Justin Bieber Proves His Growth on ‘Purpose’: Album Review

14 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Diane Keaton Has Epic Fangirl Moment Meeting Justin Bieber: ‘Let’s Get Real … Think He’ll Ask Me Out Later?’.

Biebs fan Ellen Entel says she wants to give the 21-year-old Stratford, Ont., singer “one last chance,” after the pop star’s legal troubles and questionable behaviour overtook his music career in the past few years. There’s a battle raging on the internet today, one that might’ve slipped under your nose entirely if your interest in pop music is minimal at best.

While stopping by The Ellen Show on Friday, Diane Keaton discussed the inspiration behind her wine line The Keaton, her upcoming film Love the Coopers as well as her slight crush on the 21-year-old singer, whose album Purpose is in stores today. “That is not possible – I have not seen that.”Purpose,” Bieber’s first album since 2013’s R&B-influenced “Journals,” finds the 21-year-old edging out his own zone in the current pop music landscape. The 21-year-old Canadian pop star spent the last couple years running amok from Munich (where his pet monkey was confiscated in 2013) to Miami Beach (scene of a 2014 DUI arrest) to Rio de Janeiro (that notorious brothel visit). Say it with me: “I like Justin Bieber’s music.” Purpose, the crooning Canadian menace’s most recent album, doesn’t just grant you permission to respect the public tyrant’s music.

Reformed shithead Justin Bieber is capping off an apologetic year-long comeback parade with a new album bearing three top 10 singles, Purpose; the tousled imps of One Direction are releasing their first album without Zayn Malik and last before an indefinite hiatus, Made in the A.M. W. in honour of Bieber’s latest album, Purpose, which came out the same day. “I’ve been a fan since he first started out when he was young and he’s got lots of drama going with his life, which is getting kind of tiring at some point, but his music is always good,” Entel said. “I’m trying to give him a chance because he’s slowed down and I like his new songs that are on the radio. … The chicken-egg question of aesthetics and commercialism — what came first, the sound or the sale? — looms over almost every major pop record, but it’s especially important here.

And since Ellen DeGeneres is all about making dreams come true, the TV host not only gifted Keaton with turtlenecks bearing the performer’s face (a fitting present for the turtleneck aficionado), but also surprised the actress the opportunity to finally meet the heartthrob. “Oh my God! Maybe his maturity is just kicking in (starts laughing), puberty hit him late?” Bieber has been on an image and music overhaul of late despite some promotional bumps in the road in Europe last month where he walked out of a concert in Norway and an interview in Spain. He’s promised to be more responsible in his personal life while working with such EDM stars and producers like Skrillex and Diplo on the more grown up sounding Purpose. All of which he does — sometimes too well. “Don’t forget that I’m human,” Bieber begs on the chilled-out EDM ballad “I’ll Show You,” one of several tunes co-produced by Skrillex. (See also: the redemptive emo-dancehall jam “Sorry” and “Where Are U Now,” the smash Jack Ü collabo that jumpstarted this comeback.) “I’ve made a few mistakes,” Bieber reiterates on the po-faced R&B tune “No Pressure,” featuring Big Sean. “I’m the only one to blame.” On this mission to make amends, Bieber leaves nothing to chance. But whether he’s mourning the pitfalls of being super-famous, begging the world to think about the children (?) while raving at the club (??), or alternately seducing his next hookup while flippantly telling his ex-lovers to bug off, Purpose represents an evolution in the musical idea of what it means to be Justin Bieber.

His “don’t-count-me-out” attitude also shines on the simple piano tune, “Life Is Worth Living,” where he proclaims, “I’m working on a better me.” Drawing from his real-life experiences is what makes Bieber’s album notable, along with his falsetto, which he has close to mastered over the last few years. Besides the deluxe version of the actual CD ($16.00), the Purpose Pop Up store (open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. until Sunday) has exclusive merchandise ranging from bracelets ($3.00) to varsity jackets ($95.00). One of these albums looks into the future, and the other looks into the past; the direction of their gazes is governed by the market pressures being levied on them both. While the meeting was brief, the singer left quite the impression on Keaton: “Okay let’s get real … think he’ll ask me out?” she adorably asked DeGeneres. It features the 21-year-old Stratford-raised pop star on one side, wearing a flannel shirt and torn jeans and kneeling while looking pensively into the distance.

