Grown and sexy sounds good on the Beebs
In between peeing in buckets, allegedly storming into a DJ’s booth to demand some hip-hop be blasted in the club, and growing a mustache, Justin Bieber, the much criticized pop star, brat-provocateur, also makes records. And his latest one, the Diplo-produced “All That Matters,” takes his biggest leap yet to respectable adult performer. That’s not to say that the soulful track is particularly groundbreaking or an exceptional artistic statement. “All That Matters,” with its crisp acoustic guitar and hard-punching percussion is an obvious shout-out to producer Timbaland’s late ‘90s sparse, stutter-step sound. The same sound that helped propel his avant-garde crew—headlined by late R&B princess Aaliyah and hip-hop icon and lead songwriter Missy Elliott—to leaders-of-the-new-school ascension.
Yet Bieber’s “All That Matters” works because it embraces nostalgia without a hint of irony. Even if Bieber’s voice tends to get pitchy in some spots (No Randy Jackson, dog), he more than sells the number’s lyrics of youthful heartache. “What’s a king bed without a queen?” the wounded Canadian export croons. “There ain’t no ‘I’ in team/You make me complete/You’re all that matters to me.”
I will spare you with the whole “Is he singing to Selena???” tabloid mess and laud the kid for continuing to expand the more mature evolutionary sound of say, “As Long As You Love Me,” without having to have Big Sean riding shotgun for street cred (now that’s entirely different can of worms). “All That Matters” unleashes an act that may have finally found the confidence to stand on his own without the I’m-down bells and whistles. If Bieber’s fanatical followers can actually get an entire album in this vein, anything is possible.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)