Review - Justin Bieber - Believe (Deluxe Edition)
If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know that Justin Bieber isn’t my favorite (unless we are talking about my favorite to make fun of). There isn’t anything he’s ever put out in his past that I was excited about, and I actually disliked a lot of it. Add on to it that for quite a while I looked a lot like him (not in the face – we had similar hair) and therefore got quite the teasing, and his chances of getting my endorsement aren’t good.
In the past year or so, I’ve really been watching the Biebs to see what he does next. Making a hit pop record that appeals to everyone under the age of 15 isn’t terribly difficult, and labels have known how to make a pretty boy into a star for decades. The phenomenon that was Bieber Fever was nothing new. What is interesting to watch is what comes next. Think about all those boy bands of the 90’s – where are most of them now? What is Aaron Carter doing? Is Jesse McCartney still…doing whatever it was that Jesse McCartney used to do? The trick isn’t so much being a teen pop sensation, it is finding a way to transition that into a legitimate career. Here is where so many have died trying.
Bieber lay low for a while as he grew up, only releasing a Christmas album (it only went to #1, but no biggie), but no real singles. We heard a lot about “swagger” and that there would be rapping, and I laughed. While the kid did have a good thing going, there was no way he could manage to keep the charade going with hip hop and a new haircut, right? Teen stars fade away once they’re not teens anymore.
After listening to ‘Believe’, I’m a Belieber. Hrm. That probably could have gone better. Oh well.
The stars must be shining on Justin, because ‘Believe’ is everything it had to be. Justin wears so many hats on this record you can’t keep track. He’s pop, he’s R&B; he’s hip hop, he’s got swagger; he’s a crooner, he’s a swooner; he’s a pop idol, he’s down-to-earth. How is all of this possible?
The tone of the album all around is rather laid back – “chill” if you will. Most of it isn’t the high-pitched noise of “Baby” and “Somebody to Love”, but rather the cool tone of lead single “Boyfriend”. There are moments of sparse musicality where Bieber’s vocals take over without him even trying. Justin has never been much in the way of vocals, but by now he’s realized this and he keeps everything in check. No straining, no pushing it too far. There also isn’t as much rapping as we were worried there might be – instead, he opts for a cool rhythmic speak-singing that is actually rather easy to do, but he carries it off like it’s his own.
While the tone of the album may be a tiny bit languid, don’t think there’s nothing on here to get you moving. Justin is a pop artist, and he doesn’t forget this. Tracks like “Take You” seamlessly meld the R&B into a dance chorus, and “Thought Of You” summon his mentor Usher both in his genre-mixing and his use of falsetto. “Beauty and the Beat”, the Nicki Minaj collabo sounds like it will be stupid (on principle of a bad name), but the poppiest record on the album finds a way to even make this work. Bieber even takes the time to squeeze in a little dubstep on promo single “As Long As You Love Me (ft. Big Sean)”, but he does it in a unique way that sets it apart from the now hoards of other pop acts squeezing in dubstep breakdowns and the like.
I am genuinely surprised that Justin Bieber managed to make an album that not only am I not trashing, but I am praising fairly highly. Not only was this one of the biggest surprises of the year, it was one of the most enjoyable records I’ve listened to yet. ‘Believe’ is a crowd-pleaser – it appeals to many genres, and after everything I’ve said, I still think it’s appropriate for twelve year old girls everywhere.
Original and stylish, Bieber steps away from the bangs and lets the world know he’s ready to be taken seriously as an artist. Did anyone really think this would happen?
Listen to: if you can, the entire album, just to see how varied it is. If not, try “Boyfriend”, “Take You”, “Right Here (ft. Drake)” (a good hip hop moment, and a track made for Drake’s vocal style), “Die In Your Arms”, “Thought Of You”, “Beauty and a Beat (ft. Nicki Minaj)” and “She Don’t Like The Lights”