Yes. You are reading this correctly. We are doing a 'Discography Explored' feature on Justin Bieber. Before everyone jumps down my throat and tells me that he is nothing more than a "hack", a "fake", or whatever else you want to throw at me, I want to ask you a serious question. Have you actually listened to any of his albums? Yes, when I was in high school, I dissed the kid solely because I didn't like the fact that he was a big pop star. But that's the funny thing about time: people grow. Your mind develops. You become open to new experiences, new forms of entertainment, and with that, new music. And here's the thing: I listened to every single album Justin Bieber has put out and he is an incredibly talented vocalist. He works with a good group of songwriters, and he's gotten nothing but better over time (this particularly rings true on his newest album, Purpose). This is coming from a dude who listens to the heaviest of metal, the grittiest of punk, and will openly be mocked by his peers for expressing sentiment and admiration for a pop star like Justin Bieber. I could give a shit what they think, he's a great musician and regardless of what you think of him, you should acknowledge this.
Justin Bieber is going to be making his stop in the Bay Area this week at both the SAP Center (Thursday, March 17) and Oracle Arena (Friday, March 18). In anticipation of Bieber's highly anticipated stops in the Bay Area this week, we take a look at each of his albums (minus the holiday album he released awhile back; for the purpose of this feature, we're focusing on non-holiday themed, studio releases).
My World EP
Released: November 17, 2009
Label: Island Records
The world's first introduction to the pop star that would soon go on to rule on the world, whether the general public was ready or not. My World was the first official release from Justin Bieber, a seven-track EP that would help the pop-star gain momentum and attention prior to the release of the full-length album that would launch his career into stardom. There are a few good hooks here and there, but this EP is merely a taste of what's to come. Usher, the man responsible for signing him, knew very well what work his fan base into a frenzy, with pop tracks like "One Less Lonely Girl", "First Dance", and "One Time".
My World 2.0
Released: March 23, 2010
Label: Island Records
By the time My World 2.0 hit stores, Justin Bieber had officially become a household name. Out of everything I'd listened to in his discography, I found this release to be, I guess, the most manufactured of his albums. I'm not saying that the songs are bad, but I can feel the major-label appeal off of it. His label and his entire team knew that this record was going to break him, and so I feel like they felt they had to make the songs as "pop-star" as possible. There are good tracks on here; there is no denying that. But at the same time, the production and songwriting feels a bit too polished. Looking back at this point in his career, when everything was so new and he was just a kid, it's understandable that this one was going to be a bit more artificial-sounding than the other records that Bieber would release in the future. This may be the album that rocketed him into stardom, but this is just a warm-up. The good stuff is on its way.
Released: June 15, 2012
Label: Island Records
During the period between My World 2.0 and Believe, Bieber released a Christmas album, a compilation album, a remix album for his feature concert film/documentary, and an acoustic reissue of songs from the My World series of releases. No new material, really. Then "Boyfriend", the first single from Believe, drops. People are easily shocked. This is a new direction. Is it good? Is it laughable? No music critic can really tell this early. But the single skyrockets him back into the spotlight.
Believe is unabashedly Justin Bieber's first great record. The music influences range from pop, to hip-hop, to electro-house, to R&B, and even to Mo-Town. His voice has finally dropped, and puberty has hit. The production is immaculate, and the songwriting isn't merely "cute" anymore. This is the moment when all music enthusiasts, even the ones that hate Bieber's guts, have to acknowledge that he is to stay in the game, and that's he's damn good at what he does. "All Around The World" and "Beauty and a Beat" are tracks that begged to be on club dance floors, while tracks like "Believe", "Thought of You", and "Be Alright" showcased his versatility as a performer.
Released: December 23, 2013
Label: Island Records
Now, I don't generally include compilation albums in a discography featured like this, but this is a bit of a different situation. In between albums, Bieber and his manager decided to come up with a new tactic: release a new song, every week, for ten weeks on something called "Music Mondays". For ten weeks straight, Bieber released a new track. A little after the ten weeks finished up, he compiled all of the singles, along with five unreleased tracks, and packaged them into Journals. The tracks feature a very heavy R&B influence, showcasing Bieber's desire to focus more towards this genre at the time. This was an interesting time in his career; I'm not going to talk about his personal life, but I'll go as far to say that this appeared to be a time of exploration, both personally and musically, for Bieber. Journals showcases this, and importantly so.
And now...we're here. It seems like Bieber's mind has been cleared. Purpose is his most laser-focused release, his most mature, and unquestionably his best album to date. I put Journals into this feature because while it wasn't the greatest batch of songs, it's important to see a songwriter's journey and how they get to where they are. Purpose shows Bieber exploring a far more mature side of contemporary pop-music. Light club beats pulse behind his vocals on tracks like "What Do You Mean?" and "Sorry". The songs are the catchiest they've ever been, yet it feels like there's such minimalistic production compared to previous efforts. I believe that part of this is due to the involvement of different producers like Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd and Sonny Moore (aka Skrillex), as these are producers that have been known to take on these kinds of tactics when writing. I believe that this kind of production really shows how powerful Bieber's voice is, and that he doesn't have to hide behind auto-tune and a barrage of production tools. The guest vocal spots work here as well; they don't feel like they were shoved in just because they wanted to put the name on the track. Ed Sheeran, Big Sean, Travis Scott, and Halsey all make appearances here.
To conclude: regardless what you think of Justin Bieber, you have to admit that he can sing and has been getting increasingly better with time. You don't have to like his music, but I do hope that if you're interested in pop music, you give it a chance. I'm very interested to see where songwriting and performing will take Bieber in the future, and it almost goes without saying that his fans will definitely be along for the ride.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.