Universal Music Canada marketing manager (and Bieber’s project manager in Canada) Karolina Charczuk wasn’t concerned about the small lineup before the store opened and said it’s all about creating buzz and the exclusivity of the products available. “As far as we’re concerned, so far we’re pretty good,” Charczuk said. “We actually prefer (17 people in line) to having a huge lineup of people and then having that drop off precipitously for the entire weekend.” On release day, Bieber — who just announced a world tour including May 18-19 dates at the Air Canada Centre — was in Los Angeles where he was scheduled to play the first of three shows, dubbed “An evening with Justin Bieber,” at the Staples Centre. “He is quite busy, but that’s not to say he won’t see all the amazing photos and all the fan interaction and maybe decide to pop by. But while Purpose is a mature, immediate sound, the kind of music adults make and—more importantly—listen to, it’s not entirely accurate to herald it as Bieber’s arrival as a grownup, as a man.

And the hits “Where Are U Now” and “What Do You Mean” follow suit. “No Sense” has a trap sound that is a highlight; the layered and experimental “The Feeling,” featuring rising newcomer Halsey, has a winning hook; and Bieber is cool and calm on the stripped-down “Love Yourself.” In fact, Purpose’s greatest asset is its unabashed owning of Bieber’s lingering petulance and immaturity, defined by the arrogance that comes along with being the most talked about and love-hated celebrity in the world—and the middle finger he throws to those who tell him not to be that way. It’s one of the most focused, relentless displays of penitence in recent memory, the cherry on top of a cake made with Ellen appearances, fawning profiles, and MTV tears. Apart from a few fathers waiting to buy merch for their daughters, Legaspi, Holder and co. were among the only males in line — and they were at the very front.

Despite its countless co-writers and producers, chief among them Bieber’s bestie Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, the album boasts a consistent palette of lush, low-key electro-dance sounds: sun-warped synths, chipmunk accent vocals, rattling trap hi-hats, and loads of bass. The album begins with a mea culpa that doubles as a manifesto. “Mark my words / That’s all I have,” he sings on the opening track, fittingly titled “Mark My Words”—a not-so-thinly veiled reference to the Child Star Gone Wild antics he’s spent the better part of a year on a publicity tour atoning for but never truly, genuinely absolved himself of. Legaspi says he enjoys Bieber’s new tunes more than any of his previous albums. “It’s much better,” he said. “He got out of that teen pop sound.

Melt in Bieber’s downy, still-boyish vocals, and you get the beachy bumper “What Do You Mean?” (his first-ever No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100) or the searching, spacious “The Feelings,” featuring alt-pop riser Halsey. It’s more mature.” Behind them, a small crowd of Bieber fans waited patiently for their turn to enter the temporary Bieber kingdom, where they could get their hands on Justin scarves and sweatshirts, varsity jackets and T-shirts. Emily Hetz, 19, rushed to finish her anatomy midterm in order to get in line before 9 a.m. “I, like, scribbled in that Scantron (test) and got the hell out of there,” she says. “It was worth it.” Hetz had once seen her idol in the flesh at a meet-and-greet at Vaughn Mills. “I got his gum,” she said, excitedly. “He put it on his card and gave it to me.” When other love-struck fans tried to snatch it away from her, she stuck it in her mouth, she said. “I chewed it because everybody attacked me for it … What would you do?” And though he sounds fantastic on all of these songs — he’s realized his potential as a vocalist, balancing a breathy, gentle deftness with real power — they begin to feel oppressive. This is the rare big-tent pop album that’s explicitly Christian; it never takes its eye off repentance, and the love songs are devoted to God, not Selena Gomez.

