Justin Bieber just released a song titled "Die in Your Arms," and it's great. Probably the best song he's ever released. Listen to it. We'll wait.
A few weeks ago, in immediate response to Bieber's single "Boyfriend," our own Molly Lambert noted the transformation that was occurring in Bieber's life and used "Timberlake" as a verb to describe his "risky" ascent into content adulthood. The comparison is appropriate, because be it through his new look, his content shift, his love of hip-hop, his SNL appearance, or his famous girlfriend, he's attempting to follow the Timberlake blueprint as he ages. As Molly noted, it's risky, but as I'm noting especially after hearing this second single, it's starting to pay off.
I didn't expect Believe's second single to be a grown-up sounding, stripped-down track like "Die in Your Arms" very much is. I expected the album to be full of tracks like "Boyfriend," a song that is good, but slightly forced when it comes to "I'm growing up, world, listen to me sing about it. World." (Kind of like Timberlake, "SexyBack," and the fact that the first three tracks on FutureSex/LoveSounds have the word "sex" in them. I get it, elder Justin, you do things now that you didn't do in the past. I get it. Trust me.) This second single couldn't be more different, for the better.
The influences in this song are all over the place. There's some doo-wop in there, a little Jackson 5 and New Edition scattered about, and most important, this song's choral arrangement has given it the potential to be performed with a choir. Just imagine Justin Bieber at the award show of your choice, singing front and center, with 40 robed choir members backing him up during the chorus. You know, like THIS. That will be a great sight when it undoubtedly happens. The way I'm currently reacting to this song from Bieber is similar to hearing Timberlake's "Losing My Way" for the first time. Basically, pre-song, I didn't think either of them had it in them, but now that it's clear they do, it will be hard to go back to listening to them crank out standard pop hits. For the music fan in me, this is a great place to be.
This second single has me genuinely excited and curious about how this full album will turn out, another statement I never thought I'd make. I've never had any problem with a solid Bieber single, but a full album is never something I expected to eagerly await. I'm also interested to see how much more this Timberlake parallel plays out in the album and in the future. Even though I still think the elder Justin is a more talented artist and seriously doubt Believe will be anywhere near as good as the classic FutureSex/LoveSounds, I do think Bieber's following of the Timberlake blueprint, even if he stumbles at times, is the smartest thing he can do for his current and future career. And if he keeps it up and continues to complete items off the JT Checklist, Bieber could soon be the new blueprint. Just remember, Timberlake is 31, and Bieber is still two years away from being an angsty, irresponsible twentysomething. Yikes.