Reconsider Bieber’s best
Matt McMahon | Thursday, September 17, 2015
I don’t mean to start one of those Observer fights, especially not with a fellow scene writer, but recently one of my co-workers published an article centered on false information. On Aug. 31, current Scene Editor Miko Malabute wrote a piece titled, “’What Do You Mean?’ unquestionably Bieber’s Best” praising Justin Bieber’s latest single. Malabute went on to call the track, produced by Cali The Producer and megastar Skrillex, “an absolute hit” and “the song of the (late) summer,” in addition to asserting the song is without a doubt Bieber’s best.
Unfortunately, because I believe heavily in the ethical journalism, I have to take to the paper myself to debunk these claims. The problem is not that “What Do You Mean,” or the equally good “Where Are Ü Now” released by Skrillex and Diplo as Jack Ü with vocals contributed by Bieber, are bad; rather, both songs do contend for the “song of the summer” title with their dub-inspired pop sensibilities, capturing and capitalizing on current dance music trends.
Instead, the issue is that there exists a song Justin Bieber is involved with that is so good it may be impossible to better. Five years ago an unknown music producer took Bieber’s single “U Smile” into “PaulStretch,” an application used to stretch sound files, and slowed the song down by 800 percent. The result, posted to reddit and quickly spread by new sites such as NPR, AV Club and Gizmodo, was a beautiful 35-minute ambient song of epic propositions.
“U Smile (800% Slower),” as it can be found on the Internet, sounds like an opus by an artist among the ranks of mastermind multi-instrumentalist and producer Brian Eno or the synthetic music genius Aphex Twin. And, as it came out of the manipulation of a Justin Bieber track, the pop star deserves some credit for its worth.
In fact, it’s Justin Bieber’s voice that provides some of the best sonic qualities of the song. The slowing down effect creates long walls of cascading noise, akin to serene ocean waves. As a Justin Bieber song, it’s indecipherable, but the elongated piano notes, reverberating production and sweeping vocals transform the simple, childish ballad into a slow-building, transcendent orchestral force.
It’s not Bieber’s fault “What Do You Mean?” can’t stack up to “U Smile (800% Slower).” Nor is it Malabute’s for oversight in reporting. It is simply that the latter is such an unforeseen aural onslaught — one that can regularly induce chills and thoughts of insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe — that it cannot be overlooked when considering the top of Bieber’s greatest hits.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.