It’s no secret that Justin Bieber has become the media’s favorite spectacle, thanks to his penchant for partying, DUI arrests, dating multiple women, publicly urinating in buckets, throwing eggs at houses – you get the picture. His so-called “bad boy” antics has overshadowed his career so much, that people have mostly forgotten that he’s still a decent musician. But, believe it or not, the singer is quite talented and has a solid discography to prove it.
After shelving the album for a few months, I’ve recently rediscovered Bieber’s 2013 release Journals. The follow-up to 2012’s platinum album Believe, the singer created a compilation album that was more mature, less Pop-influenced and features production from the likes of Diplo, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, OVO Sound’s T-Minus and The Messengers.
As part of the album’s promotion back in October, Bieber created a series campaign titled “#MusicMondays,” where he dropped a new song every Sunday at midnight. These songs ultimately became Journals, a Christmas gift of sorts for his fans, as it was released on December 23. Despite the rush-release for the holidays, the album was a commercial fail. None of the songs made an impact on radio, and the album did not make an appearance on US charts. When it came to the critics, the either ignored or trashed the album. But, almost one year later, I’m here to shamelessly defend Journals.
Many songs from the album are inspired by his on & off relationship with Selena Gomez, and the theme of love is prevalent throughout the record. Journals also shows a major vocal improvement, with the singer playing around more with his falsettos and lower register. It evident that R&B is the perfect genre to showcase his growth, both vocally and lyrically.
Journals is an album I previously wished Chris Brown released since I thought it could have been the perfect comeback (but he was infamously MIA from the music scene due to various legal issues), but I’m so happy Bieber did this album first. It shows a different musical side to him that first peeked through in his sophomore effort Believe (which included R&B-tinged songs like the Big Sean-assisted “As Long As You Love Me, “ “Right Here” featuring Drake and “Take You”) and also solidifies him as a real artist to watch.
Drawing influence from artists like Mario Winans, Jon B, Joe, Jodeci, R. Kelly (who makes an appearance on the uber-sexual slow burner “PYD”) Journals is a musical dream for late 90’s/early ’00’s R&B nostalgia lovers, but still has a refreshingly modern spin thanks to Bieber’s unique vocal tones and its bevy of distorted, synth-heavy and languid production. The album opens up with “Heartbreaker,” a moody and slinky ballad which includes a spoken interlude – how classic is that?
Journals only goes up from there, with songs like the guitar-laden ode to Selena titled “All That Matters,” the beautifully minimal and sultry R&B bop “Hold Tight,” “Recovery” whose delicate guitar riff samples Craig David‘s 2000 single “Fill Me In,” the emotive and falsetto-heavy “Bad Day.” The album shifts gears towards the end for a more upbeat take, with funky grooves like “Roller Coaster,” the intergalactic “Backpack” featuring a cameo from Lil Wayne and the bouncy, swagger-heavy track “Confident.”
The star tracks are definitely “Hold Tight,” “Recovery,” “Bad Day,” and “Confident” but every song on the album is a banger – EVERY SINGLE ONE. Based on his recent Instagram video clips, Bieber is currently in the studio cooking up even more singles that lean more on the house/dance side. Hopefully they can live up to the greatness that is Journals.
So take a moment and listen to the album in its entirety below via Spotify. Trust me, you won’t regret it.