Justin Bieber released a love album on Valentine’s Day. There is, quite possibly, no better way to fall out of love with your significant other than listening to Changes.
It feels like a lifetime ago since The Biebs’s last album. The singles off of Purpose and their massive commercial success indicated that perhaps JB had more longevity than his boyish origins suggested. The smart thing to do — release something while the sea of relevance was still at high tide. Instead, he decided to come out with Changes five years later, to the interest of no one.
Supposedly, this album details the love story that led to Bieber’s recent marriage to Hailey Baldwin. Considering the last big release to address marriage (here’s to you Chance), it isn’t surprising that Changes at its best is uninspiring and at its worst makes a swift bid for the worst album of 2020.
To start with, there is a serious question to be asked about how Justin views love. This album depicts it as robotic. It feels like an unending string of procedurally generated platitudes that lack any personality or insight into their actual relationship. Then there’s Justin’s idea of “spicing things up,” which is just Bieber adding in lyricisms along the lines of “Struck a match, you got me litty,” a line he thought was so clever he decided to use it again in another song (verbatim). Justin often reuses lines or ideas on Changes. How else does one reach their goal of 17 songs and nearly an hour of material?
The worst part: The most memorable lines on the album are the most problematic. Typically these lines fall into two categories: uncomfortable information about his sex life and hopefully unintentional misogyny. Examples of the former can be found in lyrics like, “Fully committed, you’re here for the stay down / Look in the mirror, you’re right for the take down.” Literally within the first six lines of the album, we already have Justin looking like a predator. This type of highly questionable insinuation finds itself on nearly every song in some form or fashion. The latter category can be boiled down to one line: “Stay in the kitchen cookin’ up, got your own bread.” If it was just a blanket sexist statement then that’s one thing, but the fact that he was trying to use the line as an empowering symbol for his woman shows an almost unparalleled level of tone-deafness. Seriously, how many people have heard this line before the album was dropped? 100? 150? That means there exists at least that many people with the same amount of ignorance.
Musically, things aren’t much better. Sure, the production is overall inoffensive, but that just makes things boring. There are a few songs like “Habitual” and “Available” that have something slightly interesting going on underneath, but then are sullied by bland trap beats. There are trap beats on nearly every song of the album, making everything sound similar; the beats are used as a crutch for bad songwriting. The vapidness of this album cannot be overstated. It got to a point where a Lil Dicky feature actually seemed enticing if only to appreciate the trainwreck.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Changes is that it doesn’t even play the role of an awful album well. At least with Corey Feldman or Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven it feels like an event when you decide to listen to them. Speedin’ Bullet also saw Kid Cudi experimenting with his sound. It didn’t pay off at all, but at least it showed some type of artistic earnesty. Changes has none of this. It is as basic as basic can be and feels less like art and more like advertisement. That’s basically what this album is, an ad for other artists to see he’s available for collaborations. In fact, collaborations were the only thing keeping him relevant in that five-year span of time. Perhaps he should stick to what he’s best at: flaunting his ass as a cartoon baboon for a Lil Dicky song.