Justin Bieber needs no introduction. His name has legitimately transcended music. I ask my friends sometimes to choose three artists who they believe to have the most recognizable names. I always go with The Beatles, Micheal Jackson and Justin Bieber. I think his name is the known entity, not specifically his music. He’s become one of the biggest personalities of the last decade.
Justin Bieber has now returned to music after five years since his last full-length album “Purpose.” It’s undeniable that Justin will automatically gain a ridiculous amount of hype for this project, even if the majority of the promo was done straight through his Instagram page.
After many dates being announced and three singles, his album “Changes” was released on Feb. 14.
Honestly, the album does not look like it contains anything of interest or any sign of groundbreaking content. The title “Changes” is so generic that no one actually saw it coming, and the tracklist hits the usual big-name pop features besides a small artist named Clever and… Lil Dicky, whom I considered to have ruined the track before I even listened to it. It’s unfair, but instinctual. Once I was finally done judging a book by its cover and table of contents, I began listening.
If there was one thing that was correctly predictable from the singles, “Changes” was at least going to have some interesting production. The first half of the album offered a mesh of pop and Playboi Carti-esque cloud trap. Singer/songwriter Poo Bear has credits everywhere on “Changes,” including production on every song. More recurring producers are The Audibles, Kid Culture and HARV. Oddly enough, the Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee has production and songwriting credits on the track “Available.”
The opener “All Around Me” begins the album with an echoey guitar track that offers some hope for an interesting listen. As the album progresses, though, you realize that this sound is pretty one-dimensional. The instrumentals are cool and interesting to an extent, but too much of a good thing is still too much.
Justin’s melodies are catchy, but not out of the ordinary for a pop singer. His features also don’t help him stand out either. They’re all non-presences on their respective songs, except for Lil Dicky who is given just enough time to take one of the cooler tracks down a notch. Tracks like “Habitual,” “Intentions,” “Available” and “Forever” end up seeming interchangeable but inoffensive.
As one of the most notorious songs of 2020 , “Yummy” has already been discussed to hell and back. While the chorus is undeniably silly and repetitive, the instrumental is nearly perfect. The elevator piano two-chord progression is all that’s needed, and the small riffs of synth and steel drum-esque patch on the chorus add variation and a touch of tropical flavor. The drums are the weak point of the instrumental but do not negatively affect the track.
An underrated aspect is the killer pre-chorus that cuts so perfectly before the chorus drops; it brings the song together. There’s a sense of dark urgency to the song that it has no right to have, considering its chorus is built around the repetition of “yummy-yum.” Other tracks on “Changes” wish they could pull off what “Yummy” pulls off, and none of them come close.
“Come Around Me,” “Running Out” and “Second Emotion” have particularly likable qualities compared to the majority of the first half of “Changes.”
“Come Around Me” sounds like it was produced by P’ierre Bourne, and despite Lil Dicky’s unfunny verse, “Running Out” is a chilled-out track with a catchy instrumental. Travis Scott’s talk-rap guest verse on “Second Emotion” is odd, but is appreciated coming from Travis, whose features are commonly interchangeable. I think of the track as what “CHopstix” by ScHoolboy Q was supposed to be — a slightly faster, upbeat pop jam by someone who’s actually meant to pull that off.
“Take It Out On Me” and “Get Me” are both R’n’B tracks that result in polar opposite ends of success. The former is slow and sludgy, and possibly my least favorite song on the album. It has no replay value at all. “Get Me” prospers off the bouncy and moody instrumental that flatters Justin’s vocals both in his lower and higher ranges. Guest Kehlani offers more than just a guest verse and shares the later chorus with Justin to complete the proper duet. She’s easily the most valuable feature on “Changes.”
The last five tracks are their own section of the album. Each song is guitar or piano-driven, and they all lack standout qualities. The strongest two are the title track “Changes” and the final track “At Least For Now.” While the latter serves as a fitting final song on the album with its hopeful melodies and “enjoy the moment” message, “Changes” could’ve been moved up in the tracklist, and the other three tracks easily could have been cut.
Justin himself doesn’t serve as much more than a nice, iconic voice that’s kind of exciting to hear again after a while. He’s a voice that most teens grew up with, and the nostalgic feeling of Justin is part of the appeal of hearing a new album.
Sadly, the music is not the point of a Justin Bieber album in 2020. That’s why it was such a smart move to release “Yummy” as the first single. It’s an easily hateable song that will undoubtedly get people talking and outlets writing about Justin again, eager to rip into it. On the other hand, it’s as radio-friendly as you can get. It will get plays, and there’s nothing the quality, or lack there-of, can do about it.
At this point in his career, Justin Bieber is more of a name than an artist. Any music under the name “Justin Bieber” will be popular, and that’s how it’s been for his whole career. That’s why it’s so disappointing when he releases something as generic and mediocre as “Changes.”
I wouldn’t even call it a bad album, but the opportunity has always been so perfect to push something totally new and creative into the mainstream with a Justin Bieber project. Although the production on some “Changes” is unique in pop music, so much more could’ve been done.
We can only hope that in the future, Justin will release a more thoughtful and boundary-pushing album, but as “Yummy” falls down the chart prematurely, it’s hard not to think Justin’s pop dominance might be nearing its end already. For whatever the future holds for Justin Bieber, I can only hope that one day he’ll put it to good use.