Friday 27 November 2015

Review of 'Purpose' by Justin Bieber

It's 2015 and Justin Bieber is no longer that mop-haired squeaky-voiced Canadian kid singing schmaltzy love songs for fourteen-year-old girls. No, he's now a fully-grown adult male human being with tats and a six-pack making club anthems for his fellow twenty-something drinkers.

As a twenty-something drinker I am now part of his target audience. I was never a fourteen-year-old girl (not that I recall anyway) and so was never a fan of his early material. Like many people, I convinced myself that I hated Justin Bieber for other reasons - that he was stuck-up and annoying, that he was a musical anti-christ responsible for all of pop music's failings, that he was behind 9/11 and that he was the cause of cancer. Now I realise that some of these beliefs may have been a little absurd (One Direction are the cause of cancer not Justin Bieber), and that the reason I didn't like Justin Bieber was simply because his music was not aimed at me.

Now that I am part of his target audience I feel I can make a fair assessment on his music, so here we have it, a review of Justin Bieber's latest record Purpose.

Justin Bieber's belly button. Also 'Purpose' tattoo

Instrumentally, Purpose is largely electronic danceable stuff. Producers Soundz and Skrillex play a big part, but refrain from being their usual obnoxious selves. There are no dissonant dubstep drops or gaudy trap beats - the soundscape is a tasteful semi-tropical one for the most part. The big singles 'What Do You Mean?', 'Sorry' and 'Where are U Now' showcase some of the best backdrops. There are sadly some dull slowjams in the mix - the Ed-Sheeran-assisted acoustic number 'Love Yourself' and piano ballad 'Life is Worth Living' - but the rest are upbeat pop singles that make me picture myself at an evening beach party.

Bieber maintains a tasteful tone with the lyrics. Many of the songs have a personal message and aren't just cliched love songs. 'I'll Show You' sees him discussing his fame and what it's like to be constantly ogled by everyone, whilst 'Sorry' sees him apologising, perhaps for his brief rebellious stage. It's nice to see that whilst he has does some naughty things in the past - drink-driving and pissing in a restaurant mop bucket - he's not exploiting these antics. Bieber could have chosen to reinvent himself as Miley did by writing a sweary, stoner album. Thankfully this isn't the case and Bieber is able to prove that he is an adult whilst coming across as mature and likable.

Mug shot of Justin Bieber following drink-driving charges

Sadly despite the decent beats and lyrics, Bieber's vocals hold back a lot of the tracks. Like the Weeknd, Bieber relies on a rather one-dimensional whimper that's neither sad enough to connect with my heart nor sexy enough to turn me temporarily gay. Its a tone I've heard used by too many r&b vocalists, and whilst it's enough to propel the first few tracks, by the end it just sounds flat.

Maybe with time Bieber will learn to beef it up. His more personal lyrical approach and fun instrumentals have certainly made the Canadian singer more sympathetic to most folk. If he can keep hold of these elements and inject more emotional conviction into his vocal delivery, maybe then I will become a Belieber.