Uncomfortable lyrics aside, there’s not much to make the adult listener squirm.
Mike Diver 2010-01-19
Justin Bieber is guaranteed to bring out the worst in critics looking to write the cocky teenager (have you seen him being interviewed? He certainly doesn’t lack confidence) off without a single listen to this, ‘part one’ of his debut album. He’s got the fame (initially via YouTube), if not the fortune yet, and he’s just 15. Makes you sick. But such is the talent assembled here that nobody should assume the Canadian’s a gimmicky artist with a short shelf life, pitched to appeal exclusively to Disney Channel viewers.
This disc – part two will follow later this year, explaining just the seven tracks on offer here – finds the piercingly high-pitched vocalist working with such big industry names as Usher (who effectively got him his deal), The-Dream, Zeke Lewis and Tricky Stewart. That’s some support, and for the most part it serves its purpose well: the studious graft behind Bieber’s completely generic, RnB-inflected, Auto-Tune’d pop vocals comprises the bulk of this record’s appeal. Unspectacular but never below-par, these arrangements efficiently evince the star of the show’s ability, which while limited is sure to develop. After all, from the sounds of things he’s yet to hit puberty.
Which does make for several awkward lyrical moments: “I was a player when I was younger,” Bieber states on Bigger, leaving one to hope he’s talking about Little League rather than chasing skirt. Hit single One Time is similarly uncomfortable, our protagonist’s insistence that “many have called” but he’s choosing this one girl (lucky her, though she’ll have to stoop for a kiss) sure to make most with Real Life Relationship Experience cringe. But its thudding beat and syrupy message of monogamic commitment are perfect ingredients for mainstream appeal. Plus, its PG-rated content ensures no parent is going to frown upon their offspring indulging in a little idolising.
Perfunctory fare, then, but nothing to get unnecessarily aggrieved about, My World is introduction enough to both embrace a sizeable audience – okay, fundamentally those of a similar age to the artist – and accept the rejection of just as many squirming listeners. It’s production-line stuff, but with just the slightest sting in its tail: an electro-infused reinterpretation of The Cardigans' Lovefool, where Bieber exhibits the right kind of attitude, playful and endearing. Here’s to less of the adolescent playboy on part two, and more of the cheeky chap rightfully having the time of his young life.