As a star birthed by YouTube and raised by Twitter, Justin Bieber has never had the luxury of growing up outside the public eye. In the two years between his breakout 2010 LP, My World 2.0, and Believe, his second proper full-length, Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty — a tough gauntlet by any measure.
Luckily, his instincts (or at least the instincts of the small republic of people employed ? to steer the USS Bieber) are strong, and Believe works surprisingly well as a ¬reinvention and a reintroduction. It’s the rare album that tries to be everything to everyone and largely succeeds. Like his mentor Usher, Bieber fully embraces both Ibiza beats (see dubsteppy bangers ”All Around the World” and ”Take You”) and urban swagger (Drake and Nicki Minaj each drop by). Believe also updates his signature sounds. ”Catching Feelings” would have been a smooth spoonful of radio sugar on his debut, but the new Bieber turns it into a soulful R&B campfire jam. Biology has robbed him of some of his range, but he makes up for it in confidence: First-gen Bieber couldn’t have handled the goosebumpy swoop of ”Fall,” but this JB turns it into the album’s profound emotional climax. It’s a prime showcase for his new voice and burgeoning mettle, proving that Bieber isn’t just maturing, he’s evolving. B+