Justin Bieber broke his five-year hiatus with his new album released on Valentine’s Day, an appropriate drop date considering “Changes” focuses on love. Much has changed for the newly married former teenage heartthrob, made apparent by the title and content of his latest work. Sixteen songs and a remix play off each other to create a cohesive, well-paced album, and though his lyrics lack any emotional depth, “Changes” demonstrates the singer’s newfound maturity in his journey as an artist.
Bieber rose to fame at 13 after his YouTube covers were discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun, and he was promptly signed to RBMG Records, co-founded by R&B singer Usher. Since then, Bieber has had a turbulent career, as can be expected for anyone who rose to fame at such a young age. He seemed to have found a more mature sound when his album “Purpose” was released in 2015, but his growth was overshadowed by his dropping out mid-tour and largely disappearing from the public eye.
With his latest album, both his personal and professional life seem to be back on track. “Changes” centers around Bieber’s wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber. Bieber cites her as his inspiration for the album and for his return to music. His adoration for Baldwin permeates each song of the album, though his romantic lyrics remain somewhat subdued.
The first three songs of the album, “All Around Me,” “Habitual” and “Come Around Me,” are sweet love songs to his wife that set the tone for a saccharine but emotionally void album. In “All Around Me,” Bieber sings, “Our love’s unconditional / I need you all around me.” The sentiment is appealing but doesn’t really say anything substantial about being in love. Though the song is undoubtedly catchy, its lyrics lack the nuance necessary to make it stand out from millions of other love songs.
The fourth song on the album, “Intentions,” brings a welcome change of pace with its more upbeat rhythm and with Atlanta-based rapper Quavo’s feature. This track deserves its praise, as the song showcases Bieber’s musical evolution and his vocals especially well.
Next comes “Yummy,” another potentially catchy song with little emotional meaning. The chorus, “Yeah, you got that yummy-yum / that yummy-yum, that yummy-yummy,” leaves much to be desired. It’s a practically meaningless pop song with a beat that, while fun to listen to at first, hardly contributes anything to his album.
The next few songs offer more of the same — they’re not particularly memorable but are fun and well executed. Bieber’s collaborations with Post Malone, Clever, Lil Dicky, Travis Scott and Kehlani add much-needed variety to the album and engage fans that wouldn’t otherwise listen to his music.
With the title track, Bieber finally offers some of the emotional vulnerability that is lacking throughout the preceding songs. He sings, “I just wanna be the best of me / even though sometimes I forget to breathe / so that I can be the best for you / That’s all I wanna do.”
The vulnerable side of Bieber who struggled with his mental health throughout the past several years is seen in “Changes,” making the song stand out as the most memorable of the album. His more sensitive, mature content is all the more valuable to his fans, especially since so many of his fans grew up with him and matured with him.
This vulnerability just barely shows itself in the last few songs of the album, “Confirmation,” “That’s What Love Is” and “At Least For Now.” In “That’s What Love Is,” he sings, “It’s a blessing that you’re in my life / make me look even better / When we shine, we shine together / Yeah that’s what love is.” The wisdom in these lyrics is a far cry from that of his “baby, baby, baby, oh” days that launched his stardom over a decade ago.
Though the lyrics feel superficial through most of the album, Bieber’s “Changes” is well paced, making it pleasant for an occasional listen. This musical maturity shows his continued progress from a one-dimensional singer more famous for his haircut than his musical talent to a serious musician. Bieber’s professional life is moving in a positive and meaningful direction, though his superficial lyrics prevent him from creating new, personal connections with his fans.