The singer has been labeled the ultimate “wife guy” for a reason. But Bieber’s new album proves artists don’t have to be in pain to make great music.
When Justin Bieber released his fifth studio album, “Changes,” in February 2020, it was supposed to mark his triumphant return to music after years of withdrawing from the spotlight to focus on his mental health. But although the album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart, it received only mediocre reviews for its lackluster lyrics and bored, uninspired tone.
Not long after Bieber announced that he was struggling with various “deep-rooted problems,” including Lyme disease – not to mention his fast-paced engagement to Hailey Baldwin – “Changes” seemed more like an early attempt at image rehabilitation than a comeback. But a year later, the artist has returned with a new album, “Justice,” which is not only stronger than his predecessor, but also suggests that Bieber has finally found the happier, healthier place he’s been looking for.
Bieber wrote on Instagram that “Justice,” which was released Friday, was born out of his desire to bring “comfort” and “healing” to a world shattered by suffering. It remains to be seen whether the album will achieve this lofty goal, but it seems that making music has at least brought peace and comfort to Bieber himself. “It’s the first time I’ve had so much consistency and predictability,” he recently told Billboard about his time in quarantine. (“Justice” was recorded during the Covid-19 lock.) “I think this is the first time in my life that I’ve really enjoyed the process of releasing an album,” he added.
Anyone who follows the star on social media has probably noticed a shift in priorities and routine. Unlike the immature, unstable singer of the tabloid press, the 2021 Bieber speaks candidly about his mental health, worships his wife and finds solace in his religion. He often reflects on the mistakes of his past; On International Women’s Day, for example, he posted a mea culpa in which he acknowledged his past “naive” attitude and lack of empathy with the female population, along with a heartfelt promise to do better.
Bieber has grown up, it seems. And this newfound maturity has led to music that is sometimes cheesy, yes – the singer was not for nothing called the ultimate “woman type” – but also mostly catchy and uplifting.
In “Anyone,” the album’s third single, Bieber sings about his love for Baldwin (a frequent theme on “Justice”) as he ponders his past and notes, “Lookin’ back on my life, you’re the only good I’ve ever done.” Is it sultry? Yes. Is it a great song? Yes, too!
On another equally sentimental single, “Hold On” (a song That Bieber described as a “hopeful” melody about staying strong despite adversity), he offers himself as an example of how people can change for the better: “We all know that I should be the one/who says we all make mistakes… I know what it feels like to be someone who feels when you lose your way.” Bieber, he wants us to know, has survived his personal struggles and emerged as a better person. “Midnight ’til morning/call if you need somebody,” he sings on “Hold On” and acts as the support system his younger self didn’t have.
“I just want to be someone who can say, ‘Look, I’ve done a few things that I’m not particularly proud of, but I looked in the mirror and decided to change something, and you can do that,'” Bieber told Billboard. After so many years of turmoil, it is refreshing to see that the star acknowledges both his development and turns this journey into meaningful art.
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His new songs feel honest and comprehensible, albeit a little sultry; here is a man who does not spend his time with drugs and the devastation of hotel rooms, but simply enjoys his life as it is. It may be easy for critics to roll their eyes when the lyrics are more than occasionally cheesy, but who cares? Bieber is happy, healthy and as talented as he has always been.
Moreover, sentimentality is not a bad thing per se; in this case, it just means that the singer’s new music may be more suitable for weddings than clubs. As he proves on “Justice,” artists don’t have to suffer pain to make good music.
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Rachel Simon is the deputy editor of HelloGiggles. Her work has also been published in The New York Times, Glamour, Cosmo, Teen Vogue and more. You can find them at @Rachel_Simon.
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