Caleb M. S.— Staff Writer
Look, I get it. It’s not cool or fresh to hate on Justin Bieber. Everyone and their mother in the music critic world has rather harsh thoughts on anything Bieber has done to this point. When he rose to fame as a teenager, I myself expressed my general displeasure in this young, whiny, crooning child singing manufactured pop ballads and selling out stadiums. However, it is worth noting Bieber has not had an easy time of his abrupt rise to fame. Other artists even notice and appreciate his struggles. Hobo Johnson writes in “Ode To Justin Bieber” off of his recent and excellent album The Fall of Hobo Johnson: “Justin Bieber never even got fair f— shake/ If you buy your mom a house when you’re thirteen / You gon‘ be f— up mentally, you know?” Bieber himself notes his fall into the use of hard drugs as a 19-year-old, and the singer notably cut his Purpose tour short by 14 shows due to “personal circumstances.”
Changes finds a newly married, newly sober Bieber five years-post Purpose, and supposedly refocused. Changes sets out to explore the life of a 25-year-old married pop star and the larger implications of a whirlwind of public image issues resulting from his skyrocketing to fame. It is a trope as old as the music industry. Seemingly every major artist who rapidly rose to fame feels obligated to provide a dialogue of how it affected them, how they rediscovered themselves, their coping with substances more often than not, and so on and so forth. Bieber, though well intentioned, instead released an album with the repetitiveness of Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day, and the blandness of Taylor Swift’s Lover. (Both of these albums have been reviewed previously and are available online through the Diamond’s website.)
Changes is not a bad album. Simply put, after five years and a major life shift, the general populace expected more from Bieber. Instead, the result of the hiatus was a pseudo R&B album with boring trap beats and features who are not given the chance to really shine. Additionally, some of the content of the pop-king’s latest work is troubling. Bieber speaks often on his marriage (much like Chance in The Big Day) and the joys of married sex. The song “Yummy,” though offensive in sheer repetitiveness and overall quality, is the least offensive in content. Lines like “Shout-out to your mom and dad for makin’ you / Standin’ ovation, they did a great job raisin’ you” on “Intentions,” and “Heart full of equity, you’re an asset” on the same song make the new marriage between Bieber and supermodel Hailey (formerly Baldwin) appear transactional, shallow, and manufactured—much like the album as a whole.
Despite attempting to appear as a swooning young adult in love, Bieber comes off as unsettling and unconvinced of his own feelings. Lyrical content throughout the entire project falls flat, at best, and at worst sounds borderline misogynistic. The decision to include Lil Dicky on the album is also questionable at best; the rapper faced appropriate backlash when his song “Freaky Friday” was released, detailing how Dicky wishes he could have convicted abuser Chris Brown’s life.
Revisiting the musical aspects of Changes, the album fails to deliver the punch that hits like “Sorry” have had in the past. Bieber is completely capable of writing songs that are deserving of the gratuitous radio time he has been accustomed to in the past decade, but no song off this most recent project should be honored with excessive time on the airwaves. “Yummy,” the lead single, details how Bieber’s wife has “that yummy yum, that yummy yum, that yummy yum” for three and a half minutes too long. In fact, the most egregious offense of this otherwise bland album is the inclusion of two versions of “Yummy,” in the track listing.
Changes fails to deliver the punch long-suffering Bieber fans deserve, and Justin would be in better company with Chance the Rapper as they tell each other over and over how much they love their wives for all eternity, than subjecting his listeners to his feelings about sleeping with Hailey.
Will Listen to Again:
Forever (ft. Post Malone and Clever)
Get Me (ft. Kehlani)
Burn It Down:
All Around Me
At Least for Now
This review was written with some influence from a review of the same album by Pitchfork.