On the up side here, 17 year old Justin Bieber throws himself into this project with gusto and is supported by stellar guests. However, much of the music seems to highlight the fact that he is a teen star in the process of trying to move to a more adult approach to his music. Unfortunately, that makes a number of the tracks here sound a bit uncomfortable. There are moments of quite joyful sound, and Justin Bieber fans will be pleased by much here, but this is unlikely to be a true holiday classic of an album.
A Bit Predictable and Manufactured
There are predictable bases covered on Under the Mistletoe. The album kicks off with the adulatory crooning on "Only Thing I Ever Get For Christmas" which is My World 2.0 dressed up for the holidays. It is followed by the Jason Mraz sound-alike hit single "Mistletoe." By the time Justin Bieber has given us the expected duet with his mentor Usher and a Jackson 5-ish take on "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," our attention might begin to lag a bit. This is what we expected on a Justin Bieber Christmas album, but it still feels a little too predictable.
There is a manufactured feel to much of the music here. The duet with Mariah Carey on "All I Want For Christmas Is You" just seems like it hauls out the now classic song once again and pastes in Justin Bieber's new vocal segments. It has been over 18 months since the release of My World 2.0. Even though a Christmas album is not the easiest environment for experimentation, there is a sense commercialism ruled the studio here.
Moments Of Giddy Joy
Despite the overall deficit in inspiration on Under the Mistletoe, there are some moments of great holiday joy. "The Little Drummer Boy" is taken for a spin in hip hop territory with the masterful Busta Rhymes. Justin Bieber does his own rapping, but as always it is Busta that causes our jaws to drop in awe. This track instantly brought to mind Run DMC's holiday rap classic "Christmas In Hollis." Of the new tracks, "Christmas Eve" is a standout. Lyrically, the pining for an intended lover isn't particularly original, but the track is swathed in powerful romantic passion. For those who purchase the deluxe edition of Under the Mistletoe, the track "Someday At Christmas" may become the favorite. The song was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1967. The performance here is one by Justin Bieber as a precocious young singer. Clearly influenced by Michael Jackson, his passionate reading of the inspirational words will bring a smile to your face.
Top Tracks On 'Under the Mistletoe'
- "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)" featuring Usher
- "Drummer Boy" featuring Busta Rhymes
- "Christmas Eve"
- "Someday At Christmas" (Bonus Track)
Good Choice For Justin Bieber Fans
The age of 17 is not an easy time of life for anyone. If Justin Bieber's star continues to shine brightly into adulthood, Under the Mistletoe may be looked back upon fondly as a transitional collection moving from the bright, fresh-faced teenage performer to something more measured and adult. However, for now, that tension is a bit uncomfortable in music for the holidays. It sounds as if the voice has not settled into a comfortable spot so that Justin Bieber can truly sing with confidence.
Under the Mistletoe is unlikely to disappoint the hordes of Justin Bieber fans, but there is little here to pull in new admirers. This album will undoubtedly sell loads of copies, but it is the upcoming Believe collection due sometime in 2012 that the music world is really anticipating.