Justin Bieber's Believe: A Friendly Chat About Its Merits, Its Hooks, And Its Foray Into "Arena Moombahton"

Categories: Justin Bieber


Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean, "As Long As You Love Me"

MJ: Yeah, "As Long As You Love Me" is definitely lovely—I just get an itch when I hear those wub-wubs and wobbles. It's definitely tastefully used in this case—although I could probably do without the vocal matching of the "lu-lu-lu-lu" beats. Also, the way he says "you could be my Destiny's Child"—how old was he when "Bug A Boo" came out, anyway? Do you think he knows what a pager is?

When I was at the listening session, Scooter Braun was very proud of this being An Album—there was definitely rhetoric about this being not just "fluff," but art, flying around the whole time. It seems like Bieber's been around for a long time, but Believe is only his second proper full-length. Do you think reaching for the brass ring of artistry now is a premature move? I mean, okay, I have to bring the other Justin up here (you can't spell "Timberlake" without all the letters in "Bieber," you know?), but he had a little bit more of a grooming period before "Gone," the 'N Sync song that I would say was his "Careless Whisper" premature-solo-career move, came out. Is the Biebs just operating on Internet time? Or are his handlers realizing that there's probably another whippersnapper coming up right now, and trying to have him avoid the fate of whatever Jonas Brother was on that dating show that rips off The Voice?

NM: I might have answered this differently had you asked me a few hours ago, before I read Chris Molanphy's excellent column about "Call Me Maybe" and Island Def Jam's struggle to get "Boyfriend" played on the radio, which really helps to contextualize part of the reason why Bieber needs to release what Scooter Braun would call art. To some extent, it sounds like Braun was saying the sort of thing managers are paid to say, particularly a listening session for critics and insiders. On the other hand, it also seems as though Bieber is a very mature musician for his age, and not just because he makes wonderful throwback R&B tracks like "Catching Feelings" and the aforementioned "Die in Your Arms." Listening to Believe, it struck me how much Bieber's drumming roots add to the sound of the record. He's not playing drums anywhere, of course, but even on those Euro-dance numbers, they're always different. I mean, the hook to "Thought of You" is a step away from moombahton. What are your thoughts?


Justin Bieber, "Thought Of You"

MJ: I should note that when I first heard "Thought Of You" I didn't think of moombahton or Diplo (who produced it), but of lumbering '80s arena rock—the big keyboard downbeats on the verses giving way to that soaring chorus.

Very Greatest American Hero. Maybe that's his next move!

But it's true, Scooter was probably playing to the crowd (particularly the people sitting in the nice orange chairs that had RESERVED FOR PRESS signs on them) with that statement. Yet I do feel like, say, unlike so many other albums that are coming out even now, in the age of endless a la carte, "Believe" does actually work all the way through. There aren't any throwaway songs. Shoot, the song with the Nicki Minaj cameo is track 10!

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