Pop sensation Justin Bieber has lived through a whirlwind couple years. From releasing three back-to-back smash-hit records with 15 million combined sales to leaving his pet monkey in a German airport to puking onstage in Arizona, Bieber’s name has become synonymous with the words “reckless” and “obnoxious” rather than “singer” and “entertainer.” However, the time for teenage antics has come and gone. Bieber has done a lot of soul-searching in the past few years and is back, ready to tackle the pop music world.
After the release of three extremely popular singles earlier this year, “Where Are U Now,” “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?,” there was little doubt that Bieber’s fourth studio album, “Purpose,” would be anything but one of the year’s best records.
“Purpose” is a departure from Bieber’s precious slow rhythm-and-blues jams and hip-hop features. Instead, there was a conscious effort by producers Skrillex, Poo Bear and Diplo (among many others) to create a new, unique sound for the apologetic star.
Sonically, “Purpose” builds on the foundation of electronic dance music and tropical house present on his three summer hits. Gone, for the most part, are the R&B singles reminiscent of Bieber circa the “Believe” era. New musical experimentations, including the occasional foray into tropical house, give Bieber the chance to show people his signature pure falsetto and his vocal abilities that made him a household name. In contrast to these new sounds, “Company” and “Trust” show Bieber switching gears back to his traditional R&B slow jams. “We Are,” featuring Nas, feels like a 2000s rap and R&B throwback from Justin Timberlake’s first solo album.
“Mark My Words,” the first track of the album, sets the tone for what is to come. The song’s calming presence shows Bieber trying to gain back the love and trust of not only his fans but also of his ex, Selena Gomez. With lyrics like “Falling in and out of trust / Trying to rekindle us / Only to lose yourself / But I won’t let me lose you,” it is easy to see how this is one of the three songs he admitted to be about Gomez on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last week.
The expedition into Bieber’s personal life continues on the next track, “I’ll Show You.” Bieber laments about how his “life is a movie and everyone’s watching / So let’s get to the good part and pass all the nonsense.” He admits that with the media following his every move, he has had to learn life lessons the hard way, a fact that would be hard to refute.
“Sorry” is, unsurprisingly, another track inspired by his ex Selena Gomez. The track, produced by Skrillex, has an EDM-meets-reggae feel that made the song an infectious smash hit. Although lyrics such as “I’m missing more than just your body” seem insincere, the song as a whole feels like a genuine apology directed straight at Gomez.
One of the best tracks of the album is a collaboration with Ed Sheeran called “Love Yourself.” The subtle background noise of an acoustic guitar and clever yet cheesy lyrics give the song the feel of an Ed Sheeran hit. It is hard to not be swept up in the sea of emotion and vulnerability when Bieber sings, “I fell in love, now I feel nothin’ at all / Had never felt so low when I was vulnerable / Was I a fool to let you break down my walls?”
Piano ballad “Life Is Worth Living” features a stripped-down vocal melody with no trace of the ever-present tropical house vibes. This, in turn, gives Bieber a chance to showcase his vocal range. The song shows the best of Bieber and allows him to be inspiring and genuine.
The strangest track on the album is “Children.” The song is a call to action for millennials who want to make a difference. What could be a public service announcement is oddly paired with a high-energy EDM beat. However, the two play on each other to create a shockingly good song.
Beside love, another prevalent theme of “Purpose” is religion. The theme is not surprising coming from Bieber, who often speaks about his religious faith and beliefs. On the title track, “Purpose,” Bieber reflects on his rise to fame and his connection with his faith. On “All In It,” Bieber talks directly to God about the importance of being true to yourself and doing what you love. Both of these tracks, with their simple production and clean vocals, showcase Bieber’s emotional side and are exceptionally heartfelt and motivational.
The album ends with an acoustic version of summer smash “What Do You Mean?” The acoustic version allows Bieber to showcase his raw talent and makes the listener wish, despite the greatness of his new EDM sound, that the entire album had been released acoustically.
“Purpose” is by far Bieber’s best work to date. On “Purpose,” Bieber is introspective, making a pledge to show the world that his public image is not the whole story. The album does not quite give him the redemption he is looking for. Only time will tell if he has truly reinvented himself.However, he is growing up and owning up to his mistakes, and in doing so, he has created a unique album full of soon-to-be smash hits with the ability to convert many into Beliebers.
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