THE CRITIC: Justin Bieber’s “My World 2.0″ Saddled With Bland Ballads
Justin Bieber - My World 2.0
The first step to accepting Justin Bieber is getting past his age. It’s everywhere on this record, impossible to ignore, and, frankly, if Bieber was simply a twenty-something white boy with an R&B fetish, My World 2.0 would be easy to acknowledge as a disposable adult contemporary record in the vein of latter-day Backstreet Boys. But Bieber is just following in the proud tradition of plenty of vapid pop stars before him, from the Mickey Mouse club to Miley Cyrus, and although his voice stubbornly refuses to conjure up images of anyone older than thirteen, it would be shortsighted and irresponsible to write off Bieber as a flash in the pan novelty.
The problems at the heart of My World 2.0, actually, have little to do with Bieber’s talent. For the most part, his production team, featuring ubiquitous and fairly anonymous hitmakers like The Dream and The Stereotypes, do him little favors here. Too often Bieber is saddled with the kind of bland, by-the-numbers ballads like “Overboard” and “Up” that come off as duplicates of every other R&B slow jam out there, except sung by someone who can’t have much experience in what he’s singing about. Of course, therein lies the other major problem that undermines much of My World 2.0 - I’ll be damned if Bieber is an expert in heartbreak, love, or any other of the sentiments he expresses in either his teenage lothario role (“Baby,” “Runaway Love,” “Stuck In The Moment,”) or his grief-stricken dumpee role (uh, “That Should Be Me” – Bieber’s a pretty optimistic guy, for the most part, making that particular song a contrived disaster). It’s hard to take the majority of the lyrics seriously, so when Bieber croons “so give me the night / to show you, hold you” shortly followed by a chorus that goes “shorty is an eenie meenie miney mo lover,” it’s not only disturbing, but unintentionally hilarious. There’s not much to say about the kind of producer who thinks the use of the term “shorty” with an elementary school gimmick is a good idea.
Nearly every song requires some sort of suspension of belief thanks to the lyrics, but if one ignores just what bullshit Bieber is spewing at any given time, My World 2.0 reveals itself as a largely unobjectionable slice of harmless pop music. In fact, Bieber’s voice is the least offensive thing here; dude can sing. His decision to be more “edgy,” what with the more R&B bent compared to his debut and Ludacris and Sean Kingston guest spots, occasionally pays some worthwhile dividends, particularly the bumping “Somebody To Love” and the surprisingly enjoyable piano-based rhythm of “Never Let You Go.” It’s noteworthy that the tracks that suffer the most rarely fail due on account of Bieber – even on the sappiest, cheesiest ballad, Bieber is genuinely pleasant to listen to, although the waves of hackneyed production and banal lyrics will turn off all but the most dedicated pop fan.
Despite Bieber’s rather poor reputation outside of his prepubescent teenage girl demographic and the commercial stench the album gives off (Bieber on why he’s released his debut in two parts: “people do not want to wait over a year and a half for new music;” surely the record company had no say in this), My World 2.0 is effective and innocent Top 40 material, if not terribly inventive. It won’t do much to quiet the haters, but if Bieber gets some quality material and reaches that inevitable “I’m coming out as a mature artist”-stage, he might establish himself as an enduring pop star. If not, I’m sure there’s a lucrative future in bat mitzvah gigs for the Bieb.