Nov. 3 2011: Music: Bieber releases album, dampens holiday spirit

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Forget about stem cell research, the War on Terror, or gun control — the most controversial and divisive subject of the 21st century may be whether or not Justin Bieber actually has any talent.

Bieber has been riding on the coattails of his debut album for over two years, and his hit single “Baby” now conjures up more groans of annoyance than the announcement of a pop quiz. Instead of releasing an album that explores how his life has changed since 2009, Bieber chose to unload a Christmas album onto the world. Considering that he has only released one other album his entire career, this decision may seem narrow in focus.

However, “Under the Mistletoe” is the opposite of focused.  It is instead a hazy montage of cheesy classics and the standard teen idol fare. Only six of the eleven tracks were actually composed by Bieber and his posse of songwriters, and even the original songs, especially the release single “Mistletoe,” are melodically anonymous. Strip away the holiday-themed lyrics and bells jingling in the background, and the sound is no different from his previous works. The obvious exception is his cover of “All I Want for Christmas is You,” an audible atrocity in which he and Mariah Carey sing/shout in total discord.

Which brings me to my major annoyance about Bieber’s music: his over-reliance on guest artists, of which Carey is the latest of a series of musicians including Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Drake and Chris Brown. That is not to say that artists should never be featured in each others’ works. Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” for instance, plays beautifully off the contrast between Rihanna’s vocals and his deeply emotional rap. The problem occurs when a guest musician does not add anything meaningful to the music.

Despite a lack of creativity, “Mistletoe” is by no means a horrible album. Bieber’s vocals have matured over time and through puberty, and his holiday album would sound perfectly fine playing in a department store with all the other Christmas classics. There is nothing in there that will win over new Bieber converts, but for some hormonal teenage fans, it might be a decent gift. For the rest of us, a Kidz Bop record offers far more originality.

{cc-by-nc-sa} Yimeng Han


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