Depending on whether you like your Justin Bieber tune-age dancey and a bit electronic, or stripped and sweet, this album seems to serve as a reminder to the world that Usher signed this kid for a reason: he’s got talent. With all the bells and whistles that made Bieber’s mature-sounding Believe something we could add to our party playlist, stripping down the songs was certainly a risk. But over the ten tracks here (11 if you grab the iTunes version, which has bonus cut “Nothing Like Us”), the spare arrangements are carried by his sheer talent, and it’s a great effort from the young pop star.
Take “Beauty and the Beat,” which some may think would be nothing without Minaj’s part or that crazy found-footage party video. However this is arguably the best of the stripped-down reinterpretations. Instead of focusing on the party aspect of the song, the acoustic version sounds much sweeter and serves its purpose as a pop love song. No doubt the moment he performs this version live, the girls will swoon a bit more than before.
Although the acoustic album has some great high points, it isn’t perfect. It was inevitable that this release would include a reworked “Boyfriend,” but taking out all the layers, this version sounds more like accidentally walking in on Bieber making a sexy phone call, or maybe a 2.0 version of “Wait (The Whisper Song).” The long intro and his insertions of “swaggy” work in the context of an R&B/pop track. But stripped bare it feels, well, bare — as in, something naked that should be covered up.
Fans will be more than happy to know that Believe Acoustic isn’t just an unplugged remake of the previous record, thanks to Bieber’s addition of unreleased tracks. “I Would” is a bright and simple pop song that could have appeared on his first album, a definite departure from his overtly sexified “Boyfriend.” It sounds a bit like a Chris Brown track, except you can actually expect to see this one on a bunch of lovey-dovey playlists as we get closer to Valentine’s Day and spring.
His other new track, “Yellow Raincoat,” takes you by surprise for a moment since, vocally, it sounds nothing like what we’re used to hearing from Bieber. But it’s even more interesting to note that the lyrics of the song seem to stem from personal experience. Has he followed in the footsteps of JT and written 2013′s “Cry Me a River”? While these supposed jabs at ex Selena Gomez are still speculation, it makes this melancholy tune just a bit more poignant.
More than anything, Believe Acoustic is an effective way for Justin Bieber to show his fans (and all the “haters” out there) that he isn’t hiding behind flashy production and Auto-Tune. And even though there are some tracks that would have been better left untouched, the album is worth giving a listen. At the very least, it gives you a choice on how you like your Biebs — and who could say no to that.
The Best Song That Turned Acoustic: “Beauty and the Beat.” Enough said.
Best Listened To: When you’re 15 (or 25…or 35) with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, a box of tissues and high hopes that you’ll be Justin’s next girlfriend.
Idolator Rating: 3.5/5
— Emily Tan