Two minutes into talking with the Jonas Brothers, a shaggy trio of teen rockers on the brink of Hannah Montana-sized stardom, I'm desperate for a translator. And when I say "translator," I mean "a 12-year-old girl with the innate gift to tell these New Jersey mop-tops apart."
As Kevin, Joe and Nick — just "the JoBros" or "JB" if you're in middle school — conduct a conference call from a tour stop in Michigan, I'm forced to slow things down and sound utterly, cluelessly 37 years old:
"Who answered that last question? Was that Nick? Joe? Kevin? That was Kevin, right?"
My confusion is followed by snickering and then, "Uh, that was Joe."
Right. J-o-e. Gotcha.
Not only do the members of this Disney-owned family act — Nick, 15; Joe, 18; Kevin, 20 — sound alike, they pretty much give the same safe quotes, too. Goody-goody sons of a minister, the Jonas Brothers spend their interview complimenting the "really great management team around us." They thank fans for "letting us live the dream." They unwind by "going to the mall" and "playing Wiffle Ball."
Just like Disney's Miley Hannah Montana Cyrus and Corbin High School Musical Bleu, the Jonas Brothers are squeaky-clean Mouse House stars through and through. They're also a billion-dollar franchise for that very reason. "We're good guys," says Nick or Kevin or Joe. "We don't use foul language in any of our songs."
Of course not. And when they play the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday, JB will play their catchy power-pop tunes (think Fountains of Wayne for the mac-and-cheese set) with "purity rings" on their fingers, another reason moms approve of them with the same zeal daughters do.
In the face of a modern media looking for dish on young celebs, the Jonas Brothers are trying to stay pure and project positivity, they say. But with the paparazzi on them 24-7, they already feel a sense of imprisonment.
"Every single day is a struggle. You have to pay attention to everything you say. They will twist a quote and make you sound awful. Thank God something like that hasn't happened to us yet."
Wow, good answer. Um, who just said that?
"That was Kevin," says Kevin. I'll take his word for it.
In 2005, the Jonas Brothers, from the tony burg of Wyckoff, N.J., were formed by Steve Greenberg, the Columbia Records exec who also unearthed Hanson. The JoBros released a debut album and received some MTV support. But when Columbia dropped Greenberg, it ditched the Jonas boys, too.
Disney snatched them up and paired them with its major franchise player, Miley Cyrus. The JoBros appeared on her hit TV show. They opened for her on her hit concert tour. They starred alongside her in her hit movie. As a result of the exposure, the brothers' self-titled 2007 album, rocket-boosted by such bright, catchy hits as S.O.S. and When You Look Me in the Eyes, has gone platinum.
The Jonas Brothers are a genius stroke by Disney.
When young girls stop playing with Hannah Montana dolls, they'll want to play with boys. And who better to pick up all those candied hearts than three tussle -haired cuties with Jesus on one shoulder and a guitar on the other?
The Jonas name will only get stronger in the years to come. The "Bonus Jonas," Frankie, is 9 and wants no part of the JoBros. Instead, he has his own band, his own dreams.
So if your daughter isn't yet old enough for Kevin, Joe or Nick, don't worry: The Jonas family has you covered.