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Aural Pleasure Review

Justin Bieber: 'Believe '

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Pop sensation Justin Bieber's sophomore album veers from hip-hop, dub-step, and dance club tracks and back to the more familiar terrain of pop and R&B. He also composed most of the words and music on an album that hosts a plethora of hip-hop and R&B artists and producers, yet the question remains — does it make for a better CD? Sometimes. "Beauty and a Beat," a dance club love letter to his girlfriend Selena Gomez, has a hyperventilating Nicki Minaj hitting on Bieber — dirty rhyming "Selener," "wiener," and "Bieber." My fave cut — his duet with fellow Canadian Drake on "Right Here," a soulful R&B ballad as smooth as Ashford and Simpson — excels with a wounded Craig David angst to his vocals. In "Maria" (available in the deluxe version), Bieber confronts a crazed fan that claimed he was her baby's daddy. He takes Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" as a template, at times sounding like Jackson or Justin Timberlake, but ultimately himself. It's the most believable cut on the CD. Believe is Bieber's search for his voice and place in pop music today. Yet the bigger question remains, can he do it without the help of his famous friends? It nevertheless is a solid step in the right direction.

★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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