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Beliebe it: Justin Bieber's new album impresses

The Associated Press, Monday, June 18, 2012, 4:19am (PDT)

Justin Bieber, "Believe" (Island Def Jam)

Because Justin Bieber is Justin Bieber — a teen-singer heartthrob — it's hard to take his music seriously. Everything about him screams Tiger Beat, from the endless screeching girls to his relationship with fellow teen sensation Selena Gomez to that hair (let's not forget about the promotional products, from his perfume lines and those Proactive commercials).

And then there's the song that has defined him most — "Baby," perhaps the most saccharine, bubble-gum song recorded in quite some time.

With all that weighing him down, it's not surprising that few have taken Bieber — the artist — seriously. But his new CD will help change that.

"Believe," his third full-length album, is a 13-track set that shows that Bieber, now 18, is growing as a musician, and the result is enjoyable.

The album's first single, "Boyfriend," is a great pop song that sounds like Justin Timberlake's falsetto mashed up with the Ying Yang Twins' "The Whisper Song." It's Bieber's biggest hit to date.

The rest of the album also has future hits: "All Around the World" (with Ludacris) is upbeat, as is the futuristic, Big Sean-assisted "As Long As You Love Me," which sounds like it could have been produced by Skrillex and David Guetta.

Bieber co-wrote all but one song on the album, working with producers like The Messengers, Rodney Jerkins, Hit-Boy, Diplo, Max Martin, Bei Maejor and others.

His best collaboration, though, is with Drake on "Right Here," a 1990s sounding-R&B jam that proves the Canadian singer is best on smoother tunes, not Euro-flavored ones. "Catching Feelings," a soft, pop groove co-written by Babyface, is arguably the best track, showcasing Bieber's versatility and hopefully the future artistic heft to come from the singer. It also highlights Bieber's voice, which is good and improving, though recent live performances of "Boyfriend" haven't been that strong.

"Believe" does have some missteps: "Thought of You" is weak and the Nicki Minaj-featured "Beauty and a Beat" is a wasted collaboration.

While Bieber channels Timberlake at times, he also has moments inspired by his idol, Michael Jackson. Bieber samples Jackson's "We Got a Good Thing Going" for the nicely done, R&B-tinged "Die In Your Arms," and there's also a bonus track "Maria," a song about Mariah Yeater, the woman who falsely claimed Bieber fathered her child. The song recalls "Billie Jean," and it's clever and amusing.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Bonus track "Out of Town Girl" is another track with Timberlake flavor.

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Follow Mesfin Fekadu on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/musicmesfin

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