Justin Bieber was once the world’s biggest pop star. Before the days of One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, it was Bieber who ruled the roost, boasting hit after hit off of a relatively small amount of releases (2015’s Purpose is just his fourth full-length LP). Most people will remember the annoying high notes from ‘Baby’ and many will have spent hours (or a few minutes) pondering the paradoxical implications of a song bearing the chorus: ‘I will never say never’.
After his initial burst, he slowly started to fade into obscurity; after 2013’s Boyfriend his singles struggled to gain any type of chart traction, and he was getting publicity for drunk driving and spitting rather than releasing music. His fan base remained annoying as ever throughout – the Beliebers are still as obnoxious as ever, only now they’ve expanded.
Bieber has spent the last three months releasing singles for his new album Purpose. This album is a huge departure from his first LP, going for a more mature R&B / pop sound and bringing in a slew of famous friends to help write and produce his music.
Critically, the album has been received very well with many praising the musical development made from his last few releases. His latest 3 singles have all reached the top spot in the UK charts, and have all been met with rave reviews. But how has this happened? What has actually changed about Bieber that has made his music so much better?
It isn’t the choice of topic. He is singing about nothing new. What Do You Mean is essentially a more eloquently-articulated and vastly-superior version of Eenie Meenie, both about a girl who can’t seem to make up her mind, whilst What Do You Mean certainly has its problems (it is very boring in my opinion) – it’s barely even feasible to compare the two in terms of quality.
Sorry is your standard apology song – the difference here is that this is the first time he’s ever sounded genuinely sincere in what he’s saying. This may be the reason his songs seem to mesh: it’s the first time I’ve listened to a Bieber song and actually been able to beliebe (sorry) that he actually means what he’s saying.
Love Yourself is literally just a well-written and well-executed song. With Bieber, there’s always been something not quite right. His acoustic album lacked the identity his previous work had, whilst his previous work lacked everything except identity. Love Yourself could have been a trainwreck – the writers have shown great restraint in not having Bieber chipmunk out with his ridiculous vocal range (looking at you Sam Smith), whilst Sheeran is at his best – writing depressing, radio-friendly pseudo-ballads with nice little guitar hooks.
Bieber is still a bit of a dick. He stopped a concert because someone touched his shoe – he felt this required a reaction that would essentially rob literally thousands of people extortionate sums of money that went into their tickets. But you can’t really add shit music to the pile of Bieber hate any more.
He has improved, certainly to the point where you don’t want to rip your own ears off when he gets airplay (Baby). He’s now a perfectly happy paddler in the swimming pool of mediocrity that is the dance-pop genre.