In my last post, I bet that I’d be able to predict at least 75% of the Oscar winners from last night’s telecast. If I was wrong, I’d listen to Justin Bieber’s latest album, Believe, and review it. Well, I was wrong. So very wrong. It’s a little sad that the first review of any kind on my own blog would be for an album I never imagined I’d ever actually listen to. But that’s life for you: a constant series of often unpleasant surprises set to a bad soundtrack. Here we go..
Believe – Justin Bieber
Generally, I don’t care about Justin Bieber. He’s eighteen, and I’m older than him. Not by much, sure, but I’ve still been around longer. And although he may revel in his depressingly understandable success, I rest easy because I know his career only has two paths it take: he can either be an Aaron Carter or a Justin Timberlake. That means he’ll either reach a peak young and fall off the face of the earth, being best remembered for a possibly true song where he beats Shaq, or grow artistically, marry Jessica Biel, and experience tremendous success well into his thirties, culminating in a surprisingly solid comeback track with Jay-Z. Mark my words, in five years, either no one will remember Bieber at all, or everyone will begin to appreciate him artistically, though begrudgingly. It’s a strange thought, but that’s modern music for you.
I was initially going to do a track-by-track review, but there are seventeen songs on this album, they all sound exactly the same, and I would have to listen to all of them all over again, and I’m simply not doing that. Instead, I’ll address two major aspects of the album based off the notes I took when I heard it: A Dark Narrative, and Five Black Friends Doesn’t Equal a Black Card, or The Tarantino Conundrum.
A Dark Narrative
Believe begins with the anthemic pop song, “All Around the World”, where Bieber makes it absolutely clear that no matter who you are, or where you’re from, he has a specific fetish for you and your sexy sex parts. In a way, it’s flattering. I mean, he really legitimately has a thing for you, the listener. And if it wasn’t for the fact that neither you nor he will ever meet, you can’t help but imagine that he’d just explode with orgasmic joy at the mere sight of you, which is a terrifying way to imagine how Justin Bieber lives life every single day.
Like a Canadian Quagmire.
But I know what you’re thinking. He may love you and only you, but just for a night right? He’ll never call back, and he never even learned your name. Well, dry your tears, because “All Around the World” leads fairly smoothly into “Boyfriend”, where Bieber graciously pledges to be in a committed relationship with you and only you. “I got money in my hands that I’d really like to blow/Swag swag swag, on you/Chillin’ by the fire while we eatin’ fondue,” croons Bieber, as he presses his lips near your quivering ears and promises that he’ll buy you absolutely everything you want, up to and including some melted cheese by the fireplace. His endless pledges to adore you and all your little quirks – finally someone who loves you for your taste in music – continue for two more songs before the narrative takes a bit of a dark turn. The last several songs have just been an extremely lengthy pick-up line, and now, Justin Bieber has succeeded in secreting you away to his home with the appropriately, and creepily, titled, “Take You”. Now, you, the listener, find yourself in Justin’s home, likely by the fireplace waiting for fondue. The very next song, “Right Here (ft. Drake)”, is specifically when the entire album embraces the darkness. This song has Justin welcoming you to his home, singing softly to you about how you’re the only one he needs, and hoping you don’t notice that Drake is behind you until it’s too late.
Yes. This sacrifice will certainly please Cthulhu, Justin.
If you’re familiar with Drake at all, and his brand of velvety soft, “I love you and nothing you do is wrong and I just want to cuddle”- type music, it might have struck you how similar it is to Justin Bieber’s album so far. Honestly, it’s not surprising he’s on the album, it’s just a little creepy he’s in the room with you. Because, Justin Bieber is 18, and his fanbase is likely around that age or younger, and Drake is 26. Why the hell is he there? Much like that nameless black rapper on Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, it’s intensely weird that he’s hanging around really young people and singing love songs to them and feeding them fondue, which is easily the most scandalous of cheeses.
“We gonna have to wash that bowl when we done, girl.”
Now, the next song, “Fall” has Justin tell you a depressing story of a guy who’s been friend-zoned harder than Rick Grimes in Love Actually and is desperately trying to hook-up with his sexy best friend by singing her grim lyrics like, “You can’t fly unless you fall.” Somehow, she doesn’t seem too into the Icarus imagery and then the song just sort of ends. And you have to imagine, once again, that Drake is sitting nearby, watching quietly and fondling you with his eyes.
After several hours of trying to make you want him, Justin Bieber switches things up and tells you what he would like to do with your body, which, it turns out, isn’t much. “Die in Your Arms” and “Thought of You” paint a picture of a very strange lover, one who boldly says “Every time you touch me, I just die in your arms,” and that “I’m in love with the thought of you/Not the things you do, but the thought of you.” That’s right, everyone, Justin Bieber straight up doesn’t love the things you do, but merely the idea of you, and woe betide you if you so much as stroke his hair. He’ll melt in your hands like the fondue he’s no doubt filled you to the brim with. But let’s return to that first part. In a completely unexpected reference to Plato’s Theory of Forms, he’s only in love with the idea of you. That’s disturbingly philosophical for a pop album. It’s also at this point that the narrative dissolves and the fate of you, the listener is never really elaborated on. Maybe you escaped, maybe Drake wouldn’t let you. Either way, you’re only halfway through this album.
Five Black Friends Doesn’t Equal a Black Card, or The Tarantino Conundrum
Quentin Tarantino is one of my favorite directors. His films are immaculately written, and ooze with a truly unmistakable style. He also really, really thinks he’s a black guy. But he’s not, and he certainly never will be. I won’t go into detail about it here, but the famed director’s constant state of Wishful-Blackness – interacting so frequently with black people that you begin to believe you’ve been adopted into the race when no such thing has actually happened – deserves a name, and I call it, “The Tarantino Conundrum.”
Justin Bieber suffers from The Tarantino Conundrum, and it’s disturbing that so many hip-hop artists have been encouraging his delusion. I honestly have no idea how he’s managed to worm his way into the genre so easily, but clearly he’s been successful. That’s the only explanation for why the five guest stars on the album – Ludacris, Big Sean, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Jaden Smith – are there at all. But in spite of them, that does not equal a black card.
The elusive Black Card. It comes in two colors: Wesley Snipes and Don Cheadle.
Attaining a black card is a complicated, difficult thing that very few non-black people have ever achieved. It involves years and years of supporting the black community, a genuine sense of soul, and a notable, humanizing public scandal, which explains Bill Clinton’s double platinum membership. Bieber hasn’t earned it yet, and probably never will. Still, being able to get Will Smith’s son on your album doing his best Diggy Simmons impression is kind of impressive. I do however, want to give a bit of focus to Nicki Minaj’s verse, on “Beauty and the Beat”, where she mischievously raps, “Justin Bieber/you know I’mma hit you with the ether/buns out, wiener/but I gotta keep an eye out for Selener.”
Wow. Holy shit, Nicki, that’s really, really dark.
Anyway, to wrap things up, I give Justin Bieber’s Believe, on a scale of Billy Madison to That’s My Boy, a Jack and Jill. Make of that what you will.