If you ask Jonas Brothers diehards about that fateful day in 2013 when the band abruptly canceled their tour days before it was slated to begin, they’ll agree that it was one of the darkest times in the fandom’s history. But things got even worse roughly three weeks later when the trio announced that they were over for good. “We feel like it’s time that the Jonas Brothers come to an end,” Kevin said on Good Morning America at the time, devastating those who had been loyal to them since their 2006 cover of Busted’s “Year 3000.”
Fast forward six years, and the Jonas Brothers are back and thriving. Their comeback single, “Sucker,” landed them their first-ever No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, their Happiness Begins album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and early numbers show that the Happiness Begins tour is doing better than any of their past treks. The tour is currently averaging $1.6 million per show, which, according to Billboard, “puts it on pace to be the top-grossing tour in the band’s history in terms of average per venue, exceeding the $1.1 million mark set by its 2009 world tour.” With numbers like that, we can’t help but wonder: Did going on hiatus make way for the Jonas Brothers’s biggest era yet?
Heather, a devoted superfan, thinks so. “I think the hiatus has a lot to do with the immense success that they’re currently experiencing,” she told MTV News. “People like myself, who are mega-fans, thought we would never see them again, so we’re soaking up every opportunity we can get.” That includes reliving her fondest teenage memories at several Happiness Begins shows. “My friends and I have already been to multiple tour stops and plan on attending many more,” she said.
Kelly, a fan who “started sobbing at work” when she heard the reunion news, agrees that much of the band’s post-hiatus success is likely due to nostalgia. “Most of the fans are grown-ups now and have careers and families,” she said. “They want to bring back the life they used to have with the Jonas Brothers and share it with their families.”
But is nostalgia alone really to thank for the Happiness Begins tour pulling in better numbers than the brothers’ previous ones? And similarly, is their absence the reason reunion single “Sucker” became their first-ever No. 1? According to Dave Brooks, Billboard‘s Senior Correspondent, Touring & Live Entertainment, those intense feelings are certainly part of it.
“I think there is a strong demand right now for nostalgia,” Brooks said. And because of this demand, fans are quick to take action by purchasing albums, buying concert tickets, and snapping up new merch. “Millennials and Gen X are willing to spend money to see the artists they grew up with because they like how those bands make them feel and remind them of simpler times before family and job demands,” he said.
While nostalgia is undeniably a big factor in a band’s post-hiatus success, profiting off years of absence in the industry also has a lot to do with timing. “The longer the hiatus and length of time these artists haven’t played, the more demand gets pent up and ultimately the more excitement fans feel for a reunion,” Brooks said. And although fans would probably agree that their hiatus was six years too long, it’s a relatively short break compared to artists who’ve made similar moves. Just look at the Spice Girls.
After announcing their indefinite hiatus in December 2000, the U.K. sensations reunited in 2008 for their sold-out Return of the Spice Girls Tour. They also briefly revved up fan excitement for another possible reunion with a performance at the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony in London. Despite just being a one-off, the performance gave fans hope that they’d consider joining forces again in the future. And so they did: The massively successful Spice World — 2019 tour grossed $78.2 million across only 13 dates. Their 2008 reunion tour, meanwhile, grossed $70.1 million over 45 dates, lending credence to Brooks’s point that the longer fans wait for a reunion, the more profitable and successful said reunion ultimately turns out to be. And the Spice Girls aren’t the only proof. In January, the Backstreet Boys‘s ninth album, DNA — their first in six years — yielded the group’s first No. 1 album since Black and Blue in 2000.
With results like that, taking an extended break may seem like an appealing move for an artist to get a bump. “I think some artists know that a break is a good thing and there is a lot of competition for fans’ attention, so limiting their creative output and taking time off can drive demand and create an environment where fans are begging for new music,” Brooks said. But taking a break is a fine line for artists to walk — especially if they wait too long to make their grand return. And as Brooks pointed out, there’s a running risk that fan interest could completely disintegrate. “There are always new artists ready to fill the void,” he said. “If a band is gone too long, they might not be able to come back on their own terms.”
Fall Out Boy and Blink-182, two of the biggest rock bands on the planet, both seemed to re-enter the spotlight at just the right time after taking years off between past albums. Brooks called Blink-182 “bigger than ever” in light of their new album Nine, their third since reforming in 2009 and second since a lineup change in 2015. Fall Out Boy are set to embark on a stadium tour in 2020 alongside fellow giants Green Day and Weezer (whose own late-’90s hiatus and return has become a key piece of their story).
After teasing their comeback, there was a ton of fan anticipation for what the future of the Jonas Brothers would look like. But even though they’d stuck by them through their hiatus, fans definitely had concerns that whatever the brothers had planned might not feel the same as it did over six years ago. “I feared that they wouldn’t have any success this time around,” Heather said. Similarly, Kelly revealed that she had some reservations. “I was a little bit nervous,” she said. “But once the tickets went on sale and the tour started to sell out, I knew it was going to be just as big, or even bigger [than] their tour was back in 2009.”
This buildup of excitement was inevitable for the Jonas Brothers’s return, but according to Brooks, their comeback wouldn’t have been as enormous had the music not been up to par. “There is a lot of pent of demand for the Jonas Brothers,” he said. “But they also returned with a really strong album and single in ‘Sucker,’ which really was one of the top songs of the summer.” And unlike some older acts, the Jonas Brothers hadn’t yet solidified their place in music history when they announced their split. “They haven’t been around as long as bands like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC and they still have to create songs that are catchy and turn into hits to stay relevant, and I think they absolutely did that.”
The Jonas Brothers did do that. Their album, Happiness Begins, included more bops than just “Sucker.” “Only Human,” for example, is a groovy pop record that speaks to who the Jonas Brothers are now – three grown, married men, who, despite being romantically unavailable, are still cool as ever. “Rollercoaster,” on the other hand, hinges on the hope that fans would feel nostalgic about their return. “It was fun when we were young but now we’re older,” they sing on the chorus. “Those days that are the worst, they seem to glow now.”
Overall, it seems that with the right formula — something like nostalgia plus solid jams multiplied by timing — a hiatus can usher in another wave of success for beloved artists. That is, if they’re willing to step out of the spotlight for a while and come back with the goods. So we have to ask: Which other acts, currently on hiatus, could have the same sort of impact if they were to come together again? Putting the question to Twitter reveals two words flooding your mentions: One Direction.
“It would honestly be amazing,” said Labanya, a diehard Directioner. “The fact that they’ve had time apart to recharge creatively on their own will most likely amplify their sound and success.” Lexi, another devoted 1D fan, agrees, though she doesn’t want a reunion if it’s not what the guys — who’ve been on hiatus since 2016 — want themselves. “I obviously would be elated if they did a comeback tour,” she said. “But I want it to be an organic decision on their part.”
“I think initially it would result in a huge boost in sales like the Jonas Brothers reunion did,” she continued. “And ultimately, a nearly sold-out tour run.” Here’s hoping!