As a star birthed by YouTube and raised by Twitter, Justin Bieber has never had the luxury of growing up outside the public eye. In the two years between his breakout 2010 LP, My World 2.0, and Believe, his second proper full-length, Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty — a tough gauntlet by any measure.
Luckily, his instincts (or at least the instincts of the small republic of people employed ? to steer the USS Bieber) are strong, and Believe works surprisingly well as a ¬reinvention and a reintroduction. It's the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds. Like his mentor Usher, Bieber fully embraces both Ibiza beats (see dubsteppy bangers ''All Around the World'' and ''Take You'') and urban swagger (Drake and Nicki Minaj each drop by). Believe also updates his signature sounds. ''Catching Feelings'' would have been a smooth spoonful of radio sugar on his debut, but the new Bieber turns it into a soulful R&B campfire jam. Biology has robbed him of some of his range, but he makes up for it in confidence: First-gen Bieber couldn't have handled the goosebumpy swoop of ''Fall,'' but this JB turns it into the album's profound emotional climax. It's a prime showcase for his new voice and burgeoning mettle, proving that Bieber isn't just maturing, he's evolving. B+
^^ Die! why you don't go and stan for someone else? I don't know why I call you to comeback here back in 2011 you are such a damn annoying MESS! and now I get into the point of I CAN'T STAND YOU!
please do us a favor and retire.
Isn't it strange that the Bieber fever that has overtaken the world over the past two years actually hasn't come with a whole lot of new Justin Bieber music? Since "My World 2.0" was released in March 2010, Bieber has toured the world, released a 3D movie, issued every piece of merchandise available (do YOU have your Justin Bieber trading cards handy?), and even scored two more No. 1 albums, first with a "Never Say Never" remix package, and then with a very solid holiday offering, "Under The Mistletoe."
Those latter two releases gave Bieber's rabid fans a quick fix and hinted at the pop superstar's newfound maturity, all while whetting appetites for "Believe," his highly anticipated new full-length. Unlike with artists such as Lady Gaga or Rihanna, the trajectory of Bieber's career has been based more on the 18-year-old as a person and brand more than a slew of hit singles -- "Baby" certainly seems like a long time ago, and we, as music fans, have gotten to learn everything imaginable about this good-looking Canadian kid before hearing its grown-up follow-up singles.
And so, "Believe" has arrived. It is a very enjoyable, dance-leaning pop record, but it is not the new Justin Timberlake album. And why should it be? Bieber is still just 18 years old and trying to find his musical lane while grappling with an unprecedented amount of attention. Because his growth in front of the camera has occurred so quickly and steadfastly, his music has been (unfairly) expected to do the same. "Believe" has multiple songs that hint at what Bieber could become someday -- "Fall" is a very capable ballad that scratches the surface of truly affecting songwriting; "Right Here" features Bieber being inspired by a rapper whose own mind has been freed, "Matrix"-style; and "Boyfriend" and "Die In Your Arms" remain undeniable singles, the former especially pushing the young singer into new stylistic territory.
Overall, "Believe" sinks its tendrils into the listener's brain by riding the dance music phenomenon and offering some whizz-bang production alongside Bieber's sticky-sweet singing voice. The lyrics are unfussy and at times too complacent in their rhymes, but the music powers the weaker moments through unnoticed. This is a pop record, and even if the flashes of poetic brilliance aren't there, the hooks very much are.
"Believe" does not offer any moments of transcendence, nor does it include a "Cry Me A River." And that's okay. Justin Bieber may not have crossed over into the fearless stomping grounds of the Timberlakes yet, but he may very well get there someday, and that's all we need to know for now.
The rise of Justin Bieber was such a blinding explosion of hair and smiles and YouTube cuteness that it was easy to miss his music's ironic achievement: its light touch. His first two releases – the 2009 EP My World and 2010's full-length My World 2.0 – were snuggle-fresh and butterfly-light, luxuriating in R&B bubblegum and first-blush puppy lust. At a time when 12-year-olds can get **** on their iPod Touches, the Biebs made flirty innocence thrive.
But Justin's 18 now, legal and, according to Believe, fully lethal. "Swag, swag, swag on you/Chillin' by the fire while we're eating fondue," he sings on the sinewy electro-pop single "Boyfriend," easing the transition from pup to playa in one of the year's more awesome lyrics. On Believe, Biebs' voice has deepened (physically and digitally), the beats are more driving and libidinous, the sonic settings more intense and wide-ranging. Bieber aspires to the tight versatility of his benefactor Usher, who is one of the album's executive producers.
