Beleib it or not, I love the new Justin Beiber song, “What Do You Mean?” The best part isn’t his vocal; rather, it’s the instrumental track. It’s more amazing than you probably think!
Put all your conceptions of Beiber aside for a moment and take a fresh listen to the music. Beiber and co-producer Mdl have exploded all notions of what a pop track should sound like. It seems to me that they put all their usual stuff aside at every step of the way and started with a completely blank slate.
When the “drums” come in, the sound is fresh, unlike any standard drum sound. The beat is fresh. The music dips in and out behind the vocal in fun and unexpected ways. It’s as if they literally went “back to the drawing board” with a new set of crayons.
Check it out and pretend the track was created by some experimental jazz musician.
Not too big a stretch to imagine a cutting-edge jazzer coming up with a pop track like this, right? I’ve been listening to Wayne Shorter’s pop-tinged music lately and I have to admit, Beiber’s is right up there with Shorter’s (and Wayne is one of my FAVORITE jazz musicians!).
“What Do You Mean” actually reminds me of Gil Evans and the arrangements he did in the 1940s-1960s. Each time he sat down to arrange a tune, Gil started from scratch. He was searching his imagination to find just the right conception for each particular song. If it meant using a tenor violin, he would find someone who played that instrument. If it meant playing jazz with a classical woodwind section, he’d hire those musicians. If it meant backing up trumpeter Miles Davis with a Spanish-sounding march, he’s do that.
A blank slate, but coming from lots of experience. Maybe today’s jazz world could take a musical cue from Mr. Beiber, Mdl, and their predecessor Gil Evans!
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