Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the mini-purses of bajillions of ‘tween girls opening all around the world. Justin Bieber’s Believe officially hits physical and virtual store shelves today—only to fly off of said shelves and into the libraries of countless bejeweled iphones and the car stereos of countless soccer moms.
All snarky stereotyping aside, Believe is quite possibly the smartest album the Biebs (now 18) could have come out with at this point in his very public adolescence. Walking the thin line between boyhood and manhood, the record highlights Bieber’s maturing voice and treads lightly along more grown-up themes without leaving behind his established fan base.
Speaking of fan base—it’s obvious that Bieber and his handlers are well aware of who that fan base comprises. While showcasing a more grown-up side of J.B., Believe is unabashedly a dance-pop record, heavy on romantic themes set against an array of popular music stylings (including multiple appearances of rap, dubstep, and the healthy dose of “boy-band”, if you can call that a style). Clocking in at just over 50 minutes (or an hour, if you pick up the deluxe version), the 14- (or 17-) song album offers an excellent blend of dance hits and lush ballads designed to delight and woo the average American pre-teen female, as well as the now-maturing females who have grown up listening to him (not to mention the grown-up Ellen Degeneres-types who think his cheeks are just soooo pinchable). While most of the track list is made up of predictable-but-pleasant pop love-song fare (with the occasional guest rap by names like Ludacris and Drake), perhaps the most poignant tune on the album is only available on the deluxe version. “Maria” takes dead aim at the girl who recently claimed Bieber fathered her child: “She’s not my baby / She’s not my girl” will no doubt draw many comparisons to Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”
While Believe is definitely a well-planned and appropriate record for Justin Bieber, it isn’t without its missteps—the most apparent of which is the guest rap of Nicki Minaj on the tune “Beauty and a Beat.” In her rap, Minaj, 29, is a bit tasteless in her suggestive freestyle directed at the 18-year-old, adding, “I gotta keep my eye out for Selena.”
Beyond that bit of unfortunate lyricism, the only other critique of the album is that it plays things just a little bit safe. I say that some trepidation, because the fact is if I were handling Bieber’s career, “safe” is exactly how I would have played it. The primary danger with Justin Bieber is that he could peak too soon. Thus, Believe plays sort of like Bieber is being allowed to grow artistically at a guarded and controlled pace. The singles “Boyfriend” and “Die In Your Arms” prove that there are chartable hits, but don’t look for any timeless signature classics on this album. (But that’s okay for now, because no one could really hear them amid the screaming girls, anyhow.)
That being said, this is a record that definitely shows promise for a talented young man whose best days are hopefully still ahead of him. While much anticipated, Believe is not Justin Bieber’s landmark album—but it will definitely make you “believe” that such an album is not too far beyond the horizon.
ALBUM RATING: 3.5 Stars (out of five)