Justin Bieber's third full-length studio album has a more adult sound than his previous efforts. Unfortunately, that change comes in the form of borrowing from the sounds of other artists instead of the maturation of something unique to Justin Bieber. The cumulative effect of songs that seem to echo other hits in less distinctive form is to cause the listener's attention to waver. There are far too few standout cuts here to add up to a strong album. Justin Bieber seems far from finding his own voice as an artist.
Where the Age Becomes a Weakness
Justin Bieber's music in the past has seemed strongest when it focused on him as a precocious teenage talent. Now that he is in his late teen years, he seems much less unique than when he began as a recording artist. It is inevitable to compare some of the music here to that created by Justin Timberlake when he matured from a teenage boy band star to an adult artist. Unfortunately, songs like the hit single "Boyfriend" sound like a pale attempt at making that awkward transition to a more mature outlook. "All Around the World" is a somewhat anemic attempt at something like mentor Usher's "revolutionary pop." "As Long As You Love Me" is a pop song that seems a bit late to the dub step party. These sound like stabs at sounding like an adult but ultimately miss their mark.
Too Much Homage To Other Artists and Styles
Believe has far too many songs that sound like imitations or at best an homage to the work of other artists. "Die In Your Arms," one of the more pleasing cuts on Believe, is mostly successful because it captures something like the spirit of early Jackson 5 hit singles. "Beauty And a Beat" generates a bit of pop exhilaration when it seems a kindred spirit to featured artist Nicki Minaj's recent hit "Starships." The effect is that instead of Justin Bieber blazing a trail forward with his own music he is flailing as he attempts to play catch up with other established artists.
Top Tracks On 'Believe'
- "Die In Your Arms"
- "Thought Of You"
- "Beauty And a Beat"
Justin Bieber Is Still Searching For His Style
Instead of helping us define what an adult Justin Bieber might sound like as a recording artist, Believe seems to simply muddle the picture. His days as a top performer will be numbered if he just continues to imitate the work of others. A song like "Fall" that focuses squarely on Justin Bieber's voice and lets it glide above the lush instrumental track could point in fruitful directions, but it is not powerfully distinctive. Believe is an important album in his career, and it misses the mark as an effort that will move Justin Bieber forward significantly.