Bieber's revamped sound makes room for universalist Euro-house ("All Around the World") and high-drama hip-hop boom ("As Long as You Love Me"), and on "Right Here," Drake and Bieber go low-talking Lothario to low-talking Lothario. It's cosmopolitan pop sophistication, designed to make this the Bieber album 18-and-over folks can like without feeling like they're joining NAMBLA.
Believe's recently legal euphemisms aren't always smooth. On "Fall," he croons, somewhat ickily, "If you spread your wings, you can fly away with me." Sometimes he barrels through euphemism entirely. The bonus track, "Maria," about a real-life fan's phony paternity suit, is "Billie Jean" by way of Matt Lauer Reports – "She's crazy/Crazy in love!" Bieber sings, sowing his celebrity-victimhood oats. Sometimes, however, the results are excellent and hilarious. On the Max Martin-produced disco-inferno "Beauty and the Beat," Nicki Minaj swoops down like a horny hawk: "Justin Bieber/ You know I'm gonna hit 'em with the ether/Buns out, wiener/But I gotta keep an eye out for Selena."
Bieber doesn't have the soulful vocal snaps of a Justin Timberlake or the shock-and-awe charisma of a Britney Spears. His gently sparkling persona can get overwhelmed by all the sonic gear-switching, technological tomfoolery and sweaty come-ons; it can all feel a bit rushed. The best song on Believe, "Thought of You," has it both ways, combining the impulse to wait with the impulse to get down into a pure-pop fever dream. Over producer Diplo's superhero piano stabs, double-time hand claps and a whoosh-trance build that leads to a chorus Lady Gaga would give her favorite wig for, Bieber goes into spirals of falsetto rapture as a cyclone of contradictory emotion: "I'm in love with the thought of you/Not the things you do," he admits. It's the moment where Justin lives most honestly in the swag-and fondue-deprived world of his fans – crushed out to the point of asphyxiation, pulled in a million directions, chasing feelings he can't understand to consequences he'll probably regret. It's where he's a kid again.
Marking his progression from screaming-kids-in-tow starlet to something close to a pop god, Justin Bieber’s new album not only finds him becoming an artist for adults on his own terms, but showcasing impressively distinctive tones and translating an innate charisma across many styles.
Believe is glitzier than his debut, My World(s), but Bieber doesn’t leave his faithful audience behind in pursuit of a broader fanbase. There are still returns to his years of tween appeal, notably on Be Alright, Fall and the title track.
But throughout, this album presents proof that expensive-sounding songs don’t need to be about material things, regardless of how much Bieber wants to scream that he’s an adult now. Despite the array of impressive guest contributors – Nicki Minaj, Drake, Ludacris, Big Sean, Mike Posner, Diplo – Bieber’s never overshadowed. He has grown into this role to such an extent that the "featuring" turns never steal his spotlight.
He’s aware that he’s still three years too young to get into the clubs where his beats belong; lyrically, his focus on love and faith is both explicit and suitably open – and, admirably, never puerile. Stepping back briefly, he’s simply being the teen star that he still is. The unshowiness of Bieber’s lyrics is played up, and his confidence, for the most part, played down.
It’s fine that his vocal simpers on the verses of As Long As You Love Me, because the song’s pulsating undercurrent propels it onto the dancefloor. And this is exactly why comparisons with Justin Timberlake’s showy dreamboat persona are misleading. Believe presents Bieber as an 18-year-old in love, rather than desperate for an audience to adore him.
The way he gets introspective on the Babyface-produced Catching Feelings is a rare delight: it sees him caught up in a daydream, like Robin Thicke for a younger generation. And other highlights are plentiful: Die in Your Arms’ Michael Jackson sample is worth every penny, while One Love’s space-age synths, watered down DnB beat and defiant lack of fluff make it a total mega-hit.
Believe doesn’t take as many risks as it might (those are saved for bonus tracks), but it’s not meant to be a big and bold collection. It’s simply, elegantly, propelling Bieber into the next chapter of his career. And for an album whose aims are so remarkably graceful, Believe exceeds all expectations.