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Track Review

Usually when a heretofore unknown teen singer makes waves in the music world it’s because a certain company with an oversized mouse as its mascot has been grooming him for world domination since he was in utero.

Listening to the cutesy-pie love song "One Time" by 15-year-old Justin Bieber, you’d certainly assume Disney was behind his sudden success. After all, the Canadian teen seems to be marching in lockstep with the Mouse House formula:

Dangerously disheveled mop-top? Yep.

Up-to-the-minute, state-of-the-art, Usher-inspired R&B beats? Yep.

A high (still maturing) tenor guaranteed to make 11-year-old girls scream and swoon? Yep.

Lyrics that would have been at home in a 1958 Annette Funicello song (with a few "Imas" and "shawtys" tossed in, of course, to contemporize the proceedings)? Indeed.

Here’s a sugary-sweet sampling: "When I met you my heart went knock knock/Now them butterflies in my stomach won’t stop stop."

And the rest of the song is constructed of similarly saccharine—and innocent—stuff: "Girl you’re my one love, my one heart/My one life for sure/Let me tell you one time/That I love you."

But as much as Justin Bieber seems like a case study in Disney marketing machinations, well, he’s not.

So where does credit belong? YouTube.

Three years ago, at the ripe old age of 12, Justin placed second in a singing competition in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. Soon after, he began posting videos of himself singing songs by Usher, Ne-Yo, Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake.

"I put my singing videos from the competition on YouTube so that my friends and family could watch them," Justin says. "But it turned out that other people liked them." The dream likely would have ended there … except that something unbelievable happened: 10 million or so other people apparently liked them.

Soon, Usher and Justin Timberlake were actually involved in a bidding war for the young singer’s affiliation. (Usher won … and he sings on the album.)

Given the splash Justin Bieber has made so far—four of seven songs from his album have already cracked the Top 40 … before it even debuted—we probably haven’t heard the last from Justin Bieber.

"I think I can grow as an artist," Justin says, "and my fans will grow with me."

Disney’s marketing magicians couldn’t have scripted that line any better.

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"One Time" hit No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and has already gone platinum in Canada.

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July 7, 2009

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Adam R. Holz

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