Bieber Fever: have you caught it? Symptoms include a penchant for all things Justin Bieber including listening to his songs, looking at his photographs, and occasionally swooning. And, it’s not only tween fans that have succumbed; even haters cannot evade the singer and his latest hits this summer.
18 year-old Bieber has recently infected the airwaves with “Boyfriend,” and “As Long As You Love Me.” Since 2009, his catchy pop and R+B singles like “One Time” and “Baby” have gone platinum one by one. And, with the release of his fourth album Believe on June 19th, Bieber is aiming for the same success.
Although some critics argue that Bieber falls short of his influences, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, critical reviews of Believe are mainly positive. Spin gives the album a 7 out of 10, Rolling Stone 3 out of 5 stars, and Entertainment Weekly a B+. Entertainment Weekly’s Kyle Anderson argues that the album is both a “reinvention and a reintroduction. It’s the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds” and that “Bieber isn’t just maturing, he’s evolving.”
Meanwhile, sales records serve as answers for the public’s response. According to the Washington Post, Believe has already become this year’s top-selling debut album, and it is charted at number one. Subsequently, the week following Believe’s release became Bieber’s best sales week. With nearly 400,000 copies sold, fans are matching their purchasing power to their adoration of Bieber’s cute face and talent.
[pullquote_left]“I don’t want to start singing about things like sex, drugs and swearing. I’m into love, and maybe I’ll get more into making love when I’m older.”[/pullquote_left]
In the world of child stars, natural ability in attractive packaging has been proven golden. But aside from these predictable assets, Bieber and his musical intentions do surprise and stand out. In an interview with V Magazine as of January, 2012, Bieber acknowledges that, “People need to know I’m not a kid anymore” but also says, “I want to do it at my own pace. I don’t want to start singing about things like sex, drugs and swearing. I’m into love, and maybe I’ll get more into making love when I’m older. But I want to be someone who is respected by everybody.”
This intent is shown in Believe. Today’s hits of the dance, hip-hop, and R+B genre commonly include female objectification and overt sexualization. Lyrics in recent hits, “The Motto” and “Scream,” include, “Clubbing hard, f*&king women, there ain’t much to do,” “Almost drowned in her p*ssy so I swam to her butt,” and “Getting drunk off the thought of you naked.” There’s no denying that these singles have catchy beats. But, it is unfortunate when lyrics like these are so common that they are overlooked in order to groove on the dance floor. At the same time, these aspects translate to the location where the song is being played to affect women. In essence, females in real-life are also commanded to “shake this,” “pop that,” “drop this,” so the males can “hit that.”
In contrast, Bieber gives his listeners heavy bass, a danceable beat, and strong synthesizers without the aspects described above. Standouts include, “All Around the World,” “Take You,” “Thought of You,” “One Love,” and bonus track, “She Don’t Like the Lights.” His collaborations with hip-hop artists Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Ludacris are less explicit than the artists’ usual fare. Unlike other teen stars who try to grow up though sexualization, (consider Jesse McCartney’s song “Beautiful Soul” in comparison to his later song, “Body Language”), Bieber has created adult club hits with his own rules.
Bieber and his team deserve applause for pushing the envelope with innocence in a modern package. With his eye on his integrity, this precedence just might change the tune of mainstream music. In any case, it will be interesting to watch Bieber’s growth as a musician and see if he follows the equation of other male artists or truly keeps creating his own path.