Justin Bieber has been famous for as long as I can remember. Bieber’s stardom, especially at its peak, ensured that people sometimes heard his songs without necessarily wanting to. I can confidently say that I was one of those people. I never actively sought out his music, but even I could still name some Bieber classics: “Baby,” “Despacito”, even “Never Say Never” with Jaden Smith. See?
Bieber’s unbelievable popularity also ensured that his personal life was covered by every gossip news site on the internet. Against my will, I grew vaguely aware that he had gone through rough patches in the past. But that was it—literally all I knew about the guy.
However, that all changed when I recently stumbled upon his new album Justice (2021). One of the tracks, “Peaches,” features rising stars Daniel Caesar and Giveon, two artists I’ve kept up with since their respective debuts and who I believe to be shaping the future of R&B. I had no choice but to listen to the song, and surprisingly, I loved it! The song has a catchy hook, and Giveon’s deep and rich baritone voice on the second verse delightfully contrasted the higher and shinier voices of Caesar and Bieber. Giveon and Caesar came through with great lyrics on their verses showcasing their talents on the newest album of arguably one of the greatest pop stars of all time.
My Spotify must have been on autoplay, because that fateful Tuesday afternoon, I found myself listening to Bieber’s entire album while studying for a midterm. Well aware that I could have taken it off at any time, I didn’t. Honestly, I genuinely enjoyed it. Not only did it contain “Peaches,” but “Hold On” and the Burna Boy feature, “Love You Different,” really stood out as solid pop songs perfect for the upcoming warmer weather. Even the ballads “Lonely” with Benny Blanco and “Off My Face” held up as slower, impressively-written vocal-heavy tracks, and I feel like I left this album having learned a lot more about Bieber as a person.
Justice was intended as not just an album but a concept album, which puts more pressure on the order and flow of the tracks. In this area, Justice falls short. No cohesive arrangement ties all songs back to these values of truth and justice that Bieber tries to preach. I find little importance in the inclusion of an interlude if what comes after it doesn’t build on the bigger picture that what came before it instituted.
Despite my enjoyment of most of Justice, I found it odd that Justin Bieber chose to sample some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most powerful speeches throughout the album, especially where it made no sense to include them. For example, in “2 Much,” Bieber samples Dr. King saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” for a song completely unrelated to the concept of justice, but instead a simple love song about his wife. Because it was the opening song, I couldn’t help but feel like it started the album off on the wrong foot conceptually. I might have appreciated additions like “MLK Interlude”—the intermission added in the middle of the album that includes words from a rare Dr. King sermon—if these ideas of justice and righteousness were more genuine in their delivery earlier in the tracklisting.
As a concept album, Justice might have failed—but that’s alright! In this new album, Justin Bieber delivered some solid pop songs that people will be listening to whether they like it or not, with 13 songs already making it into the Billboard Hot 100 this past week and “Peaches” rising to #1. What can I say? I liked this album, and at the very least, it helped me ace a midterm.