Review Summary: Through restraint and exploration, Justin Bieber impressively tackles delivering to his tween pop audience still, while also managing to grow out of his age-based niche genre by generating enough appeal to make a mature pop record.
The main cause for all of the hate directed towards Bieber is his voice, insults like “girly”, “whiny”, and “prepubescent” come to mind when citing possible reasons for why so many loathe the voice of the Biebs. But no one has really ever bothered to look past the voice at the actual music that backs it up. Haters that go as far as to dub Bieber the reason all pop music is terrible to them never consider the fact that it might just be their own personal preferences and bias causing their repulsion, because when bias is put aside and Bieber is looked at with an open mind, the bubblegum pop reviving teen truly is and has been the best and most notable figure in teen pop, not only in terms of personality, but in production and actual musicality as well.
In the past Bieber has shown elements of euro-pop, synthpop, and even rock to his sound, and people shouldn’t write this album off as bad before listening, because anyone who is willing to give Bieber a chance on his second outing Believe will be surprised and maybe even shocked to find that he has toyed around with some new sounds, and has practically bested his last record in every possible category.
Haters especially will be most relieved to find that Bieber has gone through puberty and that his voice has significantly improved and matured. Bieber performs R&B, but he doesn’t fall into the generic R&B pothole of a singer constantly pleading heart out lyrically while constantly holding every possible note for a excessive amount of time. Bieber surprisingly shows off a lot of influence from the energy and funky spunk of Michael Jackson, boasting a sometimes shamelessly cocky and always snappy attitude while alternating between varying tones high and low over his electrically danceable numbers.
Aside from it being apparent that he obviously is more talented and skilled vocally on this album, Bieber shows an important thing through his voice on Believe that very few teen pop stars his age do; variety in his vocals, and control over that variety. Lyrically wise, what are you gonna do? It’s teen pop so predictably every song is about what his fans care about, innocent love, but what matters more importantly over this is how these lyrics are delivered and performed, and this is where Bieber excels.
Past the newfound sophistication in the execution of his voice, for a teen pop record, this album shows a vast array of differentiation musically. This album is also relatively substantial for a teen pop record, clocking in at 48 minutes, 18 minutes past the usual time standard for teen pop. This may not seem like much, but it is a bit of a length leap for the albums genre and it’s ever anticipating fans. Over the course of these 48 minutes, the album really shows off its long list of producers in how strikingly layered and complex the albums gleaming clean production is for a teen pop record. This is polished, but it proudly shines instead of feeling overly sugary and boringly basic, which is a problem overproduction usually leads to especially in teen pop, but this album shows that with the amount of producers it had, it was definitely handled with care, and subsequently rises above that of the rest in the genre.
The album sees Bieber going beyond the typical simplicity of the scene he’s categorized into, by making varied and diverse musical ventures, that are unpredictable and stand out for the sounds one would associate his name with. Bieber adds as many acoustically enforced ballads as he does dance tracks, but on Believe he goes so over the top with the electronic elements of his dance-pop angle, that he even delves into beats that nearly reach a dubstep-like fashion on a few tracks. These moments are pleasant surprises, and Bieber manages to make an album that flows smoothly on one straight listen instead of just a collection of songs on a disc, avoiding boredom and repetition throughout the entirety of the album by being as venturous with his voice as he is with his musical pursuits, and these two combined makes a solid album that raises the bar for his genre.
Believe features a handful of guest appearances on several tracks from rappers Drake, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, and Ludacris. Understandably, one would automatically assume at first thought that these guest spots wouldn’t be consistent with Bieber at all, wouldn’t cohesively blend or mix well with the album’s overall teen pop vibe, and would overpower and not cope with Bieber because of the difference in genre, style, age, and the explicit nature of their own works, yet, surprisingly, the guest spots work marvelously. Bieber doesn’t just throw the guests on a random track, he precisely features them by specifically placing them on tracks that work well with the signature aspects of each guests distinctness. Bieber employs Drake on a song with a moody, downtempo, and intimately minimalist tone, Big Sean on a party song is a no-brainer choice, and the ferocious Nicki Minaj on a heated and limber dubstep tinged track.
Overall, Justin Bieber didn’t rush himself into adulthood on Believe. He’s not trying to act ten times his age here, and he’s not trying to still capture the tween essence he had 2 years ago on My World 2.0. He’s letting his music grow with him, he’s patiently pacing his music with his age as he progressively grows, pouring himself into his music, and moving that music forward as he moves himself forward, and he’s in no rush to grow up too fast. He has wisely taken advantage of this in between position of maturity he’s presently in, a teenager, not yet and adult, but mature enough to be past adolescent, and this way he has grown up just enough to still appeal to his faithful audience of die-hard “Beliebers”, while also introducing elements that should cause interest in adult contemporary pop fans as well. The spots by adult rappers only watering the more adult factors, while all the while widening the range of pop music fans of all genres and ages that he’s reaching out to with Believe.
Believe shows that you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover, or in this case, the music by a voice from the past that’s notorious around the ears of the world, and this album has enough unpredictable surprises that no one would guess to come from him, to rightfully earn respect of the naysayers. Standing tall as not only an improved refinement of his last record, but a well measured step forward into adulthood, the best and strongest album of the genre, and all while at the same time being a genuinely true pop record with appeal for masses of all kinds. For anyone who “believes” in this record and enters with an open mind, they will be undoubtedly surprised at what Bieber can do.