Justin Leaves Little to Believe In


It would be easy to listen to two tracks from the new Justin Bieber release, slag the whole album as pop garbage, and leave it at that.

At just over 48 minutes long, Believe does plenty of things right. A small army of producers, including big names Diplo, Zedd, and Bei Maejor, give the album’s 13 tracks an impressive range of beats and synth lines. Try as you might, you can’t find an unsatisfying chord progression or drumbeat anywhere.

The album is consistent, but this turns out to be more of a drawback than a virtue. Too many of the tracks are nothing more than half of a verse followed by a neverending chorus. “As Long As You Love Me,” one of the album’s better cuts, teases the listener with a dubstep-inspired beat that never develops beyond the first minute.

Lyrically, rehashed clichés about love and lust abound. The most lyrically complex tracks still only reach the quality of a Bruno Mars b-side. At 18, we should expect more of him. You’re a man, Justin! Sing about driving and sex and cigarettes and lottery tickets. Even a song about registering to vote would be more interesting than any of the tracks on Believe. Dating a Disney Channel star shouldn’t confine you to only writing corny Disney-channel style lyrics.

Lacking, too, is the voice. For someone who got his start by showcasing his impressive vocal cords, Bieber is far too reserved. Where he needs to sing out, he’s too calm. Where he should drop to a near whisper, electronic effects ruin any sentimentality. Unless the key to his vocal prowess is on the swooshy hair, it’s safe to say Bieber could have done more vocally. Even the featured artists (Ludacris and Nicki Minaj among them) fail to bring anything exceptional to the table.

Believe is the product of an industry working together and losing individual strengths in the process. On almost every track, Bieber is credited with multiple songwriters and producers. This setup has become the standard for pop music and when executed well can have fantastic results. The writer-producer-performer paradigm has made Beyoncé Knowles a superstar. But when Beyoncé sings, she makes songs her own. She performs in ways her songwriters could never top. Bieber’s a big boy now; it’s time for him to start recording like one.

It’s not for lack of talent that Bieber falls flat. He has all of the requisite elements to be a star. “Be Alright,” the one song on the album Bieber wrote without assistance, is the best. “Thought Of You” showcases where his voice can go when used properly. Unfortunately, the lead single for the album (titled “Boyfriend”) showcases exactly what’s wrong about the Bieber-machine model of songwriting.

Worst of all, the album isn’t memorable. Earlier songs like “Baby” or “One Time” still trump anything on Believe. They aren’t any better lyrically and the sound is just as processed. But early Justin captivated an audience. Early Justin turned single mothers into zombie fangirls willing to destroy anything that challenged the Canadian boy-sation’s reign. That magic is gone now. Believe won’t cause mass hysteria or inspire millions of plucky cover versions. The most infectious music makes you dance before you even realize it’s playing. I hated “Baby” with every fiber of my being, but I still sing along when I hear it on the radio. Our grandchildren will hear stories of how Bieber-fever ravaged a nation in 2010. It’s now clear that 2012 won’t bring a second wave.

The album’s title picks up where Bieber’s concert documentary Never Say Never left off. Each asks us to go along with the hype, framing it in an underdog Justin-against-the-world mindset. The title track follows this same narrative, explaining how Peter Pan-style belief and the loving support of fans made Bieber who he is today. Believe a little more and who knows what could happen next.

True Beliebers would buy Believe even if it contained nothing more than sounds of cats vomiting, but for the still-deciding consumer, a word of caution: you can do better. Tuesday also sees the release of new music from Fiona Apple and Glen Hansard, each superior choices if you seek lyrical depth or musical complexity. For the casual listener looking for infectious pop songs about lust, relationships, and growing up, Walk The Moon‘s self titled debut is a much better selection. Regardless, $10 is better in your pocket than being spent on Believe.


Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!



Trending on The Airspace