At just 19 years old, Justin Bieber has already entered the second era of his musical career. We can look at the My World albums and his Christmas album as his teeny-bopper first stage, complete with global domination, critical dismissal, and, of course, puberty. With Believe and Believe Acoustic, we started to see a transition though. The singer embraced a more mature vocal style, a more sexualized image, and, frankly, better music. This led to, if not praise, tolerance by the radio and critics. But in 2013, while on his seemingly endless BelieveÂ tour and in the midst of controversy and heartbreak, he quietly began recording new music. This fall, he announced that he would release one track a week for 10 weeks, calling them â€œjournalsâ€ because they were all written and recorded on the road and were more personal than anything heâ€™s released before. Despite the change in sound and approach, all of the songs went to number 1 on iTunes in dozens of countries around the world.
The resulting Journals, which adds five more tracks to the previously released ten, is his most stylistically and thematically consistent album to date, despite not really being a proper album. The set finds Bieber fully embracing the R&B style he started with. Itâ€™s important to remember that when he was discovered by Scooter Braun on YouTube, he was singing Ne-Yo, Usher, and Chris Brown songs, and that this move towards contemporary R&B is not so much of a departure as it is a return home. With Drake-esque beats and guests like R. Kelly, Chance The Rapper, and Future, Bieber situates himself as a more-than-competent singer in this style. Overall, the disproportionate number of slow songs weighs the album down, but Bieberâ€™s emotive performances and highly personal songwriting throughout show the singer confidently moving into a new area of his career. Whether heâ€™ll be able to sustain this style and success to a proper album this year or next remains to be seen, but if nothing else, itâ€™s nice to see him finally making music that he seems genuinely excited about.