After listening to clips of all of Justin Bieber’s music on his new album, Purpose, I thought, “Justin Bieber’s all grown up.” That and “I’m so old.”
I remember hearing his first single, One Time, way back when and wondering who sang it. Until now, his performance of that song on The Ellen Show sticks out as a cute moment in his career. Mid-song, he grooves toward Ellen, who’s watching in the audience, and points to her as his girl. Too cute, right?
But back to Purpose — this album is still composed of pop songs, but more heavily on the dance side (which is similar to what Britney Spears did for her career with her In the Zone album).
The songs have a more mature tone; they’re obviously well-produced and lyrically, they’re slightly better. There are still simply worded lyrics, but they carry more pain and emotion.
I do like one of the first-released singles, What Do U Mean. It’s already telling of the dance tune that most, if not all, the songs have. Other standouts, for me, are The Feeling and Love Yourself.
In The Feeling, he goes, “Am I in love with you? / Or am I in love with the feeling?”
In Love Yourself, he sings, “‘Cause if you like the way you look that much / Oh baby you should go and love yourself.”
With lyrics like that, I thought he’d grown. And even though I’m not a Belieber, due to the omnipresence of gossip on his relationships, I also wondered who the songs were about.
They seemed very negative about an ex-girlfriend, who I can only assume is Selena Gomez, but it was also a bit intriguing for a while there since Selena’s songs post-break-up were also sad, but you could feel the love there. With the aforementioned songs, you feel the love lost.
The “mystery” was solved when I looked up the producers and writers of the songs on his album. While Bieber has writing credits, Ed Sheeran is also listed as a co-writer on Love Yourself.
So that song is more likely based on Sheeran’s life experience rather than Bieber’s, which is probably the case with Bieber’s other songs on Purpose.
TRIVIA: Purpose was initially banned in various Middle Eastern countries and Indonesia due to the cover art’s heavy Christian references, most prominently Bieber’s cross tattoo and his praying stance, which were deemed “too provocative”. An alternate cover was issued for these countries, depicting Bieber atop a cliff, looking out over a shore.
To be fair, 1) Bieber could very well have written those specific lines, 2) perhaps he experienced those types of relationships too and 3) artists certainly pick songs by other writers to put on their albums all the time, but learning that fact pulled me out of the edge of Belieber-dom.
By the very nature of his celebrity status, it may be unfair to expect his songs to be directly rooted in his experiences, but that would make him and his music more raw, more relatable. And hey, look what it’s done for Taylor Swift and her career.
I still like those songs; I’m currently listening — and watching (the videos have amazing contemporary dancing) — them on repeat as I write this post, but Bieber isn’t all grown up just yet. He’s still growing up.
Bonus: Do yourself a favor and watch Part 1 and Part 2 of Bieber’s carpool karaoke with James Corden. They’re hilarious. In fact, when Part 1 came out, it made him more likable after the continuous bad press he had at the time.