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Justin Bieber, ‘Believe’ – Album Review

Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

In an attempt to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood, Justin Bieber drops ‘Believe,’ his third studio effort and most mature record yet.

Now that he’s older, relatively speaking, his album listening party (held at Island Def Jam quarters earlier this week) lacked any sort of party streamers or festive flair. Rather, the focus — aside from the black and white promo shot of him as a modern James Dean, throwing swag at the camera — is his new music: A mix of synth heavy dance and melodic downtempo R&B tracks sprinkled with ballads and neo Doo-wop jams.

Executive produced by Scooter Braun and Usher, the 13-track effort (16 including bonus tracks) took eight months to complete, with Bieber being more hands-on than in previous releases. He co-wrote all the songs — with more focus on such tracks as ‘Fall’ and ‘Believe,’ despite not being a “seasoned writer,” as Braun put it.

With the help of big-name producers (Mike Posner, Max Martin, the Messengers and Diplo, among others ) and hip-hop’s hottest emcees (Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Drake and Big Sean), Justin Bieber hurdles into a new sound with such standout tracks as ‘Boyfriend,’ ‘Take You’ and ‘As Long As You Love Me.’ These tracks will earn him the respect of new fans, while bringing along his loyal Beliebers for the ride.

However, with ill-fitting numbers like ‘Maria,’ ‘Chasing Feelings,’ and ‘One Love,’ the record loses its focus, bringing us back to the swooped-haired, younger sounding Biebs. Overall, ‘Believe’ is a stepping stone towards adulthood, and we look forward to seeing him grow as an artist.

1. ‘All Around the World’
This is a great track to kick off the record. It introduces us to the more mature Biebs, with processed vocals and synth pop reminiscent of Britney‘s recent effort, ‘Till the World Ends.’ The Messengers give it that EDM flare, even though Luda’s verse doesn’t seem to mesh as well as his collabo on ‘Baby.’ [Listen Here]

2. ‘Boyfriend’
Swaggie!” Despite sounding a lot like Justin Timberlake, this was the perfect single to lead off the album, taking us on JB’s journey from adolescence to adulthood. His high falsetto complements the breathy verses, filled with hip-hop swagger. [Listen Here]

3. ‘As Long As You Love Me’
Not to be confused with the BSB track of the same name (which is 15 years old BTW?!), this is another clubby hit, full of dubstep, synth and hand claps. We love the Destiny’s Child call out, as well as Big Sean‘s feature. [Listen Here]

4. ‘Catching Feelings’
This is our least favorite. It’s a bit too cheesy, with Boyz II Men harmonies and Christmas-sounding percussion. “Why do I get nervous” Bieber croons in a high falsetto, as he talks about developing feelings for a friend and if she will “feel the same.” This would have been a better fit for ‘Under the Mistletoe.’ [Listen Here]

5. ‘Take You’
This midtempo, dance-driven track will have you grooving along. The synth back beats that build up during the chorus really stand out as Bieber sings,”I can take you out / I can take you home / I can take you oh-oo-woah / where you wanna go.” Bieber continually references his girl as his “senorita” in the bridge — a call out to JT and his song of the same name. It ends with electric guitar strumming and goes right into ‘Right Here.’ [Listen Here]

6. ‘Right Here’ Feat. Drake
Bieber seems to take on Drake’s musical style and persona here, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. JB and Drake sing in unison: “I just wanna love you / I would never ever put anybody up above you / I just wanna kiss you / I just wanna hug you until the end.” What makes the track is the downtempo back beat produced by Hit-Boy. [Listen Here]

7. ‘Fall’
This ballad begins with “Let me tell you a story about a girl and a boy.” And that’s just what it is. One of the more prominent tracks co-written by Bieber, the track is inspired by the 2002 flick ‘A Walk to Remember’ starring Mandy Moore. So get the tissue out girls — Bieber’s showing off his sensitive side, even getting a little choked up towards the end of the song. [Listen Here]

8. ‘Die in Your Arms’
A contemporary Doo-wop jam that samples one of MJ’s earliest tracks, ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going,’ Bieber croons about the affection for a girl. His speak-singing in between the chorus and second verse will make any young girl’s knees weak: “Baby, I’m sure it’s worth a try.” Swoon! [Listen Here]

9. ‘Thought of You’
Don’t be fooled by the title — this is not a ballad. The fast-tempo track features hand-clapping and an anthemic chorus, which soars with climatic dancefloor line “I’m in love with the thought of you,” thanks to production by Diplo. [Listen Here]

10. ‘Beauty and a Beat’
Bieber wants to see your “body rock,” yet another JT reference (this time with ‘Rock My Body’). You’d think this would have all of the elements for a hit track — Nicki Minaj interlude, synth buildup, and even a Selena Gomez shout out (“I’ve got to keep an eye out for Selena”) – but it falls short. ”We’re going to party like it’s 3012″? We’ve heard that before. [Listen Here]

11. ‘One Love’
Bieber croons: “I don’t want-want nobody when I got-got your body.” It’s cute, but takes us back to Beiber’s ‘My World’ days. After hearing the new Justin, with ‘All Around the World’ and ‘Take You,’ this doesn’t make the cut — not impressed. [Listen Here]

12. ‘Be Alright’
This is Bieber’s guitar strumming ballad. It’s filled with genuine lyrics — “Through the sorrow and the fight” and “I’ll always be there for you” — but it doesn’t stand out compared to other tracks. Although, we do see fans loving this live, just Justin and his guitar. [Listen Here]

13. ‘Believe’
Awwwww. This is Bieber’s ode to his fans, featuring a chanting, epic chorus: “Everything starts from something / but something wouldn’t be nothing / if your heart didn’t dream.” It give his fans hope, just as Lady Gaga‘s ‘Born This Way’ did. [Listen Here]

Bonus Tracks:

14. ‘Out of Town Girl’
This is where JB tries to get on his swag, again, and it’s blatantly sexual. We honestly think this would have fit better as a standard track next to ‘Boyfriend,’ in place of ‘Catching Feelings.’ It’s produced by Soundz, but sounds like the work of Timbaland. [Listen Here]

15. ‘She Don’t Like the Lights’
The noise of flashing lightbulbs are intertwined in the track, as Bieber sings “she doesn’t like the flash when we’re in the dark.” With the help of Darkchild, the track builds into a clubby, strobing track. [Listen Here]

16. ‘Maria’
Obviously, for legal reasons, the “h” is taken out. But we all know who this song is directed towards: Mariah Yeater. The track starts out with media clips, and Bieber stating: “I’ve never met the woman.” It’s Bieber’s version of ‘Billie Jean’ especially with the line: “She ain’t my baby / She ain’t my girl.” Fans will get a kick out of this. [Listen Here]

Watch the Justin Bieber ‘Boyfriend’ Video

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