Jukebox debut for the child with the most terrifying street team in the western hemisphere…
Doug Robertson: Did we learn nothing from the Aaron Carter years? And is Ludacris really that desperate for the money?
Al Shipley: With the latest ruination of the pop charts coming from Drake and this YouTube-approved bag of hair, my personal theme song these days is “Blame Canada.”
Alex Ostroff: I was going to write something utterly dismissive about the inane lyrics, the grating loop of “Yup!…Uh-huh,” the absence of anything resembling a memorable tune, and a general apology on behalf of Canada for inflicting more bad tier-C pop music on the world. But a harmless teenager making mediocre R&B isn’t worth that kind of ire — it’s not like I expected anything different. Still, something I think is actively bad would at least be interesting — this lowest-common-denominator stuff offends my intelligence and yours (although that skeletal piano beat isn’t half bad). The only person involved in this who should know better (and thus deserves to be ashamed) is Ludacris.
Chuck Eddy: First Jesse McCartney, now this: When did Luda become to the go-to guy for blossoming blue-eyed-soul boys requiring rap assistance? His tweenage nostalgia adds more here than he added to “How Do You Sleep?”, too. But Jesse put that song across, where Justin just shows promise in his high notes.
Martin Skidmore: Yet another Dream/Tricky job. Frankly his “baby no” heartbreak line sounds perky and rather happy, which fucks this up totally for me. I smiled only when Ludacris came in, with a mightier and more charming guest verse than the limp rest of this single deserves.
Michaelangelo Matos: After hearing him yawl his way through the opening lines of “We Are the World 25 for Haiti,” I expected the worst. And I’ll figure this is likely the best he’s capable of until proven otherwise, but for now it’s acceptable enough, probably buoys the radio OK, features an appealingly simple Luda drop-in. If anything, it sounds like it’s aimed at older women, not younger ones.
Anthony Easton: Much more age-appropriate then I feared.
Alex Macpherson: I really hope Will uses a screenshot of the girl pushing this strange child away near the start of the video, because at that moment I really, really feel her.
Martin Kavka: One of the first things I learned from pop was that love could not be commodified. Think of Little Eva’s “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”: “I don’t mind when you lend my clothes, my jewelry and such, but there’s one thing you don’t touch.” So when I hear a boy who hasn’t yet turned sixteen respond to being dumped by saying that his bank balance makes him a good boyfriend (“I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring”), I die inside.
Hillary Brown: I’m sure I could come up with a million horrible things to say about Justin Bieber in the abstract, but the fact is that cute nonthreatening boys with pretty voices and good material tend to have me feeling like Lisa Simpson with the Corey hotline. I may be behind my 11-year-old sistren when it comes to this bandwagon, but I’m kicking myself for taking so long to check this little dude’s stuff out. Rad.
Alfred Soto: Critics prefer teenage female pop singers because the critics are mostly heterosexual men and the good singers tend to think aloud in song. The boys are too guarded and they’re, well, boys, which explains why the charge of manufacturing still sticks. These days — hell, in the Kriss Kross days too — teenage boys express themselves better in R&B and hip-hop, in which they can mitigate their hormonal confusion in role playing. This is a long way of saying that Bieber’s not unattractive Auto-tuned squeak pales before Ludacris’ cameo. He’s like a big brother here — warm and convincing — and for Bieber’s sake I wish he eventually grows into the performer able to reward Luda’s attentiveness.