In the two years that passed between his first album, “My World 2.0,” and this highly anticipated follow-up, Justin Bieber grew up.
Mr. Bieber turned 18 this past March, transforming himself from the baby-faced poster child of the YouTube generation into an official adult. On “Believe,” though, he straddles the line between boyhood and adulthood like a pro, courting an older audience without completely abandoning the schoolgirls who sustained him in the early days.
Justin Timberlake straddled the same line in 2002, back when ‘N Sync had just broken up and “Justified” was about to make him the most successful boy-band alum since Robbie Williams. Mr. Timberlake was willing to play up his sex appeal, though, while the Biebs keeps things PG, crooning about puppy love without a hint of carnality.
Tracks like “All Around the World” and “Take You” split the difference between R&B and Euro-dance club music, a sign that Mr. Bieber is still eager to take a cue or two from his mentor, Usher. Whenever he sinks his teeth into a bright-eyed, major-key anthem like “Fall,” though, he carves out a more unique path for himself, adding some maturity and depth to the bubblegum-pop sound he first presented with “Baby.” He explores new ground, too, from the Motown groove of “Die in Your Arms” to the industrial thump of “She Don’t Like the Lights,” which builds its percussion track from the sound of several picture-snapping cameras.
The standard edition of the album tops out at 13 tracks, but the deluxe version — which includes 11 1/2 extra minutes — is worth the money. Here, the entire tracklist culminates with “Maria,” a modern-day “Billie Jean” that trains a weary eye on the girl who dragged Mr. Bieber’s name through the tabloids last year, claiming he’d fathered her baby. It’s the most adult-sounding song of his career, and it proves he can do the grown-up pop-star thing fairly well.
Fed up with the traditional process of releasing albums, Billy Corgan made headlines in September 2009 by announcing “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope,” a 44-song record that would be released in piecemeal fashion, with free downloads appearing every time a new song was finished.
It’s a little weird, then, that “Oceania” feels very much like a traditionally released album. It costs money, for starters, and its 13 songs are bundled together on the same tangible disc. The album may be one piece of a much larger project, but to all appearances, it’s just another Smashing Pumpkins record.
To be fair, “Oceania” is also one of the band’s best records in years. Anchored by a ferocious, two-guitar assault, the album unearths Mr. Corgan’s alt-rock roots and replants them in the 1970s, where they take on a psychedelic edge. The songs morph and evolve, evoking everyone from Queen to Fairport Convention, and Mr. Corgan sings each one with a voice that’s oddly tender, largely free of its mid-‘90s nasal bite.
Purists will take issue with the Smashing Pumpkins’ new lineup, which essentially consists of Mr. Corgan and three newbies. Still, no version of the band has rocked this hard in a decade, and “Oceania” proves that a good album is a good album … no matter how it’s released.
Deliradio serves up local fare
Move over, Pandora. There’s a new streaming radio service in town.
Launched earlier this summer, DeliRadio puts a local spin on the traditional Internet radio format. Once a DeliRadio user enters his or her location, the service allows each listener to listen to songs by artists who will be performing in the area. The time frame is adjustable, so those who are looking to catch a concert next week will be able to plan ahead, and eager beavers who want to hit the town within a few hours can do some last-minute prep.
Unsurprisingly, the service has started catching on with newspapers, blogs, music venues, and virtually any outlet that runs a local concert calendar. Festivals have started using DeliRadio, too. For example, those traveling to the High Sierra Music Festival next month can get a taste of the action by listening to the festival’s self-branded DeliRadio station.