Bieber continues exploring his more mature sound with #WhatDoYouMean

“Tick-tock-tick-tock.” In an attempt to follow up to his borderline “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” LP Believe,  Justin Bieber delivers a mature sound on his new single “What Do You Mean,” akin to his recent underground-indie-EDM sleeper hit and Jack Ü (Diplo and Skrillex) collaboration “Where Are Ü Now.” (see the collaboration below)

Starting off with a bare-bones production (just a metronome and piano), Bieber and producer Skrillex introduce electronic flourishes and a stripped back approach not heard like this since The XX‘s “Islands” (Read my review of their hit “Crystalised” here). It’s the simplicity that allows the listener to focus on the meaning and lyrics of the song instead of getting lost in the melody itself, as is the case usually with Bieber’s production-heavy back catalogue (see hits like “Beauty And The Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj or “Somebody To Love” with Bieber’s protégé Usher). (see “Islands” below)

Speaking of Usher, the funniest part about all of this is how much the melody in “What Do You Mean” itself sounds eerily similar to Usher’s “I Don’t Mind” featuring Juicy J). Obviously both differ in lyrical content, as Usher’s has more to do with him supporting his lover’s desire to continue pursuing exotic dancing and Bieber’s has more to do with him trying to make sense of someone saying one thing but meaning something totally different. #BeMoreStraightForward (see “I Don’t Mind” below)

“What Do You Mean” takes the best parts of Bieber’s weird LP-release thing Journals and combines the stripped back R&B of that album with the new futuristic direction of “Where Are Ü Now.” Whereas, before, with Journals, audiences couldn’t take Bieber seriously, this time around, I think people will be pleasantly surprised by the music he churns out. The best part is that it does NOT sound like something Usher would have released, as was the issue with ˆJournals. (see Bieber’s only video single from the album, “All That Matters“)

Overall, the song itself fits in well with the mellow R&B-trap musings permeating through the Hot 100 (see The Weeknd‘s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Lana Del Rey‘s “High On The Beach“) and should prove a solid comeback hit for the Biebs. I mean, it’s no “Good For You,” but it’s still a great song. With his new sound and recent PR good will “proving” his maturity, it will be interesting to see how things shape up for him this album campaign!

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GRADE: ★★★½☆

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