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Review: Justin Bieber hits all the right notes on 'My World 2.0'
Well-crafted pop not just for the tween set
I’m not exactly in Justin Bieber’s target demo, but he just himself got a new fan.
“My World 2.0” is chock full of shimmery pop songs that rely on great production and Bieber’s pleasant, slightly nasally, uncomplicated voice. Its sweet spot is girls who are at that tender age where they’re switching allegiances from their love of horses to their timid, giggly like of boys. Smartly, Bieber and his coterie of producers and songwriters make no sudden moves that could scare them off. Bieber is the perfect gateway drug, musically speaking, to adult acts as his starter kit, last year’s “My World,” showed. Every girl remembers her first love like this—whether it was as far back as Donny Osmond or David Cassidy or Justin Timberlake or, more recently, the Jonas Brothers. And we say thank god for them. Girls have the rest of their lives to listen to songs about adult problems
The result is an album full of songs, none of which are particularly original, but all are supremely crafted. The lyrics are straight-ahead, boy-meets-girl stuff that no parent could possibly object to. In every case, Bieber is either pining for the girl (the gloriously upbeat “Baby” featuring Ludacris and “That Should Be Me”) or is adoring her (“Never Let You Go” with its sample lyric: “It’s like an angel came by and took me to heaven”). In other words, the girl is always the one calling the shots here, not Bieber, especially on “Eenie Meenie,” the ridiculously catchy mid-tempo thumping duet with Sean Kingston about a girl playing the field. As he does with Ludacris on “Baby,” Bieber is completely able to hold his own with the much-more experienced Kingston.
A few of the songs are downright gems, such as the thumpy, sleek disco sheen of “Somebody to Love.” (We predict lots of dance remixes) and the mid-tempo piano ballad “U Smile,” that musically recalls Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” “Runaway Love,” while not as strong as the previous two, sounds straight out of Janet Jackson’s “Someone to be My Lover” era.
The ballads are the weak link here. “Overboard,” a ballad that’s going to feed into every little girl’s “I’ll rescue you” complex (never too early to start cultivating that, ladies), is one of the few tunes that is so generic that it almost disappears into its own blandness. Plus, the label uses it to introduce 14-year old signing Jessica Jarrell, so it smells a little off to begin with. The propulsive “Up,” never gains altitude. However, third ballad and album closer, “That Should Be Me” is infinitely better than the previous two and is straight out of the All-4-One/Boyz II Men slow jam ballad school.
Of course, much of the credit for the album’s success goes to the talented phalanx surrounding Bieber like a cocoon, including The-Dream, Tricky Stewart and Bryan-Michael Cox, who lovingly craft every note and beat to provide maximum support for Bieber’s still–developing vocal style. Plus, they never pander to the younger audience.
Both Justin Timberlake and Usher vied for Bieber’s talents for their own labels (Usher was the ultimate winner) and it’s easy to see how they saw their younger selves in Bieber’s image. It’s way too soon to tell if Bieber will rise to their levels of stardom and be able to navigate through the extremely choppy waters from tween phenom to mainstream star, but so far, so good.