In Which I Plunge Into Bieber Madness
Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist
There are two things I find strangely irresistible: extreme French horror films and male teen pop sensations. The latter obsession harkens back to my youth, when my sister and I were deep into a New Kids on the Block (or NKOTB as we called them) obsession. In college, I went through a Backstreet Boys/*NSYNC phase where their infectious pop hits dominated a good 80% of my workout mix. I may or may not have debated at length with my friend about which Justin Timberlake hairstyle I liked the best.

Now, I'm not one to swoon or scream over these sorts of bands myself - I'm more of a "only discuss it around like-minded friends and always with a sense of weird guilt" kind of fan. But these bands do inspire that screaming obsessive behavior in many of their fans; I remember hearing a rumor that if you attended a NKOTB concert without ear plugs, you risked permanent hearing damage from all the high-pitched screaming. That's part of what draws me to these sorts of acts, because I'm constantly fascinated with dissecting exactly what it is about these groups that appeals to their fans (more specifically, their younger fans).

Needless to say, when I started hearing internet rumblings about one Justin Bieber a few months back, I was intrigued. I had seen the Twitter trends, and had heard a few internet memes going around, but for a long time I had no idea who he was. It was like he was living in some parallel world where everyone seemed to know who he was. I resisted for awhile, but finally had to see what all the fuss was about. I downloaded My World 2.0 and fired it up on my drive to work.

Here's how the album breaks down:

Track 1 - "Baby"
This is an exact transcription of what went through my head as I listened to this song: "Hmm... Is that a girl? No, that must be Bieber. Ok. Damn, they auto-tuned the shit out of this song. It's still pretty catchy though. 'Baby, baby, baby, baby, ohhhhhhh...' Ha ha, oh my god - is that Ludacris I hear? I think it is. WTF? Ludacris is rapping about playground love. That is weirdly awesome." I have to admit - overall this is a great track and I'm not surprised that it's hit single. By the second time I listened to it, I was singing along. It's a tasty pop confectionery treat for the ears.

Here's the video of the song, which confirms Ludacris's presence. My favorite part of the song is when Justin dances up all close on the object of his affection like maybe he's going to get all sexy on her. Honestly though, the way it plays out, it seems like the only physical contact she's in danger of is enthusiastic hugging.

Track 2 - "Somebody to Love"
Another danceable hit. I could actually picture this playing in a club somewhere. I could also picture myself dancing to it.

Track 3 - "Stuck in the Moment"
This is the first semi-ballad of the album. The song starts by name-checking the greatest angsty teen love story of them all: "Now Romeo and Juliet, bet they never felt the way we felt." I cackled a little the first time I heard it, but I bet the tweens go crazy for that lyric. More name-checking of famous couples, including Bonnie and Clyde, Adam and Eve, and Sonny and Cher for some reason, continues. The chorus is another hooky set of lyrics that ensure that you'll be powerless to resist singing along to the next time you hear it.

Track 4 - "U Smile"
I was already predisposed to dislike this song, because I loathe any usage of IM/texting shortcuts in place of proper spelling. The fact that the song is incredibly bland - both in lyrics and melody - just makes it worse.

Track 5 - "Runaway Love"
It's at this point in the album where I start to suspect that the best tracks have already passed by. This is the sort of song that a Justin Bieber hater might point to as proof that his music is terrible.

Track 6 - "Never Let You Go", Track 7 - "Overboard"
This is vintage teenage boy pop. It sounds a lot like something 98 Degrees or O Town might have sung back in the 90s. I do not mean that as a compliment. The Backstreet Boys wouldn't have recorded these even as crappy b-sides.

Track 8 - "Up"
This is a little better - I like the R&B-influenced slow jam styling of this song. It's also the first song to even remotely feel sexy in an adult way.

Track 9 - "That Should Be Me"
In this final track, Bieber unintentionally brings the funny. There have been countless cracks about how no human has ever more closely achieved the ideal of Lisa Simpson's "Non-threatening Boys Monthly" cover model than Bieber. Bieber validates this notion by singing about how he wishes he were in the place of the girl's boyfriend, with a chorus that goes, "That should be me, Holdin' your hand, That should be me, Makin' you laugh, That should be meeeeee..." Holdin' your hand? Really? Could a sentiment more delightfully innocent? Granted, later in the chorus he sings "that should be me, feeling your kiss" but I suspect that's only in there because it rhymes with the lyric that follows, "That should be me, buyin' you gifts."

Here's what I find most amazing about Justin Bieber: he's essentially a one-man boy band. Whereas groups like *NSYNC have the advantage of being able to disperse and share the white-hot intensity of fangirl love among their many members, poor Justin Bieber must face that raging force alone. Compounding this problem is the fact that Bieber is literally an insanely beautiful boy - his hair flops perfectly around his angelic face, creating what can only be called "Catnip for Pre-teen Girls". The question is not, "Why are all these girls literally going insane for this kid?" it's "How could any girl under the age of 16 NOT lose her mind over him?" Even some older ladies are taken with him (a phenomenon captured hilariously in the SNL skit featuring Tina Fey fantasizing over Bieber's good looks). For God's sake, LOOK at this kid:

Really. I get why 12-13 year old are going absolutely berserk for this guy. I mean, we can make fun of them all we want for threatening Kim Kardashian, after Kim joked over Twitter that she had a thing for Bieber. But honestly, I remember defacing a picture of the singer Tiffany in my sister's 16 magazine, because Tiffany was dating Jon, my favorite New Kid on the Block.

All things considered, you have to acknowledge that the kid is a talented performer. The fact that he's signed with Usher (himself a teen pop star) means he has a mentor who can help him navigate the tricky transition between teen and adult pop stardom. I just wonder what he's going to sound like after his voice changes.

So. There you go. I plunged myself into the vast mystery that is Justin Bieber and have dutifully reported back to you all on what I found. Now go download "Baby" (you know you want to).
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On 4:16 PM , Johnathon Sykes said...

I had only heard Bieber by name until I heard "Baby" at Forever 21 with my other half.

We both thought it was Usher on a higher pitch until someone informed me (rather rudely) that it's Bieber.

I guess he has the formula down that's tried and true. Baby is kinda poppy and hella catchy. Just something I would never ride down the streets of Atlanta with.