In 2007, reclusive Londoner Burial released his dub-step magnum opus Untrue. In 2009, The Black Eyed Peas dropped the Euro-club inspired record THE E.N.D. Now, in 2012, Euro-club beats are the touchstone of almost every pop record, but interestingly enough, the dark rumbles of dub-step have been intertwined with beats making for an interesting intersection of music.
Which brings us to Justin Bieber. The now-legal teen pop star who rose to fame with his moderately successful EP My World in 2009. Originally discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun, who now controls the destinies of the lovable Carly Rae Jespen and The Wanted, The Biebs had his pick of a mentor and passed up Justin Timberlake for the mega-star Usher. But you probably know all of this–so why bother recanting history? Justin Bieber is wildly popular. Even if you haven’t heard his music you know his name, and if you don’t, well, fuck off.
Bieber only has one “real” full-length to his credit (I don’t count cash-in Christmas albums, because that is straight bullshit), and that record My World 2.0 is a hastily put together mess–though it contains his best track “Baby” (co-written by The-Dream and his then wife Christina Milian– the royalties were in his divorce papers!!!). Biebs has never reached the thrills of “Baby,” though he surely tries.
Ok, enough asides–let’s get to the album! Compared to My World 2.0, Believe is a true record- much like the other Justin’s (Timberlake) transition from ex-boy band leader to bona fide solo artist on his two solo records, Justified and Futuresex/Lovesounds. Bieber is more mature and ready to take on the world, singing songs probably about his current and longtime GF Selena Gomez–though all the teenage girls, and let’s face it, gay men–think he is talking to them.
Believe is 2012 pop: it isn’t short on Euro-pop and “faux” b-step. Take album opener “All Around The World” which reteams Bieber with the overblown cartoon of a human Ludacris. Bieber sings about people “want(ing) love” and clubs and DJs and music–you know, a big dumb pop song. And there it is the track has “drops” because that is the cool thing to do.
When the first single “Boyfriend” dropped, many thought Bieber was going to be the second coming of Justin Timberlake, though he really is just a friendlier Chris Brown with less anger issues (maybe). Come to face it, if you close your eyes, the club numbers sound like prepubescent Chris Brown doing his big club numbers (”Turn Up The Music.”)
“Boyfriend” is an outlier here. Written by Mr. “Cooler Than Me” Mike Posner, Bieber raps (gasp!) and says weird shit like “swag, swag, swag on you” (a coded jizz reference?) and something about “eating fondue.” To “Boyfriend’s” credit, it is one of the best things on here. It is undeniably catchy and it has a bleeped swear word!
The interesting moves don’t stop. Next up is the Alex Clare (the guy from the Microsoft Bing commercials) aping number “As Long As You Love Me.” Producer Darkchild dials the “faux” b-step to 11 (guess Skrillz wasn’t available?) while Bieber sings preposterous shit about being able to be homeless or broke “as long as you (Selena again) love me.” We know it is bullshit but we can buy it. Plus there is an “ass ass ass ass ass” or Big Sean feature.
Moving forward, “Catching Feelings” is an ’80s Michael Jackson throwback, and no, it isn’t very good. None of the ballads are good, but they’re required on a pop record of this magnitude. “Take You” is a return to the club with a lightly-strummed acoustic over a glitchy back beat, all produced by soFLY & Nius, whoever the fuck they are. Bieber stays low on the track, but it’s all catchy as hell. This is a big pop moment, though it is a pretty muted track compared to “All Around the World.”
Drake guests on “Right Here” and while Bieber tries his damndest to copy Jimmy’s sing-rap flow, Skip “Fall” it is garbage. While we are at it you don’t need “Died In Your Arms” either. That song sucks, but it is his second single so you will probably hear it all the time. If Ne-Yo did this it would be 10000000000% better.
“Thought of You” is a standout mostly because it was produced by ultra-hip producer Diplo. Fusing his tracks he produced for Queen B–excluding “Girls (Who Run The World)” the track starts slow but then turns into a club stomper. Try to get Bieber saying “you-oh-who oh” out of your head. You can’t!
Nicki Minaj phones in a rap on “Beauty and the Beat,” a track about “partying until its 3012,” a year Bieber and the whole planet will be dead. Other than the “faux”b-step breakdown (yep it is back and the drops are all over the place) the track plays like a carbon copy of Jay Sean’s failed single “2012 (It Ain’t The End),” another song Minaj guests on, though this one was written by the BEST writer in pop music EVER Max (MOTHERFUCKING) Martin. Minaj’s verse is every bit as dirty as you can be on a non parental advisory album and my ears might be failing me – too many wub-wubs – but I think she raps something about knocking Bieber out with ether and pulling out his “wiener” (Gross Nicki!). Speaking of that Jay Sean track, the mid-tempo number “One Love” has the same beat just a tad slower.
Luckily for us the two worst tracks on the album are the last two. All in all it is probably better than reading this poorly written word-vomit. To end this–if I was a writer at Pitchfork and had to give the record a grade, I’d give it a 6.0. While it is middle of the road, it is a pop album by a mega-star. No one cares what I say; people are gonna buy this and buy lots of copies of it.