Justin Bieber - Journals
Record Label: The Island Def Jam Music Group
Release Date: December 23, 2013
Artists have to make a choice at some point in their career. Do they stick with the sound and image that made them popular in the first place or do they branch off, taking a chance at greater fame and a new image? Justin Bieber does the latter with mixed success. Journals is undoubtedly his greatest work to date and shows a more mature, sexual side to the Canadian pop-star. However, it is an experiment that at times works and at others feels like Bieber is trying way too hard to discard his boy image.
Smooth beats and vocal hooks dominate Journals. From the first song, it is immediately clear that this is not the same Justin that made "One Time." His voice and new R&B influences showcase someone who is ready to move away from his young, teenage girl fanbase into a more mature crowd. However, there is no variation in the album with a few notable exceptions. "Roller Coaster", the best track on the album, is a catchy, funk-influenced, electronic song, that sounds like it could be a b-side to Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds . After the seven slow, similarly sounding R&B tracks, "Roller Coaster" was damn fun. "Swap It Out" and "Memphis (feat. Big Sean)" are the other stand-outs, the former highlighted by piano chords and a snappy beat, while the former shows great chemistry between Biebers vocals and Sean's fast-paced wordplay. Bieber even takes a jab at rock with a well-placed and effective guitar solo in "Backpack (feat. Lil Wayne)". These are the elements that I want to see expanded upon.
While those songs showcase the potential that Bieber has, there are songs where Bieber is trying way too hard to be sexual, featuring some of the worst lyrics on the album, especially "PYD (feat. R.Kelly)." My favorites are "Up the stairs to my bedroom, light a few candles, prepare yourself, Im'ma put you down," "this will show you how much I love you, form of appreciation," and "be your dope man in the bedroom, you can make me your drug babe." Apparently, all Justin has to do is light some candles and the girl will be so excited she has to prepare herself for the glorious love making that is about to occur. Last time I checked, having sex with a girl is not the only "form of appreciation" and is saying you're a "dope man in the bedroom" sexy? "Hey girl, I'm pretty dope in bed." Nope, didn't think so. These instances of Bieber pushing sexuality on the listener is too contrived and forced for any enjoyment (except maybe for the girls who are attracted to these "swag" guys).
Journals is a step in the right direction for Bieber. Despite the lack of variation and some horrendous lyrics, the album still shows some true gems like "Roller Coaster." If he can expand on the fun and flavorful aspects on the album, he'lll create something that is so enjoyable that nobody will be embarrassed to listen to Justin Bieber with the car windows down. For now, Journals is only good for mood making as background music (I never thought I would say that about a Justin Bieber album) not as a stand alone listen.