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Review: Justin Bieber's new album 'Believe' is a silly-fun rite of passage

The world needs Justin Bieber.

If you've ever been stuck in a soccer van stuffed with preteen fidgets caterwauling Baby, you might disagree with me.

Plug your ears, hold your nose, whatever: It's true.

Ultimately, his new album, the fun, fluffy Believe, won't be measured by its artistic merits but its cultural ones. For swaths of you, Believe will be one more way to measure your youth, much like pencil scratches marking out height on the pantry door. It's a rite of passage.

All the kiddies crave a piece of Bieber these days, and, for that matter, so do grown-ups in the music biz, who are making a fortune off of this kid. Rappers Drake, Ludacris and Nicki Minaj all show up on the new album; they get a foothold with younger ears, all while Bieber gets to appear more mature.

Or, as he likes to say, "swaggy."

Yeah, he's a dork. But so what?

Bieber can afford the best producers, and many tracks here, if devoid of any shred of soul, make for a fun slumber party. Much has been written about his eventual Justin Timberlake transformation, but this is in no way his "grown up" album, his version of JT's FutureSex/LoveSounds. Bieber isn't there quite yet.

Most of us weren't lucky enough to have the Beatles as our "first" musical crush. Instead, we got Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett and New Kids on the Block. Thanks to Believe, I'd put Bieber in the middle of the pack.

Beauty and a Beat, his song with a flirty, but clean, Minaj, is a full-throttle blast put together by Max Martin, who helped make Katy Perry a star. It's a hoot, too. "I gotta keep an eye out for Selena," Minaj slyly jokes at one point, referring to Bieber's girlfriend, singer Selena Gomez.

Synth-punched album opener All Around the World ("People want to be loved/ Yeah/ Oh oh oh"), re-teams him with Baby bud Ludacris and features Bieber showing off a huskier, hunkier voice. He still looks like he could pass for 12, but hey, he's a man, baby. Or something like that.

Bieber's handlers are smart enough to keep him reigned in, so things don't get much more risque than Out of Town Girl or first single Boyfriend. The album is loaded with breathy ballads reminiscent of Michael Jackson's sappier moments, including the tooth-ache-sweetness of Catching Feelings ("They say we're too young for love / But I'm catching feelings / Doo doo doo").

Many of us develop our musical tastes through pop puppy love, and the 18-year-old Canuck with the constantly cool hair will usher millions of young'uns to greater orchestral glory — or at least John Mayer. Even that hardcase Kid Rock, about as far from Bieber as you can get, admitted that about the new kid: There's always going to be a new teen dream, so why fight it? You had your turn; now they get theirs.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

.review

Justin Bieber, Believe

(Island Def Jam)

GRADE: B

Review: Justin Bieber's new album 'Believe' is a silly-fun rite of passage 06/19/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 6:40pm]

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