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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Justin Bieber takes a new direction


In case you didn't hear the screams and swoons of preteen girls nationwide last Monday, the epidemic otherwise known as "Bieber Fever" has returned, sweeping across America like wildfire.

Yes, ladies and gentleman - Justin Bieber is back, dropping his new single "Boyfriend," which should turn even the most jaded of listeners into a "Belieber." The first song off his third studio album, "Believe," set to be released later this year, sounds unlike anything we have heard from the Biebs- not only because he clearly has fallen off of the puberty tree and hit a few branches hard on the way down, but because the song itself has a different resonance to it. It might be too much to say "Boyfriend" is edgy, but it certainly makes you forget the days when Justin was a little Canuck nugget singing with a schoolboy voice - puberty has given his vocals a bit of authority.

If I hadn't known it was Bieber singing on it, I would have thought it was another Justin dropping rhymes and crooning over the beat - Timberlake, that is. Unfortunately, the man behind the world's most notorious wardrobe malfunction seems committed to making movies and "SNL" shorts, so we're left with the next-best thing - and to be honest, I'm not complaining.

Bieber is a polarizing figure, and at first, it would appear he does not do himself any favors with his new track. He launches into the song with some spoken-word rapping talking about his "swag" - this coming from a boy who is just barely legal and is dating a Disney Channel star. Let's be real, voice cracks, not "swag," are what Bieber should be worried about for at least the next few years.

But laughable introductions aside, Bieber and Mike Posner, who co-wrote the song, have crafted some sleek beats to fit Justin's mature new image. The song sounds like it could have come off a Justin Timberlake album, and is eerily reminiscent of "Senorita," one of JT's early hits. It is smoother than anything on the radio right now - never would I have thought to consider Bieber an innovator, but this is not one of the dime-a-dozen dance-oriented tracks currently crowding airwaves. Rather, it signals the young Canadian icon wants to step into the shoes of the likes of Usher and Justin Timberlake as pop's next major crooner.

It will be interesting to see where the next few years of Justin's career take him. He has already established a niche as the number one male teen icon - and by niche, I mean he has a huge fan base of teenage girls and cougars nationwide idolizing him. But as the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and countless other young adult acts have displayed, translating childhood success to a prolonged career in the entertainment industry is no easy feat. 

However, Justin seems to know what he is doing - he is changing his image to become more mainstream and radio-friendly, while also respecting his main core of fans. I wouldn't go so far as to say Justin is Canada's version to Frank Sinatra, but he clearly can sing. Bieber attracts a lot of criticism for being a primary example of what is wrong with the music industry today - namely for focusing too much on image and not on talent - but you can't deny he has the "it" factor or the "X" factor, the sort of indescribable aura some performers simply have. 

Regardless of looks, we as consumers and viewers are simply drawn to certain artists, ranging from the gorgeous Beyoncé to the music industry's answer to a crazy cat lady, Susan Boyle. This even goes across the talent spectrum. There are surely thousands of everyday people who can sing better than Britney Spears, but none possess the sheer spectacle she has as a performer. It is hard to describe what it is, but the recipe to pop superstardom has many ingredients.

Bieber seems to recognize this multifaceted path is the way to a long and healthy career. One day, his fans will grow up and not be screaming teenage girls anymore - they'll be screaming college girls, or screaming moms, or screaming residents of a retirement home. Justin could never stick with bubblegum pop forever, and thankfully, "Boyfriend" marks a new direction for the teen icon. It seems there is no cure for "Bieber Fever" in sight - and it looks like it will stay that way for a long, long time. 

Contact Sam Stryker at