It's like "Blood on the Tracks," only adorable.
Justin Bieber's Wal-Mart-only new release, "My Worlds Acoustic," packs a double punch. Consisting of unplugged versions of the greatest hits of Bieber's embryonic career, it's a new and novel way to vacuum cash out of the pockets of his rabid tween fan base. It's also a potential cred builder, a vehicle for the 16-year-old to demonstrate that he's a male version of Taylor Swift and not, say, Willow Smith.
Smith's brother, preteen actor Jaden Smith, shows up on the hit "Never Say Never," and he can't help but confer just the sort of gravitas-by-comparison Bieber's handlers are looking for: Next to Smith, Bieber is Tom Waits with bangs. The theme to the new "Karate Kid," "Never Say Never," is a summer camp singalong track that's hopelessly likable (it's also likely meant to provide Smith with a beachhead from which he, like his sister, can achieve pop music domination. But we can worry about that later.)
"My Worlds" is surely the sugariest acoustic album in history. Every track is perky, plucky and earwormy, even the sad ones. Its arrangements and melodies - the best parts of any Bieber record - are stripped down but otherwise little changed, demonstrating just how great most of these songs were to begin with. Even the nominally "urban" tracks in Bieber's repertoire, like the numbing hit "Baby," survive their makeovers without a hitch.
The only entirely new track is "Pray," in which Bieber worries so much about soldiers and the homeless that he can't eat his supper. It's a junior varsity take on "Man in the Mirror," but as an indicator of the Bieb's awakening social consciousness, it's a good start.
Recommended tracks: "Baby," "Never Say Never"