In the future Justin Bieber movie, his Purpose album will be the emotional montage moment. Because, without question, the arrival of this coming-of-age album is a moment.
Precociously talented from an early age, at some point burn-out inside a corroded dream-factory of teen idolhood, unfair role model expectations, and a painful first love break-up converged in a personal crisis. Fast forward to 2015, Justin Bieber “came out swinging” as he would subsequently tell Billboard.
But Team Justin Bieber had a plan. Packing undeniable hits, the comeback kid forced his re-admittance to current music relevancy thanks to the overwhelmingly quality of one record. Even before he started raining bangers. Even before Purpose. Even before the apologies really got going.
“Where Are Ü Now” was, and remains, a game changer. The Biebs’ desolate crystalline vocals set against the canyon drops and sheer beauty of Jack Ü’s soundscape, ignited the summer and birthed a hopefully ongoing working relationship of Bieber and Skrillex.
Despite slow pre-orders, and the album leaking two days before its official November 13 release, from midnight across Europe, Purpose soared to No. 1 on iTunes in 37 countries before topping 53 charts — including the U.S., U.K. Australia, and Canada. It occupies the top ten spots in over 50 other countries at press time.
— HeadlinePlanet.com (@headlineplanet) November 13, 2015
Not only is it Bieber’s best record to date, it also his first truly adult album, expanding his vocal pallette and sonic ambitions well beyond 2013’s low-fi Journals. Nutshelled, Purpose is a 99.9% cohesive mix of juggernaut pop anthems, acoustic songs, and R&B jams — some of the latter are underpinned with EDM influences. Lyrics spectrum from atoning, to reflective, inspiring, tea-spilling, lovesick, and romantic.
The also released Skrillex-produced “I’ll Show You,” is Bieber’s declaration of humanity. With its glitchy future sounds and thunderous bass and beats, and the Biebs’ pain-strewn lyrics and vocal delivery it’s also moving. The stunning music video, which was shot in Iceland, heightens the immersive experience.
“Company” and “All In It” are stellar jams any day of the week. The former is a sexy R&B meets EDM-pop come-on of a song, stuffed with hooks. Watch dance mixes of “Company” destroy clubs in the months to come. “All In It” wins with its retro guitar intro even before the vocals kick in. Throw in the spiritual shout-out at the end, what’s not to love?
“Children,” has been compared by some disdainful music critic to one of Bieber’s musical heroes, Michael Jackson’s world songs “Heal The World” and “Earth Song.” The Biebs asks “What about the children?” and “Who’s got the heart?” However, the song packs an irresistible punch when that beat drops.
Like “Company”, “Been You” is a solid dance-pop slayer that makes you want to sing and dance all over its upful chorus. It segues well into “Get Used To It,” another similarly muscular stomper with a romantic premise. Again, the dance mixes will be insane.
“Trust” is the only not-so-much moment on Purpose for me. As far as old-school R&B goes, it’s faultless. But there are much better songs on this record to listen to.
“Love Yourself,” co-penned by Ed Sheeran and Bieber is a black comedy acoustic kiss-off to a terrible ex.
Title track “Purpose” and “Life is Worth Living” do what they say on the tin. “Purpose” sees a despairing Bieber singing about “tears I’ve wept” and “asking you to forgive me for my sins” offering praise to God for “giving me purpose.” In a similar vein, “LIWL” promises that in hard times “even in midst of doubt / Life is worth living / So live another day.” Some will find it schmaltzy. Others may find it to be an actual life-saver. That’s important.
To the collabs. “No Sense” finds Bieber in a somber mood missing a lover over a hypnotic hip-hop track and insistent “It doesn’t no sense unless I’m doing it with you.” Rodeo rapper Travi$ Scott turns up for 16 and provides a vibey, ambient flavor. It’s terrific.
“No Pressure” is immense. The Biebs owns some bad behavior in a now over relationship, while telling his ex he still wants her back. On the chorus he assures her “You ain’t gotta make your mind up, You ain’t gotta make your mind up right now. Don’t rush, no pressure.” Packed with addictive earworms, the song works but Big Sean’s guest rap feels unnecessary.
The Skrillex-produced “The Feeling” features indie-pop darling Halsey and the Biebs asking whether the feeling of love is real or just an idea they are in love with at the start of a romance. A gorgeous electro-dreamscape shimmers beneath the pair.
— ☆Bugatti☆Bieber☆ (@zanibabi94) November 6, 2015
“We Are” finds Bieber trying to reason with lover as they battle external rumors and hate. Nas ramps up the already dramatic track. It’s different and great. The album wraps with a flawless acoustic version of “What Do You Mean?”
Purpose is an album you can grow into and find new favorites on each listen. At its heart is the singer’s longing to be redeemed, heard, understood, and not judged. As such, it will be deeply relatable to others.
Is it a classic? I think so. That it comes from an artist written off by so many just a year ago only makes it all the more remarkable. Justin Bieber’s comeback may not have been snafu free, but what is? The 21-year-old has delivered an authentic, spiritual, mature, and compelling album while exposing his flaws, heart, and soul — openly and bravely.
Listen to the Purpose album below.
[Image via Instagram / Retna / RTI]