Who knew that Justin Bieber is such a romantic? The singer released his new album Changes on Valentine’s Day and it is basically 17 tracks about the love of his life – Hailey Baldwin. This was not a deeply kept secret either, as he clearly stated so in his new documentary series ‘Seasons’. The last we’ve heard of him musically was back in 2015 with Purpose, but it almost feels like he’s never left. Constantly found in the news, Bieber has been pretty candid with his struggles ever since canceling the world tour back in 2017. As he gets back to action, the Canadian singer inches even closer to solidifying himself as the chill R&B sound of pop culture.
Changes does not actually change a great deal in terms of the lyrical depth and sound. Opening with a mellow and somewhat tropical feel, the songs have a standard construction where the tone is built around a simple beat. Flat at times, it is not the type of music played with intention, rather in the background. And yet, not a single track is long enough for it to become too much.
The 5th studio album finds Bieber working with a number of A-list musicians, which is probably the biggest source of auditory distinction. Quavo tags along during ‘Intentions’, a track with somewhat peculiar lyrics like ‘heart full of equity, you’re an asset’. Meanwhile, Bieber – the almighty God of Poetry, flourishes during ‘Yummy’ as he hitting our hearts with ‘you got that yummy, yum, that yummy, yum, that yummy, yum’. Seems like someone has been dining at Michelin Star restaurants. There is no denying that it is a fun song to sing along to, with a bubblegum-like feel it leaves an appetizing impression. Funnily enough, this is probably the most developed sound we’ve heard from the singer so far, as the acoustics he emits are consistent and somewhat effortless at times. Still, even with artists like Travis Scott and Post Malone, you won’t really find a party anthem on there. The inspiration behind the release was known way in advance, but the stability of the beats through the first half of Changes is somewhat unexpected. ‘Forever’ with Post Malone is potentially the most diverse rhythm on the album and it still sounds incredibly chill. Maybe Bieber just wasn’t aiming for any radio hits this time around.
What is interesting with Changes is the strict division of sounds: one part R&B smoothness to one part acoustic ballads of romance. Up until ‘E.T.A’ the songs use percussions for grounding, but Bieber did surprise us with a touch of nice string. This particular one sounds refreshingly acoustic, but at the same time lacks in the contextual feel. With rather nascent lyrics, the two components of the song seem unable to work together. ‘Changes’ is another acoustic wonder, expect one with a more refined sound. Lyrically this track feels to be personal to Bieber himself, rather than his wife. This far into the album, a song not based around Hailey Baldwin stands out like a sore thumb, even with somewhat cryptic lyrics.
As the album draws to a close, we are back to the sound of percussions, but now the tone is more natural sounding to the ear. Just like the rest of the album, ‘At Least For Now’ doesn’t have a single complex sound or concept to it. It is a logical ending to the album, kind of like the song you hear during credits at the end of a movie.
The thing is, this release has an intimate ambiance around it, and yet it feels more driven by the hype around Justin Bieber, rather than the actual sound of the music. Changes is basically a more grown-up version of ‘Baby’, expect half of the population can still sing at least half of the latter and it was released 11 years ago.
This new 2020 sound is hard to describe. You don’t hate it, you don’t love, it’s just enough for the listener not to skip. At the same time, this is also the most privy release he’s made to date, something true Beliebers might (and will probably will) disagree with. The musician seems to have found his voice and it’s a chill one. At the end of the day kudos to Bieber to figuring things out, especially when he was under the microscope for the majority of the time.