Bieber’s never been truly radioactive from a commercial perspective, not even at his nadir in terms of public opinion, but this is his first official studio album in three years. It’s clear from the get-go that Bieber’s aspirations lie in becoming the musical lovechild of The Weeknd and Drake, but after they shook things up a bit by having Ed Sheeran stop by for a night of kinky pleasure. There’s a Bieber album on the horizon that’s less workshopped and operating under fewer constraints, and it’ll be the one where he starts to realize this newly ambitious vision. On the other side of the pond, One Direction aren’t trying to plan for 2020 or restore themselves to respectability — they’re just trying to get this thing over the finish line.

This sounds depressing, but in actuality it gives the band a surprising amount of artistic liberty, freedom they’ve used to become the world’s most popular classic rock band. It’s very sleek and very sexy, but also very moody, like it should soundtrack a scene in a movie where the star is driving down a dark road to break up with his lover, staring out the window introspectively. Bieber’s tiny-violin lamentations on the burden of being Justin Bieber kicks into high gear here, too. “My life is a movie and everyone’s watching,” he sings. “It’s not easy.” And then, later: “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lighting.” It’s actually an interesting twist on what’s popular today.

Ask these boys about the canon and they’ll tell you music started making sense somewhere around Revolver and tailed off shortly after (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Jagger acolyte Harry Styles tips his hat toward ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift with “Perfect,” ripping off a hit (“Style”) she wrote about their relationship for his own pithy kiss-off, and it’s so brazen it works. Country music creeps into the formula on the dusky, melodramatic “Long Way Down”; fantastic bonus track “Wolves” cribs its bounce from Motown and its stomp from glam; “Love You Goodbye” is a hair-metal ballad about the agony and ecstasy of transcendent breakup sex. Malik’s departure has forced everyone to carry a little more vocal weight: they’ve never sung more harmony, and Styles and Liam Payne sound more mature, powerful, and distinct than ever. The tick-tock of the metronome that keeps time in the song’s driving beat is a clever conceit, echoing the song’s frustration: Guys just want girls to give it to them straight.

The song is actually an exercise in indignance and ego-stroking masquerading as an apology track. “Is it too late to say sorry now?” Bieber asks, while dancing away. That’s why I can see myself returning to the latter much more often, despite its resolute unfashionableness: the pressure’s high, but it sounds weightless. Translation: “Because, basically, I don’t give a shit.” There’s similar cheekiness on “Love Yourself,” a song that at first blush resembles Bieber’s best attempt at an earnest Ed Sheeran/John Mayer-esque breakup ballad.

That impressive ambition graduates songs like the R&B-tinged “Company,” the retro-pop “Been You,” and the interchangeable “Get Used To It” and “Trust” from filler status to solid B-tracks. Leaked nude photos garner sympathy for a celebrity whose privacy has been invaded and perverted, with the public raising an eyebrow over that surprisingly big penis. The song that gives the album its title is sweet and more classically Bieber-esque than maybe any of the other tracks on the album. “You’ve blessed me with the best gift I’ve ever known,” he sings. “You give me purpose.” It’s a rare moment of earnestness. You can envision putting on your state school hoodie, picking up your guitar, and crooning it on the quad sophomore year while Karen and Megan sway and swoon. With the exception of “No Sense,” which is a sex song—like a sex song—in the Beyoncé on Beyoncé vein, platitudes reign on the latter half of Purpose.

But the lyrics—oh dear lord, these lyrics—are full-blown Michael Jackson “Heal the World” schmaltz. “Look at the children we can change,” he sings. “What about the vision? / Be a visionary for a change.” Woof. So I just get my recognition from Him and give Him recognition.” While listening may not be the religious experience Bieber himself seems to have by the end, it does represent a transformation of pop music’s biggest supervillain into a respectable pop artist.

Purpose manages to be self-serious without being totally insufferable, using reflective lyrics and some sonic introspection to make some intimate points about celebrity.

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