Song: ‘Beauty And A Beat’
Artist: Justin Bieber feat Nicki Minaj
US chart peak: 5
Release date: October 24, 2012
Writers: Max Martin, Anton Zaslavski, Savan Kotecha, Onika Maraj
Producers: Max Martin, Zedd
Quintessential Max moment: That lovely lift bit in the pre pre-chorus
Video synopsis: ‘Stolen’ footage of Justin having a day out at a swimming pool with some friends
If Justin Bieber had arrived at pop’s coalface in the early naughties you imagine he’d have been rushed over to Stockholm immediately to work with Max on a whole album. He could have been the Nick Carter that Nick Carter didn’t seem to want to be. As it stands, the pair have only collaborated once, on this Nicki Minaj-assisted banger from 2012’s pre-egg throwing, pre-bin-pissing-in ‘Believe’ album.
According to German DJ and producer person Zedd – who co-produced the song and worked again with Max two years later on Ariana Grande’s ‘Break Free’ – the song was originally meant for his album. Zedd’s that is. “I made that not knowing it was going to be for Bieber,” he told me in an interview for The Guardian. “I started it as a song around the same time I made the single ‘Clarity’ [WHAT A TUNE], but it didn’t fit the album. If there’s not the right space for a song then usually my first port of call will be Max Martin.”
Imagine that. ‘Oh, I’ve got this song that doesn’t quite work but there’s something there. Who shall I call to turn it into a massive hit? I know, I’ll give my old pal Max Martin a ring and see if he’ll write a top line for it and then maybe we’ll give it to one of the world’s biggest popstars’.
“He’s a genius [he means Max, obvs],” he continued. “I called him up and said I had a song that he might like and he wrote the top line and then we decided to give it to Bieber.” As with ‘Break Free’, the song takes some risks ‘vis-a-vis’ the English language, with the title not particularly making a great deal of sense. Apparently it was the key to the song, however. “[The rest of the song] was just mumbled and we built everything around that one line,” Zedd said.
In a way you can sort of tell they started off with a backing track and worked from there. For a start it’s one of those songs without a proper chorus, with Zedd chucking every electro squiggle possible at the bit of the song where the chorus should be and watching most of it stick. Thankfully there’s also a proper song in there too, with the pre-chorus bit, where all the music falls out, being pure Max. There’s also a great melodic lift bit when Justin sings the not-exactly-Keats line, “We’re gonna party like its 3012 tonight, I want to show you all the finer things in life” and a fluttering guitar part arrives. It somehow sounds quite pretty despite the fact Justin sounds typically bored.
Nicki’s verse is suitably serviceable, notable for the bit where she says “weiner” and dates the whole thing by mentioning Bieber’s then girlfriend “Selena” (Selena Gomez, obvs).