Newly-wed, sober and not shy about it, Bieber makes a highly anticipated comeback with 16-track, fifth studio album, ‘Changes’.
We see a Justin that ‘never thought [i] he could be loyal’ show off his new relationship with great pride. Through subdued and syncopated RnB synths, his domestic contentment permeates through into practically every track.
As much as we might question some of the more ‘milennial’ lyrics, with the likes of ‘Picture perfect you don’t need no filter’ that pander to his muse and newly-wed bride Hailey Baldwin, it’s not dissimilar to the kind of music Justin was first bringing out over 10 years ago. This was, funnily enough, the same era in which Justin and Hailey unknowingly took their first photo together, pop-star heartthrob and fan style. Arguably so, Changes is the return of the One Less Lonely Girl Justin, except this time – from a grown man, and with a palpable legitimacy.
The album starts off with a high, later dropping its raw and confessional approach as it caters to more collaborative, seemingly less authentic tracks in the middle, which evidently have had less prominent writer influence from Bieber. Appearances include friend and rapper/producer Post Malone as well as Kehlani who provides a welcome female voice. The female vocals truly solidify ‘Changes’s prominent RnB feel (if the occasional braggadocious rapper line depicting him ‘in the lambo’ didn’t do so already), but it doesn’t mean the album is a total success. We see some obvious low points with the likes of ‘Come Around me’ and ‘Yummy’ – a Tik-Tok marketing success but simultaneously; a largely disappointing single from which a lot more was expected. The fail on his part as a musician comes by monetising his presence as an artist, particularly with regards to Bieber’s seemingly dishonest manipulation of streaming services to get it to a number one spot.
” Changes ironically sees a stagnant sonic evolution throughout the album; it’s safe to say that no risks were taken “
Despite this, it is, at times, endearing, but scattered with obtrusive and unwelcome lines (‘Say I’m number one on your to-do list’), with even entire songs in reference to Bieber and Baldwin’s marital bed activity. Changes ironically sees a stagnant sonic evolution throughout the album; it’s safe to say that no risks were taken.
Nonetheless, Justin does what he’s best at genre -wise, a predominant RnB, Soul album with a couple of acoustic guitar and solo gems that shine through with vocal talent such as ‘That’s What Love Is’. Bieber’s vocal range and the way he pirouettes and leaps between falsetto and chest voice could appear undemanding, yet his vocal ability should truly be praised. It’s easy to forget his humble beginnings busking as a pre-adolescent boy, voice unbroken and brimming with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Bieber is aware of this, as he ends with the tender acoustic ‘At Least For Now’, an endearing acoustic ballad that seems to come from a truly genuine place, and one that nearly makes up for some of the dud-tracks before. Personal standout tracks include ‘All Around Me’, ‘Intentions’ and ‘At Least For Now’.
With this album, Justin does not return all guns blazing, but rather, takes a gentle step forwards back into the spotlight. Maybe ‘Changes’ is nearing superficial in its subject as he speaks of the equity of married life, his happiness and not much else. Though at this point in his life, he’s already successful and established. Justin Bieber can do what he wants for his comeback album, and so he has.