The Bottom Line: Parents, you can get Justin Bieber's CD for your preteen without worrying about imagery or lyrics. It's completely safe, unthreatening pop music.
I don't consider myself to be totally out of touch with the pop music scene: after all, I work in the industry. But I distinctly remember seeing Justin Bieber on the VMAs last year and going "who the f*^k is this kid?" I assumed he was one of those Disney artists like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato and all those other singers that a 33-year old black man shouldn't be aware of the existence of.
Then I started seeing this kid all over the Billboard charts and I had to do some research and figure out who he is. Justin's a 15-year old kid from Canada who apparently was discovered through the most modern of ways-YouTube. His videos caught the eye of American music execs, and he was the subject of a bidding war between superstars Usher and Justin Timberlake. Big Ush won the bidding war, and now the kid's arguably as big a star as his mentor. His "My World" album (EP?) has sold nearly a million copies since its' release last fall, and he's also become the only artist in history to place all of the songs from an album on the Hot 100-granted, the album only has seven songs, but that's still a worthy accomplishment.
With all that going on, I had to check the kid's album out, even though it kinda made me feel like Herbert from "Family Guy".
So, "My World" is pretty much your run-of-the-mill kiddie pop album with splashes of R&B. The songs are well-written and hooky, Justin's a decent enough singer, and the album is pleasant enough-although mature music fans won't find anything that sticks to the ribs (and you'll find this album in used CD bins for a buck five years from now when Justin's legion of teenage girl fans have broadened their musical taste).
"My World" is definitely in tune with current musical trends. You can tell from the first moments of the opening track, "One Time". The song's musical composition has roots in Southern hip-hop, along with those chanted "ay"s that you're familiar with from T.I. and Young Jeezy records. Only they're chanted by Justin himself, which just sounds...weird. On a hip-hop song, it sounds kinda menacing. And it's kinda hard to pull off "menacing" when your balls haven't dropped yet.
"Bigger" has a bouncy, fun vibe to it, but the lyrics are kinda dumb coming from a 15-year old. "I was a player when I was little/But now I'm bigger". Exactly how much of a player can you be at 10? I think JB might need a little bit of macking experience before he can believably sing like that. "Love Me" is another song steeped in the sound of current pop radio-it has the same stomping sound as Britney Spears' "Womanizer" and P!nk's "So What" and also manages to rip off...er, interpolate the chorus of The Cardigans' "Lovefool", which was a hit when Justin was...4. Good Lord.
Most of "My World" is upbeat and danceable, with the major exception being "Down to Earth". The song tackles a subject that probably hits home with a lot of kids in his age range-divorce. It has one of those slow build-ups, starting with piano and gradually turning into a big, multi-tracked song not unlike your average Celine Dion record (although it's way more contemporary-sounding). It's the one song that really got my attention, and I was pretty impressed to see that Bieber got a co-writing credit on it (as he does on several other tracks). The only other track of note is "First Dance", which is one of those timeless teen songs. First time I heard the song I immediately thought of New Kids on the Block back in the Eighties. Usher also makes a quickie appearance here.
"My World" is one of those albums that will appeal to its' target audience and probably no one else-and that's not necessarily a bad thing. People have to start somewhere before they evolve into their musical tastes, right? It's totally harmless and non-threatening from a lyrical standpoint (which is actually kind of a refreshing change in sex-obsessed pop music) and very polite in that way that most Canadian artists seem to be (seriously-I can't think of one singer from our neighbor to the north that comes across as threatening. Not even "Jagged Little Pill"-era Alanis). If you're over 16-which just about everyone who'll read this probably is-skip it, but it's a decent record considering the age of the guy who made it as well as the age of the audience that it's being marketed to.
"My World" by Justin Bieber
Released 2008 on Island Records
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Track Listing: One Time/Favorite Girl/Down to Earth/Bigger/One Less Lonely Girl/First Dance/Love Me