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Bieber underwhelms with “Under the Mistletoe”

Courtney Cox | Monday, December 5, 2011

Teen phenom Justin Bieber entered the holiday music market much to the excitement of 13 year olds across the world.

His new album “Under the Mistletoe,” as one may be able to infer from the title, focused less on the spirit of the season than the romance that could possibly be associated with Christmas. Instead of preparing listeners for the holiday, it only served to raise Bieber Fever to a whole new level.

The opening song of the album perfectly exemplified this theme. Titled, “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas,” the song is essentially the teenage boy version of “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Bieber sang, “You’re the single item on my list, you’re my one and only Christmas wish” as millions of girls fainted.  

The smooth, 90s boy band quality of the song made it a little more approachable for older fans, who would rather associate themselves with the Backstreet Boys than any of today’s teen stars.

Bieber latched onto the image of mistletoe as a way to communicate the romance of the chilly winter months and Christmas season throughout out the album.

The second song and first single off the record is aptly titled “Mistletoe.” In perhaps one of the only explicit references to any Christian tradition on the album, Bieber sang “The Wise Men followed a star the way I follow my heart.” Deep.

“Mistletoe,” like “Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas” was, however, a refreshing departure from the ultra-upbeat pop concoctions that people have come to expect of Bieber.

Bieber’s Christmas love-fest continued throughout the rest of the album in songs like “Christmas Eve,” where he said that Christmas “Sort of feels like Valentine’s” and remarks that “The mistletoe can pull us closer.” “All I Want is You” and “Christmas Love” were in the same vein, the only difference being the melodies.

“Under the Mistletoe” boasts impressive collaborations with everyone from Bieber’s biggest fan and producer, Usher, to The Band Perry and Busta Rhymes. Most interesting, however, is Bieber’s duet with Mariah Carey.

The duo reprised Carey’s Christmas classic “All I Want for Christmas is You,” in a way that’s more than a little strange. Carey’s vocals haven’t changed at all since she first recorded the song and it seems as if Bieber’s verses were just plopped onto the track. They didn’t change anything about it at all except for some random ad-libbing by both Bieber and Carey.

Anyone who has seen “Never Say Never” knows that Bieber has great respect for the drums, but that didn’t come out at all in “Drummer Boy.” He sings the classic chorus, but has inserted rap sections interchangeably in a completely unexpected and sort of puzzling way.

When Busta Rhymes said “Let’s gather ‘round the fireplace, it’s about to get hot in here,” the song really lost any kind of holiday quality it had maintained up to that point. In fact, that line would be way more appropriate in some club/dance track.

The album can be divided into two distinct categories: classic songs Bieber has made a questionable attempt to modernize and original songs that are entirely about love and relationships. He took a considerable risk with many of the older songs, but the original tracks are exactly what his fan base wanted, so in that regard Bieber has succeeded.