Review Summary: Mellow and well produced, Justin Bieber delivers a consistently good release for the first time in his career
Justin Bieber’s no stranger to controversy, with his recent arrest for DUI and resisting arrest, he continues to garner public attention. The important question throughout all of his newfound reckless behavior is whether or not any of this translates into his music. The answer is no, and for good reason. “Journals” is a solid collection of downtempo R&B songs that doesn’t particularly stick out, but it’s an entertaining listen nonetheless.
We open up with “Heartbreaker”, a slow song that utilizes an echoed guitar line with a subdued bass beat to form the foundation. The majority of the album is similar to this, with some songs relying more on the electronic side. Other songs consistently throw in dashes of acoustic and piano throughout the mix to keep things livened up and interesting; a notable example would be “All That Matters”, where the plucking of the acoustic strings is very high in the mix. However there are a couple tracks that rely more on the electronic side for their appeal; such as “Confident” which also features a well placed cameo from Chance the Rapper. This shift in sound priority is of course welcome due to Rodney Jerkin’s crisp, clear production work. Bieber himself was the executive producer as well and had a bit of creative control over certain tracks such as “Change Me”, a piano ballad in which Bieber puts his voice to work.
Speaking of which, his voice has undergone a bit of growth since his last effort. His style incorporates a lot of subdued rapping with very solid low-key vocals. His habit of overusing “whoa's” and “oh oh’s” is still in effect here, but unlike before they are used to an effect that overall adds to each of the songs. Unfortunately his high range still needs work, as there are times where his falsetto and anything above his mid-range sounds forced and frankly not good. His best vocal performance is without a doubt in “Change Me” and “All That Matters.” His lyricism has thankfully improved from gems such as “I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold” and has taken a downtempo turn similar to the music. Most of the songs are about love, girls and a couple tracks regarding introspection. Nothing stands out here, but his writing style is improving from before.
In short, Bieber’s come a long way from the swoopy haired teenager that every 14 year old with access to a Youtube account would equate to the epitome of torturous music, but he still has a lot of work to do in order to match up with his contemporaries. If he can focus on honing his high range, write more personal lyrics and tap into his R&B influences more, then there’s a good chance that we could have an even more solid effort come from JB. Until then, we’re left with his best record to date.
“PYD”, “Confident”, “Change Me”, “All That Matters.”
“Backpack”, “Whats Hatnin.”