Dig These Discs :: Melody Gardot, Maroon 5, Leah Labelle, Fiona Apple, Justin Bieber
"Believe" (Justin Bieber)
Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber drops a dozen hot new tracks in his highly anticipated studio album, "Believe." Among them is worldwide smash single and #1 iTunes track, "Boyfriend," which broke all YouTube video records with 8 million first-day views and more than 44 million views to date. Unlike many of his poppy, early hits, "Boyfriend" is a more mature track, featuring Bieber’s bedroom-sexy sotto voce intro interspersed with choral breaks. His intro track, "All Around the World," is a hot electronic dance track with Bieber singing, "Baby what you doing where you at/ why you acting so shy, holding back?" Toward the end of the song, Ludacris drops his rapid-fire solo, rapping, "I love everything about you, you’re imperfectly perfect, everyone’s itching for beauty, but just scratching the surface." Big Sean jumps into the next track, "As Long As You Love Me," an angst-ridden tune about finding love in a cruel world, with Bieber singing, "We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke, as long as you love me, I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold." With Bieber’s recent purchase of a $6.5 million home in Calabasas, CA, this outcome seems improbable, but the sentiment is noted. Bieber slows things down with "Be Alright," an acoustic all’s well tune. Nicki Minaj lays down a sassy, young money, electronic intro in "Beauty and a Beat," with Bieber singing, "We gonna party like it’s 3012 tonight, I wanna show you all the finer things in life so just forget about the world, be young tonight." This club-ready hit is made for the youth set to get their body rock on, much like the older generation did with Prince’s seminal hit, "1999." His title track, "Believe," is a sugar-spun pop track with Bieber singing, "Everything starts from something, and something would be nothing if your heart didn’t dream with me." "Catching Feelings" is another soft-spoken love song that would be right at home in a ’70s slow rock lineup. "Die in Your Arms" also seizes on an old Motown feel that suits Bieber’s bouncy, young voice well. "If you spread your wings you can fly away with me," sings Bieber in the flowery, "Fall." In "One Love," Bieber chroons "oo-ah oo-ah" to a drum-fueled beat that compares his girl’s love to a roller coaster. One of the best tracks on the album is "Right Here," featuring Drake. This mature R&B track finds Bieber promising to stand by his lady, with Drake lending his slightly off-beat patter to the whole effect. He closes out the album with "Thought of You," a fast-moving pop song that wrestles with infatuation and finds Bieber hitting a high falsetto. The deluxe album reportedly contains three extra tracks: "Out of Town Girl," "She Don’t Like the Lights," and "Maria." "Believe" is a fine sophomore release for Bieber (not counting his hit Christmas album), so pop out now and pick up a copy. No need to be embarrassed by your love for this bangs-flipping banjee boy. Just tell them the album’s for your niece.
(Island Def Jam Music Group)
"The Idler Wheel..." (Fiona Apple)
Seven years after Fiona Apple’s last album, she drops the latest result of her slow-paced, methodical music-making efforts, "The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do." This title, actually a poem, can be seen as a metaphor for Apple’s album, an emotionally wrought collection of ten confessional songs. She opens the album solidly with "Every Single Night," a meandering song covering a panoply of emotions, from anxiety to love to restlessness. She moves on to a percussive pitter-patter on "Daredevil," a discordant, slow moving, piano backed song in which Apple sings, "Say I’m an airplane and the gashes I got from my last heart-break make the slots and the flaps upon my wing, and I use ’em to give me lift." In "Valentine," her own choppy piano punctuates the cheer, "I root for you/ I love you." Using one’s music as therapy is nothing new, but while listening to Apple’s new album, one gets the feeling that she has written it much more for her own benefit than for yours. In "Jonathan," she begs her man to take her to Coney Island on the train; she doesn’t want to talk about love, or the other girls he sees, all she wants is him to "tolerate my little fist tugging on your forest-chest." Solitary bass drums open "Left Alone," a tune about being hard, with the lyrics, "I don’t cry when I’m sad anymore/ tears calcify in my tummy." How can she ask anyone to love her, wonders Apple, when all she wants it to be left alone? Apple’s moods dip and swing in the very course of a song, leaving the patina of a bipolar basket case, navigating the wild course of love. And in the same way that we are attracted to someone who withholds reciprocity, Apple’s music somehow draws us in. By making the most of the low end of her piano and an assortment of odd instrumentals like those heard in "Anything We Want," she has created something worth listening. In "Werewolf," a country vibe meshes well with her message of two lovers who bring out the worst in each other. A sense of ennui overrides in "Periphery," a hop-along tune about not appreciating people who don’t appreciate. The acidic "Regret," a song about a mean lover, is one of the album’s best, as Apple sings, "I ran out of white dove’s feathers to soak up the hot piss that comes from your mouth every time you address me." She closes things up with a be-bop love song of sorts, singing, "If I’m butter...then he’s a hot knife/ he makes my heart a cinemascope screen showing a dancing bird of paradise." A deep bass drum gives it the sound of an old Negro spiritual, sung round robin style. For Apple, who serves herself before ever thinking of us, it’s practically a lullaby."