Love him or hate him, he’s been one of the most popular artists of the last decade. There’s a reason his latest album, “Changes” is the current #1 album in the country on the Billboard Hot 100. Justin Beiber has certainly seen his fair share of hit singles, and his fair share of disappointing moments in the public eye. On his most recent release, “Changes”, Beiber proves that he is certainly in tune with what the current generation is listening to on the radio. Much of his current album sounds trapped in beats of top 40, but not enough to stand out and truly shine beyond that. While lead single, “Yummy”, is a definite bop, elsewhere the album feels stagnant. Does this make it a bad release? No. But in retrospect, few Beiber albums have truly been classic bodies of work. While “Changes” falls into his top five, it doesn’t quite take much.
Unlike his debut album, “My World”, Beiber isn’t the same hungry pop star that he once was. That is evident on his new album. There’s a very confident swagger that defines his flow on tracks such as “Intentions” and “Running Over”. While his first album found him continuing to flirt around with different sounds to find his stride, as evident in hits “Baby” and “One Time”, this one finds him riding the wave of what has worked and continues to work for every other artist of this decade. For a veteran in the game, this is a bit disappointing and causes a lack of depth to his latest effort.
One of Bieber’s most cohesive bodies of work was the Journals project from 2013, crafted by the single “All That Matters”. It was evident here that Beiber had not only mastered the formula of infectious pop but had the materials needed to master contemporary R&B. Glimmers of that album appear in chunks on his latest effort. Of those there is the sexy “ETA”, the longing “Take It Out on Me”, and the Kehlani-assisted “Get Me”. It is in these tracks that we see strength in some of the skillsets that swayed listeners before of his potential to crossover effectively.
Yet, unfortunately for Beiber, he will always be linked to his “Purpose” album. Every artist is typically linked to their greatest work. The expectation is that they will either learn from it and continue trends or grow from it and evolve. For Beiber, he does neither. There isn’t quite a glance at evolution into a new sound; nor is there a true continuation of the hits that made that album what it is, such as “What Do You Mean?”, “Sorry”, or “Love Yourself”. Because of this lack of progression, the album feels more like something to release than something to truly display growth in artistry.
“Changes” may be the #1 album in the country now, but the likelihood is that it won’t be remembered a year from now from casual music listeners. This doesn’t mean that his career is over. It just means for him to reach the heights he formerly did, he will have to seek true changes.