There's some serendipitous truth to that premise. The Jonas Brothers are the sons of Kevin Jonas Sr., a former Assemblies of God pastor and contemporary-Christian musician who now serves as one of their managers; and the Jonas family's original vision was to support Nick, a tousle-haired musical prodigy and a veteran of several Broadway shows, in his quest to break through as a Christian balladeer.

In January 2005 Steve Greenberg became the president of Columbia Records. Greenberg was known for having nurtured other young acts on the highway to hugeness—most notably, in 1997, a fresh-scrubbed fraternal trio called Hanson—and the first thing he did at Columbia was slog his way through a slush pile of demo tapes. "Only one thing really stuck out for me, which was this contemporary-Christian album by Nicholas Jonas," Greenberg says. "It wasn't a very good album. It was a very schmaltzy kind of record. But his voice was so good. I heard that voice and I thought, This is the best young person's voice that I've heard since Taylor Hanson. I've got to meet this guy." Greenberg discovered that Nick had two personable older brothers, and that the three of them had been mulling over the idea of forming an R&B-inflected trio. "They were trying to write songs where they would stand onstage and dance—to be like a boy band," Greenberg says. "And I said, 'This is all wrong! You guys should learn these instruments and you should be a rock band!'"

Greenberg says he burned the brothers a CD of punk songs from the seventies and eighties and rallied them into making a propulsive powder-punk album that would, as with Hanson's Middle of Nowhere, "appeal to young girls but also obtain the approval of critics." The 2006 album was called It's About Time, and its first single, "Mandy," was just chipping through on MTV's TRL when Greenberg was ousted in a management shake-up at Columbia. It's About Time was yanked and deleted from the roster, and the teen brothers were shown the door.

Disney's Hollywood label immediately signed the boys, while others were also hopping the trio's bullet train toward bubblegum destiny. The passageway at Madison Square Garden is filled with them: There's Big Rob, the bodyguard. And Felicia Culotta, the cheerful personal assistant with a Mississippi accent. And Johnny Wright, who managed the New Kids on the Block, and the Backstreet Boys, and, yep, Britney Spears. In fact, nine members of the team that handled Britney after her plaid-skirted 1999 breakthrough, including her bus driver, have offered up their services to the Jonas Brothers. You can't help but think of Team Britney as a pack of investment analysts who have knowingly shifted their allocations from one commodity trending downward to another on the rise. But it is that very name—Britney—that hovers like a cautionary, shorn-headed phantom above any band that wants to rule the fickle hordes of teen America. The Jonas Brothers, says their tour director, Rob Brenner, who worked with Spears for several years, "want to remain grounded. Those of us who have been around a lot have seen what happens if you don't."