Few celebrities have had a decade as eventful as Justin Bieber. Between being discovered via YouTube at age 13 and his recent marriage to Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin), the pop star has had a tumultuous journey through fame. The past several years have been messy for Bieber: Even after the height of his bad publicity and legal troubles in the mid-2010s, the singer has dealt with recovery from drug addiction and a very public on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez, among other personal issues and controversies.
With all of this behind him, Bieber has seemingly spent the past year focusing on getting better. He and Hailey Bieber married last year after a short relationship, and the star has spent the past several months working on his new album Changes after taking a break from music last March to focus on personal issues. Changes, coming five years after Bieber’s last album and a decade of controversy, was highly anticipated. The album comes at a time when Bieber seemed to have matured, giving him the opportunity to display his newfound growth to the world. Even more than that, it comes at a time when Bieber seemed to have a lot to say –– and yet, Changes doesn’t offer listeners much substance at all.
While the album has a great deal of promise, it ends up fulfilling none of its potential. Changes is boring and repetitive in every sense of the word –– its beats, lyrics and themes are all mostly the same, with none of them being very good to begin with. The record is essentially a 17-track confession of Bieber’s undying love for his new wife, sung atop monotonous trap-pop beats and including a few forgettable features. Because of this lack of creativity, almost every song sounds the same and listeners will likely find themselves finishing a track without retaining a single word.
Changes starts off blandly and doesn’t really pick up. The first track, “All Around Me,” is a slow love song in which Bieber describes his need to have his new wife “all around” him. While it’s fine to listen to, it’s uninspired as an opener –– the most valuable thing that it offers listeners is a preview of what is to come.
The next several songs, which include “Come Around Me,” “Yummy” and “Available” are equally fine and boring, featuring the same sort of tired beats and repetitive themes. This isn’t helped by the fact that some of the lyrics, aside from being boring, are simply bad –– in “Come Around Me,” Bieber proclaims, “Let’s not miss out on each other/ Let’s get it in expeditiously,” and in “Yummy,” he annoyingly repeats, “You got that yummy-yum/ That yummy-yum, that yummy-yummy.”
Considering that the most noticeable issue with this album is its repetitiveness, one would think that features from other popular artists might aid in creating some variety. But, at best, the features on Changes add only marginally to the album’s quality. At worst, they detract considerably. Quavo’s feature on “Intentions” and Post Malone’s on “Forever” are fine and mesh well with Bieber’s vocals, but they add little to the tracks. Lil Dicky’s appearance on “Running Over” is simply cringe-worthy –– in his verse, he raps, “Post intercourse when you walk by (A–, a–, a–)/ More buns than a ShopRite (Woah).” The exception is Kehlani’s feature on “Get Me”; the singer’s voice gives a much-needed change of pace, offering one of the few redeeming moments of the album.
Toward the end of Changes, the songs remain uninteresting for the most part –– “E.T.A,” “Changes” and “Confirmation” feel like different versions of one another – before coming to “That’s What Love Is,” which feels refreshingly different by incorporating acoustic guitar and more exploratory vocals. On the last two tracks, “At Least for Now” and a remix of “Yummy,” however, Bieber ends up returning to the disappointing habits that define the majority of this album. With that, Changes concludes as it begins: unimaginative and unfulfilled.
Contact Salem Sulaiman at [email protected].