This messy, rather boring album is stuffed full of features which are predominantly not worth listening to. Justin Bieber, Zara Larsson and Jennifer Lopez do their best to inject some life into Poo Bear's debut album yet ultimately, it's as muddled and mediocre as his choice of name.
Until last week I had never heard of Jason Boyd, better known (marginally) by his stage name, Poo Bear. The Connecticut native songwriter and producer has been active since 2001 and has helped to produce some of the biggest R&B hits of the past decade including Usher’s ‘Caught Up’, DJ Khaled’s ‘I’m the One’ and Luis Fonsi’s ‘Despacito’. Moreover, since 2013, Poo Bear has produced and co-written on almost all of Justin Bieber’s releases. Yet, it wasn’t until the release of his star-studded debut album titled Poo Bear Presents: Bearthday Music, that he emerged from the shadows and took centre stage.
The album is, unfortunately, a bit of a mess. Jumping from genre to genre, with features on all bar one of the fifteen tracks, it all amounts to a disjointed and somewhat bloated first effort. Despite this, there is undoubtedly quality to be found. The lead track of the album, ‘Hard 2 Face Reality’ featuring Justin Bieber and Jay Electronica, is a simplistic yet catchy track which offers Poo Bear the opportunity to show off his plain yet above-average vocals alongside the Biebster himself. Bieber delivers a typically smooth and assured hook and Jay Electronica offers a brief yet solid cameo. It is however difficult to escape the impression that this track could have come straight from the cutting floor of a Justin Bieber studio session. The other star features on the album are rather hit and miss. The Jennifer Lopez feature ‘Put Your Lovin Where Your Mouth Is’ is a deeply bland effort, plodding along to a faintly Latin beat and sorely lacking in any change in tempo or melody. On the other hand, ‘Perdido’ featuring J Balvin, packs a real punch, combining an upbeat, tropical beat with a pulsing bassline and club-pleasing drop.
Another positive is ‘Either’, featuring a show-stealing performance from Zara Larsson. The 20-year-old Swede displays all the nuances of her impressive vocals alongside a mixture of synths, reverbs and bass. The final genuine star feature sees Ty Dolla $ign lend his talents to ‘That Shit Go’. Once again the overwhelming impression is that this could have been resuscitated from the discards pile of a Dolla $ign album. Containing a stock R&B beat and melody, the track fails to accelerate or even mildly uptick in tempo and the heavy auto-tuning of Poo Bear’s voice is a grating audio experience. The rest of the album contains features from relative unknowns, particularly in the Western hemisphere yet this is not necessarily negative. ‘Will I See You’ showcases an outstanding vocal performance from Brazilian pop princess Anitta, who transforms a relatively beige track into a sultry and downright steamy three and a half minutes. The other stand out track is ‘Vegas’ which features the mostly unknown artist LAZR. Essentially a standard R&B/trap single, ‘Vegas’ is an effective piece of production which well suits the smooth vocals laid down.
Poo Bear Presents is an odd listening experience which most will not be eager to repeat. The transition from R&B, to Latin house, to Pop and then to a bizarre Country-tinged finale jars and suggests that the artist is unsure of the direction they wish to pursue. Whilst certain tracks are pleasant and merit further listening this is more to do with the quality of the performers as opposed to Poo Bear. In future, Poo Bear needs to strive for greater consistency in both genre and quality. Most importantly, for anyone to take him seriously, he needs to discard the ridiculous moniker which immediately conjures images of a rotund yellow cartoon character and not a credible musician.
Poo Bear Presents: Bearthday Music is out now via Capitol Records