Christian pop, weed anthems and a Martin Luther King speech. What is going on?
It’s been barely a year since the Canadian pop icon dropped his last album Changes. The record saw a newly-wed Bieber celebrating the fact that he can now have sex via a series of seductive r&b slowjams - none of which succeeded in turning me on (‘Yummy’ actually made me feel quite sick).
Despite not being a big fan of his last record, I do respect the fact that Changes stuck to a theme, which is more than can be said for this new album Justice. This time around, there are Christian-pop-flavoured tracks like ‘Holy’, in which he mushily compares his love for his wife to his love for God. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are tracks like ‘Peaches’ in which Bieber sings ‘I get my weed from California (that’s that shit)’ like he’s trying to be Wiz Khalifa (Remember when kids were cutting themselves because Bieber was caught smoking weed? Now he’s writing weed anthems and no-one’s batting an eyelid. I guess that’s progress?).
Most confusing of all is the ‘MLK interlude’ shoehorned into the tracklist. I get that BLM is a hot topic and that the album is called ‘Justice’, but just what does this Martin Luther King speech have to do with any of the other tracks? The way the album abruptly launches into funky love song ‘Die For You’ afterwards is so jarring. A slower and more serious song related to social justice would have been a much more appropriate follow-up.
Although directionless – and, at times, tone deaf – none of the songs are particularly ‘bad’. The songs are all well-produced and Bieber is a competent singer who can glide effortlessly between modal vocals and falsettos. Of course, that doesn’t make any of these songs necessarily ‘good’. Most of these songs are template songs – you could slot any other pop singer from Chris Brown to Shawn Mendes into them and still have the same effect. The beats are largely generic, the vocal melodies are all predictable and the lyrics are utterly soulless.
‘Lonely’ is the biggest exception to this - and by far the best cut on the album. The intimate closer sees Justin giving us a glimpse into the dark side of fame and how it can be very lonely at the top. The yodelled chorus is a bit weird, but it’s also one of the few boldly creative moments on the record and I dig it.
A few more personal lyrics and quirky hooks could have made for a much more interesting album. Instead, we get a mixed bags of ideas – and Justin doesn’t really do any of them justice.