If Justin Bieber had established a more distinct musical identity, age would not signal trouble for the now-18-year-old. But with the changes in his voice on “Believe,” he risks blending into the pack. He seems caught, with neither the babyfaced ebullience of “Thought of You” nor the Eurodisco whoosh of “All Around the World” and “Take You”
taking root. (When they overlap on “Beauty and a Beat,” Nicki Minaj has to remind Biebs that he has a famous girlfriend.) Lyrical awkwardness abounds: “Catching Feelings”
essentially reduces love to that preadolescent standby, cooties, while “Maria,” about the (dismissed) paternity accusation against him, is too eager to be Bieber’s “Billie Jean.” On the letter-perfect “American Idol” title track, he sings, “Where would I be if you didn’t believe?” It fits an album that presents someone reliant on everyone else when it should be telling us who he is. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Beauty and a Beat”
Justin Bieber performs at TD Garden on Nov. 10.