Eric Church, Justin Bieber

Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood

A strange thing about The Outsiders: “Talladega” and “Cold One” sounded fine on the radio. Maybe it’s a post-CD age album after all, refuting the sticky recollections in Mr. Misunderstood‘s title track, on which Eric Church the adolescent Elvis CAH-STELL-LOH fan scowled at top forty listeners, thus earning the right to join the ranks of the alienated. The conceit of “Record Year” delineates how the pop of old vinyl saved his life. More than his children (subjects of a cornball but well-wrought valentine that I expect from Brad Paisley), more than whiskey, more than music itself, Church loves the nostalgia of record listening. Implied is the discomfort of modern life: of weaklings who don’t rock like he does, of being a parent whose mind is necessarily on other things. Sporting too many acoustic numbers, Mr. Misunderstood embraces the frustrations of being a conservative musician who senses his reactionary traits and uses metaphoric violence as pressure valves; the dominance of acoustic numbers is a palliative, I’d say, for the rockers he’s recorded since 2014 have a pulverizing effect, boasting boring hair metal chords and self-pitying lyrics and Method snarling that are the musical equivalent of a college age National Review blogger. But on the whole Mr. Misunderstood is a more persuasive album than The Outsiders, fleet about expressing his passions even if I miss outrages like “Dark Side.” “I come undone every time I get some/kick drum, guitar strum,” he spits on “Chattanooga Lucy” over kick drum and guitar strum. A confused motherfucker he remains, though. On another tuneful semi-rocker called “Kill a Word” he runs through a list of adverbs that he can’t help using and would beat black and blue. Right. Using violence to kill violence always works.

Justin Bieber – Purpose

“Sorry” and “What Do You Mean” are insistent and insinuating examples of sterling chart pop, understated even. The rest, especially the repugnant “Love Yourself,” sells Bieber as a self-aware advice-pedddling asshole superstar, the Lucy to the Charlie Browns he wants to fuck. Maturity in 2015 chart pop terms requires penance while copping a feel.

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