food. Chopra wore a sari. “I steamed a shirt,” Jonas says with a laugh. “It wasn’t very exciting. But those moments amidst all this craziness, to prioritize two individuals, is important.”
They originally met at the Vanity Fair Oscar party in 2017, where Jonas reportedly got down on one knee and said, “You’re real. Where have you been all my life?” It was enough to secure Chopra’s number. They texted for a year, and she agreed to attend 2018’s Met Gala with him. But Chopra recently revealed she wasn’t convinced of him, telling Oprah that she “may have judged the book by the cover.” By that, it’s possible she meant that she never considered dating a Disneyfied boy bander who was considerably younger and mostly famous for his mollifying falsetto and cherubic curls. As they increasingly appeared in public together, fun headlines like “Priyanka Chopra spotted running her fingers through Nick Jonas’ hair” kept prurient gossip mongers in jobs. Jonas shut down a Tiffany & Co. in London to pick a ring and proposed after three dates. And thus, the actress 10 years his senior, whose father once had iron bars installed on their family home to deter unwanted attention from boys, allowed Jonas to slip through when he proposed to her in Crete in July 2018, one minute after midnight so it didn’t clash with her birthday.
“I’m not shy about admitting that’s the source of a lot, if not all of my inspiration when I'm writing,” Jonas says. “I feel really fortunate to have that muse and that support propels me to continue to write; it’s omnipresent for me. We’re together as much as we can be to bank as much time for those moments when we know that we inevitably have to be apart.” Indeed, they are often separated by circumstance. Chopra left Jonas for Germany to film The Matrix 4 for part of the last year. He began working on the album. On one of the tracks, “2Drunk,” he sings, “Should I send that text? Maybe not / But I miss that sex / Quite a lot.” It’s moot to even ask who this lyric is in reference to, but he tells me this one in particular was written “stream-of-consciousness, in a way.”
“It is very clearly about being too drunk,” Jonas continues. “It’s a little looser, and I like that element in the lyric where it doesn’t take itself so seriously. That’s one of my favorite songs on the album, and I’m really excited to play it live at a concert. That will be a drinks-up-in-the-air, party moment for sure.” Jonas answers all of my questions thoughtfully, soberly. He seems smitten in the way he talks about “Pri.” He’s got a new album out, a new podcast-streaming series hybrid on AppleTV+ titled Calls, and he’s ironing out details to play Frankie Valli in a streaming version of Jersey Boys.
In his spare time, which barely exists, he takes music cues from his brother Joe, who texts him about new songs to listen to or bands to check out. “Joe is the one with the finger on the pulse,” he says. The last track he sent was “Happiness” by Chris Malinchak (feat. MNEK), which has a “really cool deep house vibe.” The Jonas Brothers have no plans at the moment for a new release despite their feature on Nick’s song “Selfish,” but they’re always working on something, Jonas tells me. “We actually have a lot of music that we’ve written and recorded over the last couple of years that we’re just waiting for the right time to release and properly set up. It’s better when we can do it together in person.”
For now, it’s about Nick and Priyanka. A comment underneath his music video for “This Is Heaven,” a song about the euphoria of being reconnected with his wife after six weeks apart, reads: “I feel like he’s finally the person he’s wanted to be for so long.” He agrees this is a fair statement. He's exactly where he wants to be, despite one review of the album pointing to the old adage that happy people make bad art. “Are they saying that the album is bad because I’m happy?” he asks, quizzical. “I’ve had success for quite a long time. Anyone is entitled to their own opinion of my art or something I have done—if they think it’s bad, I'd love to hear why. And not because they think that I’m happy, that seems like a pretty asinine way to say that.” He continues, “Never take advice from the people you don’t respect, right? From those people, there certainly wouldn't be a thing where they would say this isn't good and the reason is because you are happy.”
Maybe Jonas is not underrated, but misunderstood. He won’t admit it, but he’s worked hard in the intervening years to emerge the other side of the Disney laundry chute as an adult—shaving off the curls to reveal the wood underneath, losing the purity ring, marrying Chopra, playing a gay MMA fighter on Kingdom, creating the tequila, smoking the occasional cigar. He is no longer the bar on which we can hang all of our hopes and dreams, a boy who can melt you with a puppy-eyed look. He is a happy guy who doesn’t mind a little chest hair peeking out of his shirt. What is it, I ask, that most people tend not to understand about him?
“They tend not to understand that I’m not serious,” he says. “At this point, I’m pretty laid-back and love to have a good laugh for anyone that knows me well. In the beginning of meeting new people, I take my time opening up to my full personality.” Jonas assures me he’s not a party guy, but if the mood strikes, he loves to cut a rug at home. Replaying “2Drunk,” Jonas reveals that personality—the one that comes after a few intimate hangs, or at least more than just an hour-long Zoom call. “Now I’m dancing in the kitchen / Breaking all the dishes / Breaking all the rules that I set myself.”
You’re not so serious, I eventually concur, just look at your shirt.
GROOMING Charley McEwen
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Sarah Thompson Creative Blood
DIGITAL OPERATOR Giorgio Lattanzi
DIRECTOR Harry Reavely
SOUND TECH Chris Sutton
POST PRODUCER Rachel Anderson
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Agata Grela
PHOTO ASSISTANTS Tom Hill, Pierre Lequeux, and Calem Caprara
STYLIST ASSISTANTS Yuriko Hiratsuka and Esme St Clair