The intent of Justin Bieber’s acoustic album is twofold, according to the star: It’s a holiday-timed gift for fans who want to feel closer to their teen idol, but also a response to critics who have panned his sound as overproduced bubble-gum pop. On the former count, “My Worlds Acoustic” succeeds. It repackages the 16-year-old singer’s most intimate songs from his two albums and offers new material in the form of “Pray,” a treacly but well-meaning ballad that taps into Bieber’s spiritual beliefs. Whether it succeeds on the second count is a trickier matter, though, mostly because “acoustic” is a somewhat misleading descriptive. The tracks “Baby” and “One Time” feature extraneous layers of congas and new age-style synths as prominently as they do guitar riffs, and the opportunity to switch up the arrangements of Bieber’s songs along with their instrumentation is missed. The saving grace comes on “Favorite Girl,” precisely because the track is a live recording from the truly acoustic portion of Bieber’s concert. It’s the one moment where you can hear all of the young artist’s strengths falling in line-raw talent, maturing vocals and, of course, an all-too-valuable connection with his fans.
In Vegas this past Saturday Justin Timberlake brought together a diverse group of talented artists for his second-annual Justin Timberlake & Friends Concert, benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children. Opening the event was Jay Sean with U.K.’s beat box champion MC Zani, performing Jay’s hit single “Down”. MTV VMA’s Best Female Video award winner, Taylor Swift followed, performing “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.” JT introduced the next artist, Alicia Keys as “one of the greatest musicians of my generation”. As she strutted the stage in red pumps, she took a seat at her piano to vocalize “Doesn’t Mean Anything”. The night’s other performances included artists such as TLC, Ciara, Timbaland, Snoop Dog, and to cap off the evening, Justin himself, surprising the crowd with “Until the End of Time.”