Story by Nick Erickson, Contributing writer
As people age, they change, and Justin Bieber is no exception. The 21-year-old Canadian pop star has had a rough time in the spotlight in the past few years, with his DUI arrest among other issues. Nevertheless, with his newest album, “Purpose,” Bieber strives to repent and redeem his image. He does so successfully. He achieved the most mature and well-executed sound of his career by putting emotion into the album yet keeping it worthy of playing at a dance-party.
Right from the opening track, “Mark My Words,” Bieber gives us a taste of progression in what direction his music has headed with “Purpose.” This track clocks in at just a little over two minutes, and it really exhibits how much Bieber has grown and matured through its simple structure. A catchy, vocal melody by Bieber is looped in the background behind some somber piano chords. Bieber sings about his past relationship with actress and singer Selena Gomez, and how he will try to rekindle the spark between the two of them. A short, heartfelt way to start off the album works to its advantage.
On the chilled-out ballad, “I’ll Show You,” co-producer Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex, backs up Bieber with a dark EDM melody and a slow, catchy drumbeat. The layers of synth fit well behind Bieber’s low vocals on this track as he sings of pressures he faces and how he’s human and makes mistakes, despite what the public believes.
“Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing, when the pressure is coming down like lightning. It’s like they want me to be perfect when they don’t even know I’m hurting.
‘Cause life’s not easy. I’m not made out of steel. Don’t forget that I’m human. Don’t forget that I’m real.”
“Where Are U Now” is another track produced by Skrillex, also featuring EDM artist Diplo. This track has made radio play since it was released as a single in April, and it is arguably one of the strongest tracks on “Purpose.” Bieber’s crisp singing is placed over a looped dance beat in the choruses, which stands apart from the mellow ambiance of the verses. This bit of contrast works well.
The final and title track, “Purpose,” is one unlike almost anything Bieber has done before. There are no “gimmicks,” no sugar-coated, computerized instrumentation or over-produced vocals. This stripped-down track includes only a raw, emotional vocal performance by Bieber over a solo, acoustic piano. Bieber sings of the one who gives him strength to keep living life and pushing forward. “You give me purpose every day.”
Bieber has come a long way since his days as a YouTuber in 2008. He has grown not only as a musician and lyricist, but also as a person. “Purpose” is a testament to this.
No longer focusing on selling his music solely to a tween-fanbase and avoiding further negative publicity, Bieber’s career has been born again as an emotional mix of R&B and EDM influences.
Bieber, once hard to stomach by many, has shown that “Purpose” can find a place in just about anyone’s heart, or their playlist.