It’s been five years since Justin Bieber absolutely took over the world with ‘Sorry’. A dance banger for the history books, it was an instant hit that, with the help of our very own Parris Goebel, became inescapable in 2015 and has continued to fill dance floors ever since. The song and its accompanying album saw Bieber rise from troublesome teen to the new king of the pop. Where would he go from here and and how would he top a hit like that? Turns out, by not even trying. Bieb’s new album avoids comparison to that hit by having a completely different goals. Changes isn’t stacked with the type of dance-able tracks you might expect. Lead single Yummy is about as uptempo as this thing gets. Instead this set of beachy, dreamy songs seem designed for long, lazy afternoons in the sun. It’s the perfect album for drinking a gin on a poolside lounger.
The first thing that’s immediately clear: Biebs is very happily married. Opening duo All Around Me and Habitual sets the scene with a lush, warm, electronic sound that very much gives a vibe that Justin and Hailey have spent a lot of lazy Sundays in bed staring into each other’s eyes. With lyrics like “our feelings, they go deep, deeper than the touching, deeper than the ocean” – it’s pretty clear the dude is in love and these songs have been created from the ground up to express that feeling sonically. And they’ve done a good job – listen to these first few on your best headphones, these are impeccably put together songs, and there’s an almost ASMR like quality to the sprinkling of different sounds. I’m no scientist, but your ears will be happy.
He definitely cares less about what people think now, hence the moustache, and the album feels like a step away from being a ‘singles’ artist. He’s making music for himself, and these songs explore some less traditional structures, with more sprawling melodies allowing him to fully flex his voice – which is an impressive instrument. He did, after all, find fame because of that voice, it made him stand-out in a sea of Youtube covers, and now it’s come out from the covers of EDM. On Available, one of the stand-out tracks, he glides into a dreamy falsetto during the joyful and infectious chorus – it’s ear candy.
Despite being called Changes don’t go into this album expecting too many gear shifts. The Changes Biebs is referring to seem more like what’s happened in between albums rather than during the experience of this one. For better or for worse all of these tracks do feel like slices of the same cake – but don’t worry, it’s not a cake you’ll get sick of quick. The unified vision is especially clear in the way all of the guests come to the party. Kehlani, Post Malone & Clever all add to the loved-up vibe, and the Quavo feature on the immediately catchy Intentions suggests he too is ready for married life: “You the best thing and I don’t need a witness, I’ma find me a ring and pray it’s perfect fitted”. Even Lil Dicky blends into the sweetness, but still squeezes in a laugh worthy line, relatable live about scrolling too far back on a lovers’ Instagram.
Changes is a huge step forward from a maturing artist, that leaves you wondering what might be next. Like Rihanna’s Anti or the ground-breaking Beyoncé this album represents a departure from relentless hit-making to instead focus on create an album with a strong sonic and thematic through-line. It may not be an instant classic like they were, but its a lovely, luscious album perfect to chill out with in these last weeks of summer.