No one wants to forget some of the more…colorful…parts of Justin Bieber’s past than Justin Bieber himself. It’s hard to believe that My World came out in November of 2009. Since his debut, Bieber has experienced the good and bad of fame. The road to Purpose, his fourth studio album, has been a rough one, and it’s hard to listen to the album without wondering how Justin’s career would have turned out if this had been his debut. It’s a sharp departure from his uber pop-friendly catchy tunes with a more dedicated and masterful Bieber trying to remind the public he’s still growing up.
Bieber comes into his element on the more laid-back tracks on Purpose, which showcase his genuinely talented and seductive vocals. Purpose is not geared toward the mainstream, and it’s probably all the better that way. The legion of Beliebers that have stuck by Justin’s side through the good and the bad are likely to enjoy the songs, but the general public as a whole aren’t going to eat up the majority of Purpose like the more radio-friendly Believe or My World.
Is that a bad thing? Not with a fanbase as rabidly devoted as Bieber’s. The real necessity to Justin’s career enjoying longevity will be his ability to retain his core fanbase, and in 2015 Twitter mentions have a chart of their own and ‘buzz’ around an artist is just as crucial as album quality (if not more so). In this sense, the quality of Purpose is irrelevant, as long as the album itself serves as a catalyst to get Bieber back into the public eye and remind the more casual fans he’s still around.
That’s not to say Purpose isn’t quality – it’s just that the quality is an afterthought. The album cover, featuring an archetypal shirtless Bieber showing off his tattoos and penchant for ostentatious jewelry is an interesting choice. It capitalizes on Justin’s sex appeal, but looking at it while listening to the album as Justin croons about love lost and pondering all of life’s questions feels a bit jarring. This cover would be perfect for a logical progression in Justin’s work, but Purpose is not full of songs like ‘Baby’, ‘Boyfriend’, or ‘Beauty and a Beat’ – and it often feels like those songs’ antitheses.
While Purpose is not completely out of left-field for dedicated Beliebers who have had unreleased songs, collaborations and acoustic albums to adjust, casual listeners of Justin’s will probably find Purpose a bit too much of a genre culture shock compared to his past work. Songs like ‘Company’ and the Halsey collab, ‘The Feeling’, are good crossovers and manage to mix the best of Justin’s new sound with twinges of his old work. Had Purpose been filled with tracks like these, it would have been a great step in a new direction.
In the end, Purpose is pretty enjoyable once you get accustomed to the fact that it’s Justin Bieber singing. He wants to be taken seriously as an artist, and Purpose accomplishes that. As desperate as the album is to sound mature and poignant, Justin’s actions still belie his message. Justin is intent on showing the world there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to him, and he’s right. The problem is there’s still some more maturing left to do. While Purpose has its moments, it finds Bieber shifting to a new sound and going through some sonic growing pains in the mean time. It will certainly satiate Belieber’s lust for new music, but in the long run, Purpose has the potential of being the start of a new sound for Bieber. What will he do when he needs redeem