It goes cruelly unacknowledged to this day that Justin Bieber is responsible for one of the best pop records of the 2010s. His third album Believe merged dubstep, EDM, country and R&B together in an irresistible melting pot of great hooks and boyish charm. His attempts to mature since then have been fraught, 2013’s Journals a gooey mess and 2015’s Purpose frustratingly inconsistent.
Which brings us to 2020 and his new album. Changes is mostly characterised by synthy trap-style tunes and gentler guitar-led ditties, which isn’t a problem since his writer/producer Poo Bear is pretty good at both, and appropriately for a Valentine’s Day release it’s basically all love songs. Intentions is a surefire hit with its plucky timbres and Quavo feature, even if some of the lyrics are a little odd (“heart full of equity, you’re an asset”), while That’s What Love Is features a deliciously ornate guitar figure and songwriting sweet enough to melt the coldest heart.
Guests generally support the record’s tone and help songs get from hook to hook, an exception being Clever’s obnoxiously weak voice on Forever, and Kehlani shines particularly brightly on the nocturnal moombahton beats of Get Me. The most obvious criticism of the record is that it’s too single-minded, repetitive in its focus on how great Hailey Bieber is. It’s true that most of the record certainly does stick to a formula, but it’s one that produces silky smooth melody lines and lush production throughout the album.
Those that have heard lead single Yummy will essentially be able to form their view on Changes without listening to it: if they find it icky and monotonous then that will be how they perceive the whole album, whereas those that think it’s catchy and well-produced are well and truly in luck.