I already had my suspicions, but for any lingering doubt about the intent of Justin Bieber’s latest album, Purpose, it becomes clear by the second track: it’s about redemption.
On “I’ll Show You,” Bieber sings, “My life is a movie and everyone’s watching. So let’s get to the good part, and pass all the nonsense.” Bieber wants to finally put aside all of the antics that caused his name to become more synonymous with terms and phrases like “obnoxious,” “reckless” and “next Lindsay Lohan” than “singer” and “entertainer.” Bieber wants your forgiveness to allow him to move on, y’all. So that way he can return to the path of successfully transitioning from child star to adult one. Bieber was well on his way with the under-appreciated Journals but got sidetracked — majorly by the real life growing pains.
“I’ll Show You” reminds me of Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me,” only Bieber seems far more present and self-aware when he croons lines like, “It’s like they want me to be perfect, but they don’t know I’m hurting.” Well, we learned as much from his apology tour that started earlier this year with his Comedy Central Roast. Now, we have Purpose.
Perhaps he is wee bit too hard on himself (look no further than the title track) because in the age we live, one’s transgressions – particularly when you are someone as famous as he is – are less forgettable than they used to be. Also, he’s 21. The fact that far too many put that kind of pressure is part of the problem.
Whether or not Justin Bieber reaches his “best self” in his early 20s (please feel free to laugh at such a notion) remains to be seen, but as far as Justin Bieber the singer goes, Purpose shows more than enough signs that he’s going to be quite alright. I’m more excited than ever about his musical future.
My initial fear going into was that Bieber’s voice, while pleasing to the ears, can sometimes venture towards monotonous if the production is not versatile enough. My fears are alleviated on track after track. There is a singular theme and overall vibe, but enough variance to where Purpose doesn’t sound like one long song. And to his credit, Bieber has grown as a singer.
I was not ready for the falsetto and high notes offered in “No Sense.” Definitely had to check his birthday to see if I was tip toeing towards dirty old man territory. Nor was I properly prepared for the immediate body rolling the very adult “Company” called on. By the end of the album’s first half, it dawned on me that Justin Bieber has made the male commercial R&B album that I’ve longed for all year. There have been plenty of releases this year that fall into the category, but those offerings – like those from The Weeknd and Miguel – push R&B past its limits.
Purpose features songs I wish Usher would have made — quite the compliment to bestow to his former mentee. It’s also the musical progression I wanted for Chris Brown. Unfortunately, with the deluxe edition being 20 songs, there are some missteps.
I can do without “Life Is Worth Living,” though I will say that if given a formal release, it’s a song that’ll never leave us. It will be played in various movies and television dramas from now until the end of time.
Likewise, I don’t ever have to hear “Children” again. The song reminds me of Michael Jackson songs like “Earth Song.” Like those, “Children” encourages listeners to heal the world and make it a better place. The only key difference is “Children” sounds like a club song — which is interesting given a song intended to make you think sounding made specifically for a setting that encourages very little of that.
There are also tracks that bleed into each other i.e. “Been You” and “Get Used To Me.” The same can be said of “Hit The Ground,” which sounds too much like Bieber’s excellent “Where Are You Now?” Those few songs aside which are not bad, just blah.
Purpose rebounds with “We Are” featuring Nas. More of Bieber’s burgeoning adulthood and growing vocal ability can be heard in “Trust.” I wonder with so much material on one project, what audiences will make of Purpose. I tend not to be a proponent of editing, but Bieber offers far more hits than misses. If nothing else, he lives up to the title of the album, and for the first time ever, I now consider myself a full-fledged Belieber.