Review Summary: Well, it’s better than his moustache.“Being human is challenging”
, Justin laments at one point in his ten-part Youtube series, Seasons
; a calculated documentary that gives loyal Belieber’s the chance to peer into the life of Justin Bieber – or more specifically, the part that sees him making his new album, Changes
. While the sentiment is hardly going to reach the ‘Top Philosophy Quotes of the Twenty-First Century’, he’s not exactly wrong, is he? The thing is, with Bieber in the position he’s in, it’s a little depressing hearing the flak that comes his way when all he’s trying to do is express himself; after all, he’s a human being with needs and emotions, just like everyone else. The problem is the non-Belieber’s scoff at what he has to say, because there’s a stigma attached to the kind of status Bieber has – one that runs along the lines of, “you have it all, so stop moaning”
. However, like many people coping with depression or mental illness, Justin has been trying to bury his own weighing demons for quite some time. The by-product of the infamous 2014 outcries is Purpose
, a record that took many people by surprise: it had a boatload of hooks, booming instrumentals, a melodramatic execution, and some soaring melodies that helped certify the intended drama. But moreover, the record projected Bieber as a legitimate artistic force. Of course, in spite of the success he’d received, Bieber continued to highlight his mental wellbeing when his Purpose Tour ended prematurely, looking rather flaccid and vacant towards the end of it.
And so, Changes
is essentially a direct sequel to Purpose
; it’s an album that details the good and bad things that have occurred in the last half-decade. The elephant in the room is that the soporific “Yummy” nearly derails that narrative – an inept and cynically fatigued contrivance that attempts to cash in on the TikTok craze, lacking even a morsel of the characteristic strength Purpose
possessed, and failing at its intended schemes anyway with a transparent execution. Thankfully, the rest of the album isn’t as obnoxious as “Yummy”, but there are a number of problems that bog it down. Bieber’s style has never been a cutting-edge one, being overly reliant on keeping its pulse on contemporary fads and #trending movements over ideas that resonate with him the most, so don’t go into this expecting a musical marvel. With that being said, the music here isn’t bad either. It’s a departure that bridges over Purpose
’s bombastic flair. Changes
trades high-octane writing for sombre, stripped back compositions that fall oddly out of line with a Valentine’s Day release. The album stands on a coin’s edge – pessimistic optimism that dives into his muse and wife, Hailey Rhode Bieber, being an essential part of the equilibrium he’s currently feeling, whilst back-handing his own fidelity in saying “Never thought I could ever be loyal, to someone other than myself”
. Not always, but sometimes, it’s quite a self-analytical project that unveils Justin’s insecurities, as well as the strengths he didn’t realise he had.
The production is a mirror image of Purpose
– which is certainly a good thing – and sets a cohesive vibe for the album. However, this time we have a much more ethereal and relaxed approach to the songwriting; an array of fluffy, billowing electronics that delicately float around Bieber’s well-executed vocal performances, and the occasional acoustic guitar thrown in there for good measure. Occasionally the album stubs its tone on a distasteful mumble rap section (found on the largely decent “Intentions”), or there’s a guest interruption (like the one from Lil Dicky on “Running Over”) that heedlessly damages the flow and mood. Other times, the record’s worst offence is that it’s just not bringing anything note-worthy to the table – there’s a lot of filler tracks here. The mid-section of the album is wrought in forgettable numbers that lack that something
essential to keep your interest going. The thing is, if those four or so tracks from the mid-section were put on the cutting room floor, it would have made it a much stronger offering. When the album works at full capacity, it’s a joy to sit through. The acoustic and ballad tracks are certainly the redeeming highlights here: the melancholic “Changes” – which hears Justin assimilating his feelings and the changes that come with life, over a stripped bare acoustic guitar – the R&B drenched E.T.A, and the piano ballad “Confirmation” end up salvaging a lot of the damage done, and bring the last quarter of this LP to a very strong close.
is inferior to its predecessor in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t stop it from being a decent album. The most interesting part about this project is it lacks the 101 radio hits he’s so well known for. Bar “Yummy”, this is a pretty meaningful offering that ponders and mulls over what was and what could be. In that practice, he’s made some new flaws to get over in his songwriting, but you can’t help but admire his attempt at moving away from older traits. Changes
is successful in its low-key relaxation – despite the unfortunate lack of penetrating hooks to compensate for the subtle instrumental work – and overall, if you enjoyed Purpose
or Justin Bieber’s work in general, it’s going to deliver for the most part. It’s just a shame that modern production gimmicks, detrimental guest spots, and some flat writing damages what is Justin’s most intimate offering to date.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: CD/̶/̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://shop.justinbiebermusic.com/products/changes-vinyl-digital-album