Believe Bieber has another hit
The world’s biggest teen star for the past two years, 18-year-old Justin Bieber released Believe, his latest studio album, this week. It follows his hit, “Boyfriend,” a single that stays safely in the commercially potent pop and rhythm-and-blues mode that’s been so effective for Bieber.
The theme in “Boyfriend’s” lyrics dominates Believe, maybe so Bieber’s millions of fans can be hypnotized into thinking, yes, they can be Bieber’s girlfriend. “If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go,” the Canadian heartthrob promises. “Keep you on my arm, girl, you’d never be alone.”
Bieber’s love conquers all in “As Long As You Love Me,” featuring rapper Big Sean. “We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke,” he explains sincerely. “As long as you love me, I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold … you can be my Destiny’s Child.”
Super-producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins (Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Brandy, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, etc.) gets lead writing and production mentions for “As Long As You Love Me.” Maybe he deserves credit for the song’s succession of music-business references.
Jerkins is one of many producers enlisted to ensure Bieber’s stardom.
They include Swedish music czar Max Martin (Spears, *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson) Mike Posner, Diplo, Zedd and Hit-Boy.
It’s astonishing, too, at least for civilians, that 11 songwriters and four producers blended their talent to create the album’s most obvious Jackson 5 imitation, “Die In Your Arms.” To Bieber’s credit, his name is on most of the songs as a co-writer, sometimes with merely a single collaborator.
Bieber’s Believe is already the No. 1 iTunes album in many countries throughout the world.
Unless country singer Kenny Chesney pulls an upset, which is unlikely, Bieber’s album of synth-pop, R&B, neo-disco, oh-oh-oh and eh-eh-eh staccato vocals and its gospel-lite title track, will also make a No. 1 debut next week on the Billboard 200.
WELCOME TO THE FISHBOWL
It doesn’t get more state-of-the-art contemporary country than Kenny Chesney’s Welcome to the Fishbowl. Studio polish, finely honed songwriting and Chesney’s own easy, unaffected, sincere vocals add up to an album that’s especially well-executed but also not without soul.
While the familiar ’70s and ’80s rock influences that color much of today’s country is here, especially the Eagles, Chesney and his teams of writers and musicians move a little farther through music history, adding the influence of U2 to Fishbowl’s “Come Over” and “Sing ’Em Good My Friend” and Oasis and Counting Crows to the aptly titled “Feel Like A Rock Star.”
It’s a natural step, really, especially because borrowing from the Eagles and Petty is so commonplace among country acts.
Rapping, too, is more common in country now than just few years ago. Major star Jason Aldean raps, for instance, Colt Ford is building his career on rapping and mainstream rapper Uncle Kracker got a country hit with his song, “Smile.”
So here comes Chesney, a really big country star, rapping in his new album’s title song, “Welcome To The Fishbowl.” A little funky in a Spin Doctors sort of way, the song also has a big rock guitar solo, which is nothing new for country these days.
Chesney shows his stadium-rock credentials again with the emotional “I’m A Small Town.”
Featuring dramatic soft-loud contrast and a big chorus, the song is a biography of a town. “Either I hold your heart or I hold you down,” Chesney sings.
Chesney keeps it simple with “El Cerrito Place.” Playing the part of a lonely man looking for a lost love, he pronounces the lyrics clearly, the better to express the words’ heartfelt sentiment.
“While He Still Knows Who I Am,” a ballad with an especially heavy subject, comes across as calculated.
Chesney follows it with one of his lighthearted beach excursions, the inevitably Jimmy Buffett-style “Time Flies.”
The CD’s artwork, too, is covered with water and sand. Well, it’s a Kenny Chesney record, so it’s got to have beach music.
Strange Euphoria traces the music history of Ann and Nancy Wilson, aka Heart.
The box set runs from 1969’s “Through Eyes & Glass,” by Ann Wilson and the Daybreaks, to 2010’s “Hey You.”
Ann Wilson has one of rock’s great voices. Her sister, Nancy, mostly worked as songwriter and guitarist in the band — an extremely talented guitarist — and background singer, but also sang lead, even being the primary voice for Heart’s first No. 1 hit, 1985’s “These Dreams.”
Strange Euphoria contains three CDs and a DVD featuring Heart’s early days as a prog-rock band in the mode of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Fortunately, the group’s prog-rock phase abated and, by the mid-’70s, the Wilson sisters were writing and recording such powerful future rock classics as “Magic Man” and “Crazy On You.” Strange Euphoria features the later songs in 1975 demos.
The Wilsons’ affection for Led Zeppelin is heard in 1977’s “Love Alive” and “Sylvan Song.”
In the era when men and boys believed that girls couldn’t rock, the Wilsons launched such scorchers as “Barracuda” and “Kick It Out.”
The versatile sisters also evidence their love for melodic pop through dreamy ballads “Dog & Butterfly” and “Dreamboat Annie.”
Not every track on Strange Euphoria is a definitive Heart recording, but the demos are surprisingly complete. The set also features background for every song in the Wilsons’ own words.
Loads of period photos in a 56-page book further enhance the box set’s appeal.