Review Summary: Infant, infant, infant, oh!
If psychiatrists stay the course and continue to use pop culture to explain behavioral disorders to medical students (Darth Vader has been cited as a classic case of "borderline personality disorder", for example), then my prediction is that it'll only be a matter of time before they start using tha' Biebz to explain "object of extraordinary ridicule" in their lectures. Seriously - we've gone to town on this guy; our pranks on him have included a successful campaign to push "Justin Bieber Syphilis" to the top of the Google Trends Hot Searches list, decisively annihilating hundreds of serious candidates in the free online voting competition to nominate a bonus country for his My World Tour
(North Korea "won"; Israel was "second"), altering his Last.fm photograph to gruesome pornographic images, hacking his YouTube videos so that they redirected users to adult websites or triggered pop-up messages saying that Bieber had been killed in a car accident, and finally creating rumors that his mother was offered $50,000 to pose topless in Playboy
magazine. Despite having faced enough criticism and vitriol to stop a train, the singer has admirably managed to keep his head down and stay focused on honing his art without ever drawing too much attention to himself. However, such levels of loathing does not easily go unnoticed, and it was surely a given that a response would eventually be forthcoming. Still, none of us had likely envisioned that the singer's riposte would come in the form of an acoustic album - of all the damn things. To begin with, can he actually, you know, sing
Yes he can, as it turns out; still, there are some problems with the entire construct of this album that will make it decidedly less effective than actually intended. As Bieber's first "remix" release, My Worlds Acoustic
tries very hard to sell itself as unequivocal proof of the singer's merits as a musician; in an interview with MTV News, Bieber himself explained that this album was made "because there's a lot of haters out there that say, 'Justin Bieber can't sing. His voice is all Auto-Tuned'". Harrumph, tough talk pouring from tha' Biebz' gullet (undoubtedly drummed into him by personal swag-coach Ryan Good), but the very idea of there being new Beliebers from outside the singer's target demographic - due to an acoustic album of long-despised saccharine, no less - is naive at best, and hilariously deluded at worst. The release also does the singer's rampant stench of over-commercialization no favors - having already endured two parts to his My World
debut, being saddled with yet another spin-off from the same franchise is likely the least of haters' desires (newsflash: the fourth - Never Say Never - The Remixes
hits stores tomorrow). Like, who were they trying to kid, anyway?
Yet, if one is prepared to overlook those oblique lapses in judgment (and not many will), My Worlds Acoustic
actually manages to come across as a release of reasonable artistic merit. Despite their occasionally foolish, mildly disturbing, and/or cringe-worthy lyrics, the bulk of Bieber's acoustic work manages to stay pleasantly tuneful and harmlessly inoffensive. The first half of the album is surprisingly cohesive, with each number managing to deliver its saccharine payload with relative ease. The rehash of "Baby", for instance, retains all of its pop sensibilities, and Bieber's semi-cogent rap of "I'm 16 and I thought that you'd be mine/I used to tweet you and text you and call you and hit you on Facebook all the time" manages to speak volumes about the nature of modern teenage relationships by itself acting as a metaphor for the idiocy of youth. The R&B vibe on album-opener "One Time" is also well-preserved, a feat which is undoubtedly thanks to the expertise Bieber's musical director and guitar technician Dan Kanter, who undoubtedly masterminded this release's uncanny ability to repeatedly snatch victory from the numerous jaws of the Hydra of defeat.
The release also manages to significantly upgrade some of the lesser tracks on Bieber's (admittedly limited) catalogue. The reinterpretation of "That Should Be Me", for instance, is altogether more effective than originally remembered, with the stripped-down production suggesting that Bieber may be more than just a cardboard cut-out. The turgid pace of My World 2.0
's "You Smile" has also been infused with a refreshing sense of teenage grandeur; although it remains far from being a bastion of flavour, there is enough textural instrumentation on it to satisfy even the more technically-inclined of Beliebers - should they exist, of course. Bieber's mellow singing on "One Less Lonely Girl" also manages to recall a semblance of youthful sincerity, and it is altogether very welcome to be able to re-experience an element that has gone missing all too often on many a mainstream pop release.
Of course, this wouldn't be a proper commercial release without the obligatory new song, and there is one to be found here. "Pray" is a mid-tempo tune with a backing world-music beat, minor electronic experimentation, and both contemporary Christian and standard pop influences. It may actually be the best song that Bieber has ever cut to tape, mainly as it suggests a departure from the singer's self-centered and navel-gazing work, while hinting at the dawn of a more developed and mature artist. If he continues in this vein it will actually be quite interesting to watch his development over the next few years.
Although Bieber would certainly be a lot more bearable if he wasn't being rammed down our throats all the damn time, My Worlds Acoustic
is likely the most accomplished release in the singer's catalogue thus far. This won't mean much to those outside the young-teenage-girl demographic, but it suggests that we may have taken things a little too far in our pranks with tha' Biebz; the guy's not too bad, really. I'm not a convert by any stretch of the imagination, but this may just end up being a guilty pleasure of mine.