Review: Justin Bieber, ‘Changes’

The Canadian pop superstar has lost his hit-making touch on his 50-minute vanil-&B comeback.

From the age of 14, Justin Bieber dominated pop music. Usher’s online quests totally revolutionised artist discovery and birthed the age of YouTube musicians. As his boyish vocals disappeared we still received hits like “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?”. Though Bieber embarked on a solo hiatus soon after, popping up only now and then to bother listeners with bubblegum rap features (“I’m the One”, “No Brainer”). Now freshly-wed to Hailey Baldwin, it seems like marriage is what’s inspired his comeback.

Musically, the five-year hiatus done Bieber no service. Quite frankly, the Purpose era may just have been the peak of Bieber’s career, as Changes bores listeners with soulless, uninspired R&B pop.

Pop music has been in a strange purgatory for the past few years (ever since hip hop took over as the dominant commercial genre). It’s clear on Changes that Bieber is lost by this transition, unsure of what creative inspiration to draw from. The awkwardly buttery-smooth “Yummy” couldn’t even crack the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 despite all attempts (salute to Roddy Ricch’s “The Box”). This may just be a testament to the quality of the music and the power shift in the music industry; the public decides what is now a hit, not the factory producers.

The “Yummy” saga is a wake-up call to Bieber that nothing is guaranteed, regardless of status. That takes us to the rest of the album, which tries to mask its hit-chasing intentions by providing mellow R&B love songs devoid of hooks, engaging production,  subject matter or vocals. Songs like “Forever”, “Running Over” and “Intentions” rely on the same timid synth pattern that was left back in 2015. It is so effortlessly easy for Changes to sound generic.

It is understandable that artists cannot help but be inspired by their love life. Bieber’s marriage is the key, and perhaps sole, subject of Changes. The problem is that Bieber’s infatuation doesn’t translate in the songwriting. Nothing interesting is described, explained or stated (“Shoutout to your mum and dad for making you,” he says on “Intentions”). He needs her, he cannot live without her, oh, and she’s ‘got that yummy’. The lack of romantic substance couldn’t be any less.

Bieber struggles vocally as well. No noteworthy performances are present on Changes, and at times it’s surprising to believe he is a professional artist (“All Around Me”). It’s another contributing factor to the album’s vanilla template alongside the bland production and uninspired songwriting.

Changes is an awfully forgettable pop record that fails at delivering the simplest elements of pop effectively. Every song sinks in its stale sound, unavailable to be saved by even a guest appearance from the mainstream’s most devoted labourers. Pop music is dying, and Justin Bieber’s Changes is the latest corpse.

Rating: 1 / 10

Best tracks: N/A