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Justin Bieber - 'U Smile'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:47 UK time, Saturday, 4 September 2010

If nothing else, the existence of Justin Bieber has been a useful lightening rod to draw out crazy people from all walks of life and encourage them to make their presence known across the internet.

I'm not talking about his fans, you understand, it's perfectly rational to be massively into a good-looking pop star, especially if you're young and he seems to be singing directly to you in an inviting way. No, the people I mean are those who would seek to destroy Justin and his work, via the medium of saying hateful things while hiding behind a fake name.

There's been no end of it. It's like you're not really at one with the modern web world if you can't express where you stand. Battle lines have been drawn and everything.

Last month, for example, there was a minor kerfuffle around this song, because a musician called Shamantis edited it so that it was 800-times slower, turning it from a cute, '50s-style pop song into a startling half-hour ambient epic.

(it's here, if you want to hear it.... It'll do until Justin finishes the 'U Smile' video, at any rate.)

The response was as predictable as it was enormous. There was a lot of squirming. People who are definitely not comfortable admitting there is anything worthwhile to Justin's music found themselves entranced by this whale-noise, and then having to affect an attitude, saying they would only be prepared to consider allowing Justin access to the hallowed hunting grounds of their personal taste if he was THIS drastically altered, and therefore unrecogniseable as himself.

Other people took this a step further, claiming the whole thing is a fake, an actual ambient song made by a group called Photon Wave Orchestra which sounds a bit like a slowed-down Justin Bieber song. Because the idea that Justin Bieber could be involved in something which sounds a) beautiful and b) arty is so UNTHINKABLE that it just HAS to be a fake, right?

Well it seems not. Anyone with access to audio editing software can verify that it's the real deal, and Justin himself even sent a tweet to Shamantis, saying "this version of U SMILE is incredible to just chill out and fall asleep to. feels EPIC. gotta love music."

And that's really the point. Justin's a massively hot global pop star at the moment, there's a lot of money to be made from someone in that situation, the business side of what he does is going to be machine-like and ruthless and probably brutal. It may even turn out not to have been very good for him personally, to be this famous at such a tender age...

...but what he does is exactly the same as what everyone on the Mercury Prize list does, and what Bob Dylan did, and what every act in the NME does. He makes music. It might not be to everyone's taste, but here's the kicker, NEITHER IS ANYONE ELSE'S.

For the record, I like 'U Smile' probably more than any other Justin Bieber song to date. It's a sweet song, sung in soulful rasp that could easily be a teenage Michael Jackson (with a bit of a cold). To claim there's anything evil about it as music is ridiculous. And to admit that it's not half bad won't turn you into a teenage girl, unless you already are one.

AND what is so bad about being a teenage girl anyway? More than half of the population of the world have been one at some point, and they seem pretty OK.

Apart from the crazy ones, of course.

Three starsDownload: Out now
BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

PS: Of course, the next step is to claim that the slowed-down version was commissioned by Team Bieber in the first place in order to drum up interest in the single release. Which has kind of worked, if it's true. Dammit.

Common Sense Media says: "You've gotta hand it to Justin Bieber: while many of his peers release songs that follow the same boring synth-pop formula, Bieber tries to mix it up with different musical styles."


  • Comment number 1.

    So glad this little pip-squeak is stuck on the C-List. What an awful excuse for a chorus.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just heard this for the first time, and Scott Mills introduced it as beeing by (to my ears) "Beeba" (obviously Scott is far too busy getting idiots to text in about what their cat looks like to talk about the records).
    After shouting "You have no soul" at the standard "Mmm, yeah, woah-oh" intro, I then assumed that for the rest of the record this was by a woman.
    Now, I'm not saying that men have to be all muscles & able to cut down a tree & that, but IN SOME WAY you should sound like a man.
    He doesn't. That's bad.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm the same age as him, and I haven't sounded like that since I was thirteen.

    The rekease has been pushed back though, meaning it's now released next week.


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