Following on from his self-titled 2014 album, Last Year Was Complicated is almost exactly what you would expect to come from Nick Jonas. The R&B style explored on the previous album finds itself evolving here, with its beats and presence growing stronger as his voice does, and with his awkward attempts at sexy talk becoming somewhat more subtle and successful. It’s not an amazing collection of tracks, but there’s growth to be found.
The album’s little successes, the tracks that particularly capture your attention, are easily the biggest draw here. He tackles the synthpop style with complete success on the funky and bubbly yet initially misleading break-up anthem Champagne Problems, and the chiming and warbling of the poppy R&B track Testify shows Jonas tackling the album’s predominant style in a way that suits him best. While the intro track Voodoo is somewhat clunky lyrically and takes one too many notes from Timbaland for its own good, it also gives the collection a strong starting point to push forward from. The focus of the lyrics on his own life and issues makes for some great across the album as well, though this is most notable in Champagne Problems.
Last Year Was Complicated does find itself faltering quite often, however, thanks to its desire to stuff the album with as many songs as possible. The less striking, somewhat dull R&B and ballad tracks find themselves struggling to carry the album between its highlight moments, with the second single Chainsaw, the slow enticing groove of Good Girls and the ethereal R&B ballad When We Get Home—bolstered by the inclusion of guest vocalist Daniella Mason—being the only one to make a major impression. The deluxe edition’s addition of a selection of songs from his previous album only makes matters worse; the difference between the new and old tracks is obvious, and only serves to exacerbate the existing problem.
If there’s anyone that’s going to enjoy Last Year Was Complicated, it’s pre-existing Nick Jonas fans. He’s doing what he’s been doing for the past few years, and slowly getting better as he works his way into the genre and slowly but surely sheds his boy band past for this new image. It’s anything but a perfect album, with plenty of little flaws and a generally overstuffed tracklist dragging it down more than they should, but it’s clear to see that Nick Jonas is heading in the right direction.