Beliebers. Bieber Fever. #StayStrongForJustin. It’s hard to think about our current, crazy pop culture landscape without mention of the 18-year-old, saggy pants-wearing Canadian who not only fuels our rumor mill but lands coveted entertainment gigs. But no too long ago, there was a time when Justin Bieber was just a boy with a guitar, standing in front of a camera, asking us to love him. Today marks the six-year anniversary of Bieber on YouTube, the place where he first adopted the pseudonym of kidrauhl and changed the way aspiring acts market their talents forever. To celebrate–and once again self-promote–the Bieb is pimping a new acoustic take on one of his personal favorites (“Take You”) from last year’s Believe.
Justin Bieber‘s Believe tour made a brief stop in Brooklyn last night, filling the seats of the newly-opened Barclays with teens and their chaperons–along with a slew of slightly older fans, the ones who noticeably sit down during the slow songs. You could say I was amongst that second crew, although I did plaster temporary tattoos that read “I <3 Justin Bieber” all over my face as to better camouflage myself in with the crowd. But there are things that divided us (beer, mostly) and as it turns out temporary tattoos are extremely difficult to get off of your face.
Believe is a masterpiece of lights and sound and spectacle, all focused on spreading the gospel of self-confidence and the rags-to-riches tale that is The Justin Bieber Story. Not to mention, the fact that Bieb is now a person in his late teens who has developed quite the impressive physique. On two occasions, while strapping himself into a harness, Bieb lifted up his shirt to reveal a bare stomach causing a flurry of deafening screams. Toward the end of the set, he donned a zipped open jacket that revealed what seemed to be a six to eight pack of abs.
When during Bieber’s rendition of “One Less Lonely Girl” he brought up an actual “lonely girl” to sit terrified in a chair made of stereo speakers while he danced around her, there was a spark missing. She sobbed while he expertly glossed through the song, occasionally mock stroking her tear-stained face. And while Bieb attracted quite crew of famous people (even Jay-Z was in the house!), I could sense the sadness. Sadness related to his recent break up with fellow teen sensation Selena Gomez? Maybe! There was something a little off about his 1, 2 step, a little too real in his audience call-outs asking, “Where are my single ladies tonight?” to an answer of thunderous (and by that I mean thunder LIKE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD) screams.
Believe —Justin Bieber‘s second full-length album, which is out today on Island Records— is a bid bid by a teen star aiming for continued relevance. Will the kids still love him? Can the adults love him, too? Will this be an acceptable substitute for another Justin Timberlake album that will probably never arrive? The critics, all too old to be count themselves as Beliebers, are split:
“Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty — a tough gauntlet by any measure. Luckily, his instincts (or at least the instincts of the small republic of people employed to steer the USS Bieber) are strong, and Believe works surprisingly well as a reinvention and a reintroduction. It’s the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds.” – Kyle Anderson’s B+ review for Entertainment Weekly
“I let down my hair…and got in touch with my inner tween. And then a funny thing happened: I kind of fell in love. Which is pretty much the point of the whole album.” — Melissa Locker’s review for Time
“Bieber seems to be staking a place in pop history. There’s the Timberlake nod of ‘Hey Senorita’ on ‘Take You,’ a Prince homage (“We all party like it’s 3012 tonight”) plus a shout-out to Beyoncé’s beginnings with the words: ‘You can be my Destiny’s Child’. The blissfully descending melisma of a five-syllabled ‘die’ in ‘Die in Your Arms’ sounds like a forgotten Jackson 5 gem. In fact, the track samples Michael Jackson’s ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going’ and bonus track ‘Maria’ is another MJ-esque treat – a paternity-protesting song to file right next to ‘Billie Jean.’” — Hermione Hoby’s 4-star review for The Observer