Why Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ Is His Best Album Yet
It seems like every day for the past month, and possibly longer, there’s been a new headline about Justin Bieber. Or not a new headline exactly, but a new variation. I’m sure by now you know them all: he’s sorry for acting a fool, he’s cleaned up his life and found God, and that as happy as he is to be single right now, he’d totally be down to date Selena Gomez again, in the near/distant future.
Unsurprisingly, this narrative rurns through the entirety of Justin Bieber’s Purpose, an album of finely crafted, moody AF pop songs that are equally appropriate for crying in the bathroom and dancing with your friends as you all try and forget the assholes who’ve been wreaking havoc on your heart.
Much like Taylor Swift’s Red, and just about every song Robyn’s ever written, Purpose is an album about heartbreak that you can, and will dance to. Even though the emotions on Purpose are heavy, it doesn’t feel heavy to listen to (although I’ll admit that I teared up on the album’s first, and most poignant piano ballad “Life Is Worth Living”).
You already know the album’s bangers, like “Where Are U Now,” “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean”, and interestingly enough, with the exception of “Trust” and “No Sense”, the much-anticipated Travi$ Scott collaboration, the rest of the album’s tracks seem more destined for your shower than for the radio.
“I’ll Show You” is Justin Bieber’s token Drake song, tailor-made for autumn and peppered with just enough Skrillex sound effects to propel you past heavy-handed lyrics like, “life’s not easy / i’m not made of steel / don’t forget that i’m human / don’t forget that I’m real.” “Life Is Worth Living”, “Purpose” and “All In It” expertly convey the light Justin Bieber has found through his religion, without getting into the realm of preachy moralism that drives so man of us to stay clear of the G word.
However, the strongest narrative in Purpose revolves around romantic love, and what you lose when you lose it. It all begins with an out-and-out diss track wrapped in the guise of one of Justin Bieber’s sweeter tunes, “Home To Mama”. Obviously, we’re meant to assume this is a song about Selena Gomez. With lyrics like “If you like the way you look that much / you should go and love yourself / and if you think that i’m still holding onto something / you should go and love yourself,” it’s clear that when he wrote this song, Justin was in that phase of getting over your ex where you just kind of hate them.
Throughout the rest of the album, amidst the bangers, the gospels, and the misses, Justin Bieber takes us through the range of emotions familiar to everybody that’s broken up with somebody who was once their everything. “Company” is the running monologue that runs through you’re head when you’re drunk and you’re horny and you let yourself believe that the guy you’re making out with could be your salvation if you just try hard enough. “No Pressure” is those series of texts that you send to your ex where you beg them to give you another chance, while letting them know that you fully understand if they won’t.
It’s easy to make fun of Justin Bieber. I’ve done it. Here and in my daily life, between passed splifs, shared drinks and over Saturday morning coffee. Even for truest Beliebers like my roommate Dominica, Justin Bieber is an easy target. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and when he f*cks up, he f*cks up big and incredibly publicly. The biggest success of Purpose isn’t that it’s good, which it is, but that it humanizes a troubled pop star in a way his public proclamations never could.
On the album’s opening track “Mark My Words,” Justin Bieber says “I won’t let us just fade away / after all that we’ve been through / I’ma show you more than I ever could say,” and for once, he absolutely does.
All photos via Justin Bieber’s Instagram account.