Enough with the puppy love — it’s time to hit the club.
That, believe it or not, is where Justin Bieber’s head is at on his third album Believe. And who can blame him? Beebs is 18, after all.
Not to mention one of the biggest stars on the planet. He isn’t sitting at home mooning over the girl next door anymore; he’s touring the world, dating Selena Gomez, partying with celebs and spending some of that $55 million roll he’s accumulated.
All of that comes through loud and clear on the dance-oriented and more grownup Believe. You can hear it in the banging grooves and edgy sonics of producers like Diplo, Max Martin, Darkchild and Hit-Boy. You can hear it in the VIP cameos or songwriting contributions of Drake, Nicki Minaj, Ludacris and Babyface. You can hear it in the lyrics, which are less about holding your daughter’s hand and more about feeling her body rock. You can even hear it in some of the poppier numbers, which eschew white-boy hip-hop for the old-school R&B of Michael Jackson.
Yep, there’s no doubt that from start to finish, Bieber is in good company here. Perhaps a little too good. Even though it’s his party, Bieber often seems dwarfed by all those big names and all that big production. Truth is that when you get right down to it, he’s still not much of a singer. Oh sure, he can carry a tune — or at least be AutoTuned. But his pipes aren’t particularly powerful, emotive or distinctive. Like it or not, most of the time he still sounds like what he is: A skinny teenager from Canada whose influences still outweigh his originality.
Of course, like it or not, you’re going to be hearing a lot of Justin this summer — over the piercing screams of every young female in the vicinity. So you might as well know what you’re in for. Here’s a track- by-track review:
All Around the World | 4:03
Get the party started; Bieber coaxes everyone onto the floor with a pumping Britney-style disco-synth ode to universal love. Old pal Ludacris plays wingman.
Boyfriend | 2:53
You’re probably already sick of this one; Justin lowers his voice to mack on the girls with promises of fireside fondue, then croons promises of eternal fidelity to close the deal.
As Long as You Love Me | 3:49
Bieber does dubstep? Believe it. Producers Darkchild and Lindal supply some trendy sounds, while Bieber croons that he could be broke and homeless — long as he has you.
Take You | 3:40
Latin-tinged acoustic guitar and a skittery syncopated groove are broken up with some shimmering synth-pop. Inoffensive but insubstantial.
Right Here | 3:24
Drake drops in to lend a hand on this drippy hip-hop soul ballad. Too bad it sounds like producer Hit-Boy went overboard on the AutoTune.
Catching Feelings | 3:54
Justin channels the spirit of Michael Jackson’s Lady in My Life on a gentle Babyface ballad centred around acoustic guitar and warm keyboards.
Fall | 4:08
Another acoustic guitar set against a lazily syncopated beat — but this one builds into a string-and-tympani-sweetened ballad.
Die in Your Arms | 3:57
A touch of Motown — and a second helping of Jacko — thanks to a sample of Michael’s 1972 cut We've Got a Good Thing Going. One for the parents.
Thought of You | 3:50
Diplo brings us back to today and to the floor, putting a propulsively bouncy beat beneath Justin’s falsetto. Not bad, if a bit too long.
Beauty and a Beat | 3:48
Swedish hitmeister Max Martin supplies the funky bass groove and growly effects; Nicki Minaj cracks wise (“I gotta keep my eye out for Selen-er!”). A good time is had.
One Love | 3:54
“I don’t want nobody when I got your body,” promises Justin over a dusty, lightly funky backbeat and a twinkly keyboard. Good thing all he wants to do is “dance under the moon.”
Be Alright | 3:09
Over a sweetly plucked acoustic guitar, Bieber croons about how much he misses Gomez when he’s on tour. Awwwwww.
Believe | 3:42
The mandatory closing ballad swells from fingersnaps and beatbox to a soaring, string-fuelled gospel-choir workout.