Looking for a low-cost, high-payoff way to sustain your fame? If you're a pop musician at the top of your game, you need look no further than the humble remix album. Take old hits, repackage them in a new format and, voilà, hordes of happy fans and hundreds of thousands more albums sold. It's a formula we've seen from a diverse range of artists through the years, from Linkin Park to Madonna, Britney Spears to Alanis Morissette, Shakira to Bon Jovi.
Often, remix albums come wrapped in a more club-friendly dance format. Other times, however, new versions of well-known songs offer musicians a chance to showcase their sensitive side with acoustic renderings.
That's the route Justin Bieber has taken with Believe Acoustic. Striking while the proverbial iron is still white hot, Bieber waited a scant seven months before delivering acoustic-accompanied reworkings of eight songs from his 2012 album Believe. And, predictably, his insatiable young fans are gobbling them up like turkey at Thanksgiving. (Or maybe candy at Halloween would be a better way to put it.) That's given Mr. Bieber, who's just 18 years old, his fifth No. 1 album—making him the first musician ever to accomplish that feat before his 19th birthday.
We covered Believe in detail when it was released, as well as doing individual reviews of singles "Boyfriend," "As Long as You Love Me" and "Beauty and the Beat." In addition to those tracks, Believe Acoustic serves up subdued retreads of "She Don't Like the Lights," "Take You," "Be Alright," "All Around the World" and "Fall." New add-on material comprises "Yellow Raincoat," "I Would" and "Nothing Like Us."
Several songs from the original album with sensual, suggestive or otherwise problematic lyrics aren't present here. They include "One Love," "Out of Town Girl," "Thought of You" and "Maria." Also, the remixed version of "Beauty and a Beat" no longer features guest Nicki Minaj, whose original contribution included the word "b‑‑ch." Likewise, "She Don't Like the Lights" omits the "d‑‑n" found in the original.
"Yellow Raincoat" is a melancholy tune that metaphorically compares life's troubles to a rainstorm. Bieber's response to the downpour? Put on a raincoat to make sure he doesn't get wet. It's a sensible solution that in his case means determining not to let his particular set of celebrity difficulties get to him. "As it pours down, the water sprinkles off my jacket slow, yeah, jacket slow yeah/Well, never do I, ever do I want this to faze me/ … 'Cause the fame and the money and the girls will drive you crazy/And all the 'He said, she said'/I'm thinking maybe/Just put on my/Guess I'll put on my raincoat."
"I Would," reputedly a song written to on-again, off-again, on-again celeb girlfriend Selena Gomez, treads John Mayer-esque territory as Bieber practically begs for another chance and promises his former love (at the moment) the world: "If I could take away the pain/And put a smile on your face/Baby, I would, baby, I would/I would build a doorway to the sky and hand you the keys, yeah/Let you know that you're always welcome so that you never leave, oh/ … I would build the love a river wide/So that it never runs dry."
"Nothing Like Us" occupies similarly heartfelt—and heart-rent—territory: "I wish that I could give you what you deserve," Bieber laments. "'Cause nothing can ever, ever replace you/Nothing can make me feel like you do, yeah/ … There's nothing like you and me/Together through the storm." He also insists, "I gave you everything, babe/Everything I had to give."
On "Nothing Like Us," Bieber asks his ex, "Have you been drinkin'/To take all the pain away?" Meanwhile, "I Would" alludes, perhaps, to his former gal's other sexual partners: "You got your flaws and so do I, past lovers who made you cry."
Believe Acoustic presents a classic good news/bad news conundrum. On the positive side of the ledger, several of the original album's problematic moments don't make the cut here, and some coarse lyrics get edited out along the way, too. Bravo. If it were just a comparison between the old versions of these songs and the new acoustic renderings, Believe Acoustic easily gets the nod.
Unfortunately, while there's not a thing wrong with tender, vulnerable reflections about young romance, there is something that needs to be said about references to alcohol and "lovers," especially when the target audience of these songs skews to middle school and even grade school.
It's safe to say we've seen far worse remixes, then. It's also safe to say that a yellow raincoat won't be enough to deflect all the sprinkles of Justin Bieber's creepingly "adult" sentiments.