"Thanks for coming down," Justin Bieber told a packed Supperclub in Notting Hill, London. Digital Spy was sat amongst a mix of press, industry types and fans invited to a first listen of the Canadian superstar's upcoming album Believe.
After protests from Bieber over playing lead single 'Boyfriend' ("But they've already heard it!"), we were introduced to new track 'Die In Your Arms'. Produced by Rodney Jerkins, the song is grounded by a slow, heavy R&B beat, similar to those used in Gym Class Heroes' recent hits. "I can't help it, I'm just selfish," Bieber sings over a bouncy chorus. We'll warn you now: this is the closest thing we heard to 'Boyfriend' all night.
'All Around The World' is an all-out dance anthem. "You're beautiful, beautiful/ Yes you know it," he starts, reminiscent of Nelly Furtado's utterings at the beginning of 'I'm Like A Bird'. But comparisons between the two songs start and end there. House synths, speaker-blowing beats and robotic vocals make it current and chart-friendly, while guest-rapper Ludacris features, we're told, because "he's the perfect person as far as hype goes".
Title track 'Believe' will make every fan think that JB has written the song especially for them. An ear-snagging piano riff slowly builds into big runs and ad-libs over a glorious gospel choir in the final chorus. "Where would I be/ If you didn't believe," Justin asks. It's all very inspirational.
As this point he tells the audience that he has written 40 songs for the record and is still deciding which ones will make the final album. 'Be Alright' is Justin's "real musician" moment, mostly because it's acoustic. Head-nodding guitar strums flank Bieber reassuring his beau that everything will be alright even if he is half way across the world. "It sounds like a cross between Fergie and Jesus," he tells us. We can sort of see where he's coming from.
We were then played what we consider to be the best song of the night: 'Right Here'. Produced by Hit-Boy (Jay-Z and Kanye West's 'Paris'), an early '00s DJ scratch opens the track, which immediately plunges into hip-hop synths that remind us of the electronic organs used on Outkast's 'Ms. Jackson'. "I just wanna kiss you baby/ I just wanna hug you to the end," he croons. It's no surprise that this one was assisted by Drake.
'Thought Of You' is a power pop-rock anthem that would slot perfectly into a Disney teen movie given its fist-clenching beats, tribal chants and funky bass. The real surprise is that it's produced by Diplo and sounds nothing like anything he has done before. It's disconcerting to know he could produce something so clean, but we genuinely enjoyed it all the same.
The final track we were previewed is called 'As Long As You Love Me'. No, it's not a Backstreet Boys cover, but it is another thundering club number and Bieber's favourite on the album. Euro-synths give way to dub reverb, which slides into a tightly-strung woodpecker beat that bursts into the hands-in-the-air chorus. It also contains our favourite lyric: "You can be my Destiny's Child." We're told that a big-name rapper will also feature on the track, but it has yet to be 100% confirmed.
We left pleasantly surprised about what we had heard. Justin is by no means changing the musical landscape. Everything that graced our ears has an equivalent in the chart today. But what we will claim is that what we heard is probably as good as, or even better than, that equivalent. If you have never really paid attention to Bieber in the past, be prepared: he has enough future hits here to dominate the radio airwaves for the next 18 months.
Justin Bieber's new album Believe will be released in the UK on June 18 and the US on June 19.
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