Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Review: Believe by Justin Bieber

by George Neame

New haircut
(source: celebrity-mania.com)
Justin Bieber is a name likely to cause a scene wherever you are, whoever you are. The subsequent reaction when such a name is uttered is either one of swooning delight or gagging sickness. It’s a classic case of ‘you either love him or you hate him’. I doubt I need to highlight the background of pop’s baby-faced prince, his fame since he signed with Island Records after a YouTube discovery by Scooter Braun and Usher led to his becoming globally recognised. Because of this, I will save you the very brief history of his rise to fame and cut straight to the chase. The only thing I should point out is that, for those of you who don’t know, Bieber has finally cut that infuriating mop of hair.

The fact of it is, when I first heard this album, despite the shivers that rattled down my spine beforehand, I realised one simple thing: it is actually not bad. Please, do not start Googling ‘assassins-for-hire’. Allow me to explain.

Whilst recording Believe in late 2011, Bieber commented that he aimed to produce a more mature, grown-up album. Gone, he claimed, were the repetitious lyrics of ‘Baby’. No longer would his songs be just a sordid collection of irritatingly high-pitched hooks and limp backing beats. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was just a lie to drag in a couple more fans over the age of ten years old. Much to my shock, though, he seems to have actually kept to his word.

The album begins with Ludacris duet ‘All Around the World’, an annoyingly infectious and energetic mixture of drum beats and club-style instrumentals. Bieber’s voice is, thankfully, restrained, allowing us to almost look past the man himself and focus on what is actually a very catchy tune. Follow-up ‘Boyfriend’ is an unfortunate return to the old days with a very cheesy series of lyrics, but saved from complete disgrace by another acceptable tune.

Tracks 3 to 7 contain a similar combination of hit-and-miss songs, some excruciatingly painful, some quite captivating and memorable. Second single Die in Your Arms features a harmonious piano melody and is quite original, the introduction sounding almost like Deep Southern blues. Marginally deserved compliments aside, though, we cannot look past the impact of the album as a whole. Essentially, it is true that many, almost all, of the songs are very similar. Halfway through the album, you do begin to ask ‘Haven’t I heard this one before?’ It is also definitely understandable that even a reformed Bieber may not appeal to all audiences. There are still hints of pre-teen vocals and tacky lyrics.

Frankly, it’s not a great album and I will by no means be digging £7.99 from my own wallet to download it from iTunes. But, at the same time, I managed to listen to the entire thing without my ears bleeding and without bringing my lunch back up. I guess that’s a success. This more mature side of Bieber’s is surprisingly good and might just have you tapping your toes in time without you even noticing. For all of the criticism he receives, maybe it is time to give Justin Bieber a chance.

Star Rating: ***

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