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Justin Bieber - Purpose (Review)

Justin Bieber, Purpose

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

IT’S fair to say that Justin Bieber has had something of a torrid time in recent years since achieving a level of global success comparable to the likes of One Direction or even The Beatles. By his own admission, achieving that fame [and accompanying scrutiny] at such a young age almost destroyed him.

It should come as little surprise, therefore, that Bieber’s comeback with Purpose often sounds like a confessional… a public apology for some of the bad behaviour that accompanied such a tumultuous time in his life, as well as some insight into what actually happened. It’s also a look to the future, or rather the turning over of a new chapter.

The result is a mixed bag… sometimes good and downright catchy; at other times, lengthy, self-indulgent and more than a little repetitive, especially at 18 tracks.

Co-produced by Skrillex, the album places a heavy emphasis on electronic melodies that drift between upbeat and melancholy, while playing to the perceived strengths of Bieber’s breathy vocals. But it works best when opting to keep things breezy, placing less of an emphasis on the sometimes heavy-handed lyrics.

Hence, on a track like Been You, in which the singer expresses more regret about a missed opportunity, the upbeat rhythms and fizzing synth arrangements work much better than on the more ponderous, piano-based title track, in which Bieber gets to offer a heartfelt lament for what’s come before while thanking a special someone for giving him purpose.

And on former single What Do You Mean? he’s further helped out by a genuinely insistent electronic hook that bounces playfully around a song that also drops a toe-tapping tick-tock kind of beat and some slick, soulful vocals that showcase a more mature sound for the singer. It’s little wonder that the song became a No.1 hit for him.

Similarly effective is the hook-laden Sorry, in which Bieber asks whether it’s too late to apologise for letting someone down over more slick beats, somewhat orgasmic female backing vocals and a late night soul-pop vibe.

Another former single, I’ll Show You, also employs a smooth groove electronic sound and accentuates Bieber’s breathy vocal style (especially early on) before dropping yet another notable electronic arrangement.

But while things get off to a strong start, the album becomes progressively more tiresome the longer it lasts, with genuine hits fewer and further between. And this is despite repeated attempts to ‘glam’ things up with some high profile duets with the likes of Nas, Travis Scott and Big Sean.

Indeed, of all the collaborations, it’s only really the Halsey featuring The Feeling that works… the haunted synth sound and mix of boy-girl vocals working really well in building up to a chorus that almost switches to euphoric.

Elsewhere, the Travis Scott featuring No Sense is over-reliant on lightweight rapping and ponderous smooth groove soul that never really works, while We Are, featuring Nas, is just plain bland.

Songs like Trust, meanwhile, open with a falsetto warbling that drain a lot of goodwill towards it [and Bieber] and sound like they’re trying far too hard. It’s a dispiriting start to a dispiriting song that is completely devoid of inspiration.

In fact, by the time you reach that 18th song, All In It, the album feels very, very stretched. The early momentum has gone and the songs revert to a more tried and tested formula that offers fewer and fewer surprises. It reaches a point where things feel too self-serious.

Hence, where Purpose started out as bright and interesting, it finishes [over an hour later] over-cooked and irritating.

Download picks: What Do You Mean?, Sorry, The Feeling, I’ll Show You

Track listing:

  1. Everything Is Easy
  2. Shipboard Cook
  3. All the Souls
  4. Dopamine
  5. Rites of Passage
  6. Back to Zero
  7. Something in You
  8. Get Me Out Of Here
  9. Blade
  10. All These Things
  11. Exiles
  12. Say It