It could have been the shaved head or the aviators. Perhaps it was the toned upper body or his astounding vocal range, but something marked Nick Jonas' appearance at House of Blues in Dallas on Wednesday night as distinctly manly.
This may come as a shock to anyone who's all but written off the 23-year-old's fame as residual hangover from Disney Channel-watching teenage girls' fantasies (admittedly, this reporter was in that camp until recently). But at his sold-out hometown gig, the youngest member of the now-defunct Jonas Brothers boy band looked comfortable on his own as an artist, performer and all-around sex symbol.
From the moment he took the stage with opener "Chains," from his 2014 self-titled album, Jonas kept the audience's undivided attention. Men and women, young and old, all stood with phones in the air reciting his every lyric during pop favorites such as "Take Over" and "Jealous," as well as new tunes including the electro-driven "Levels."
Aesthetics certainly helped immerse fans in the experience. Three floor-to-ceiling screens framed the stage, serving as canvas for 3-D landscapes, silhouettes of naked women, and colorful block images usually relegated to bad '80s sweatshirts.
The spectacle figuratively took a breather about halfway through when Jonas played a handful of slow jams, including "Who I Am," which he performed solo with an acoustic guitar. During "Push," the venue was submerged underwater by a projection on a white sheet that dropped at the front of the stage, separating Jonas and his backup band from the enraptured crowd.
It wasn't long before Jonas turned up the heat again, however, plugging a forthcoming, "very steamy" music video to "Under You" and playing to the older folks in the room with jazzy, piano-driven renditions of Outkast's "Roses" and Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison."
Throughout the show, Jonas seemed to be channeling pop heartthrobs before him such as Usher, due in no small part to his ability to nail the high notes and provoke high-pitched screaming with a hip thrust.
Considering the pipes, class and mass appeal, Jonas might just be the next Justin Timberlake -- he certainly has the swagger. Though to take the title, he'll have to polish his dance moves. We're calling it now: He's bringing sexy back for the next generation.