(Released February 14th, 2020)
Those opening lyrics would be the start of one of the most essential pop runs of the 2010s. Although Justin Bieber saw success with his debut single “One Time,” “Baby” would be the hit to turn a young, striving Canadian singer into a worldwide, overnight sensation. Penned and produced by The-Dream & Tricky Stewart, the track was infectious from the opening notes all the way until the end – Ludacris’ verse also added to the songs appeal.
As years pass by, It becomes much easier to forget the impact of certain artists, songs and/or moments; but “Baby” was and still is an undoubtable hit. Bieber Fever ran rapid while we watched the then 15 year old go from Youtube artist to superstar, ushering in a new wave of aspiring artists who’d go on to use the platform in order to gain exposure in hopes of being discovered.
As Justin’s career progressed, his highs were accompanied by some unexpected lows. Allegations of fathering a child, public disorderly conduct, several run ins with law enforcement and a racially charged remix of “One Less Lonely Girl” were shaping an image for the singer that would detach himself from his original cookie cutter persona, a phase we’ve seen many artists go through at certain points in their careers in order to distinguish themselves from the young teens they debuted from their transition into adulthood. He’d go on to be more “urban” influenced, discover a new found love of tattoos, frequently visit GetABlackFriend.com and dawn the name R&Bieber. Under this new image Justin would go on to release “Journals” and “Purpose” – both of which are fan favorites – while collaborating with acts like Chance The Rapper, Future, DJ Khaled and Big Sean.
Now, after a five year hiatus, he returns with his latest album “Changes.“
Accompanied by a youtube docuseries, his comeback single “Yummy” was also branded as “the return of R&Bieber;” unfortunately, it failed to live up to the high expectations. The track is undeniably catchy, with production that’s considered “trap” influenced – I guess. But, the repetitiveness and Justin’s overall lackluster delivery leaves much to be desired; especially from a song that was picked to spearhead his return. While the song is incredibly immature, Hailey Bieber, Justin’s wife – formerly Hailey Baldwin – was the song’s inspiration; actually, she’s one of the main inspirations behind the entire project. Summer Walker’s remix of “Yummy” closes out the album but honestly isn’t worth mentioning.
The projects opening track “All Around Me” actually does a perfect job of summing up the couples relationship and Justin’s transformation. With a very subtle approach production wise, it shows an honest and vulnerable Bieber looking to shed past childish acts in order to take on the adult responsibilities of being a husband and future father. “
While I more than enjoyed “All Around Me,” it would’ve served much better as an album closer as opposed to its opener. Because the track is so subdued, the mood going into the rest of the album is not exactly an exciting one – although that does match the majority of “Changes.” The following song “Habitual” is also monotone, probably moreso than “All Around Me.” The track also begins a nagging production trend – that’s present throughout the album – in having similar components that can be found on “Yummy.”
The line “Let’s get it in expeditiously” is the most compelling part about “Come Around Me” along with a brief interpolation of “Flex” by Mad Cobra. During my multiple run-throughs of the album, I noticed that although none of the songs can be deemed as “bad,” they’re simply not interesting. Like the second single “Intentions” which features Quavo, 1/3 of the Migos, for instance. It’s quite unnerving when the second single of a comeback album by one of the biggest pop acts of the 2010s, isn’t compelling in the slightest. Justin’s vocal delivery doesn’t sound like he even wanted to record the song in the first place and Quavo’s verse doesn’t add anything of substance either.
Four songs in and the gist of the rest of the album is basically set in stone.
“Forever” has, hands down, the worst feature on the entire album, Post Malone’s verse is decent but the shakiness of Clever’s voice is a definite earsore – to say the least. The Lil Dicky assisted “Running Over” is another one that features the similar production style found on “Yummy” and is, again, forgettable with neither party bringing anything significant to the record.
Surprisingly, there were two moments that peaked my interest. The sample of “Too Deep” by OVO duo DVSN on “Take It Out On Me” and also “Get Me” which features Kehlani. the latters production, whether intentional or unintentional, is reminiscent of Tweet’s 2002 hit “Oops (Oh My).” Now keep in mind, “Get Me” is the eleventh track on the album, so I could’ve been completely bored out of my mind while my conscious desperately searched for something worth latching onto, either way the resemblance was intriguing. That excitement – mind you, I’m using that very loosely – quickly faded upon the realization that the final five tracks are all ballads.
Up until this point, even though they were lackluster, some of the earlier songs at least had some oomph to them – no matter how small it was. I must stress again that these songs aren’t bad, they’re all actually pretty well done, but the appeal to purposely revisit any of these tracks just isn’t there. None of the featured artists delivered wowing verses and Justin’s own vocal presence isn’t alluring either. It’s safe to say “Changes” won’t be making any.
I wouldn’t be shocked if even die hard Belieber’s have already moved on from this project. No marketing ploy could make this album any more than what it is – just there.
Justin Bieber undoubtedly still has his following, but in a musical climate that moves at the speed of light – as opposed to sound – it’s best to deliver your most compelling material to date – or – fit in with the current wave to garner mainstream appeal. “Changes” does neither.
Maybe next time, Biebs.