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Justin Bieber – Purpose album review

The troubled popstar delivers a credible and exciting new album.

Justin Bieber
Credit: Virgin EMI

Popstar Justin Bieber has hit the headlines more for his bad behaviour than his music in recent years. Aside from 2013 compilation release Journals, Bieber hasn’t actually released an album since 2012’s Believe. Despite his absence from the world of music, he’s never been out of the news thanks to his on/off relationship with Selena Gomez, his controversial remarks, his arrests and his general poor behaviour towards his fans. Now Bieber is trying to turn the attention back to his music in the midst of a bid to rehabilitate his image with the release of fourth album Purpose.

The early signs are looking good for Bieber as his last three singles – Where Are U Now with Jack U, What Do You Mean? and Sorry have all proven to be big hits for the popstar. Current single Sorry could be interpreted as an apology not only to a lover he’s let down but also his fans for the way he’s behaved over the last few years. It may only be a surface deep apology but it seems to be doing the trick as the song has peaked at number 2 in the UK and the US. Previous single What Do You Mean? repositioned Bieber as a credible pop artist and scored him one of his biggest hits to date landing at number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

Purpose opens with the tone-setting Mark My Words where Bieber promises to be better and do better by a lover that has lost trust in him. It’s easy to read between the lines here and infer that Bieber is promising to do better in general and stop veering off his path towards popstar greatness. The general theme for Purpose is Bieber taking an inward look at his life and antics offering an unusually honest appraisal. The steady R&B beats of I’ll Show You finds Bieber reminding fans that he’s only human and suggesting that dealing with fame hasn’t been an easy ride.

One of the best songs on the album is the stripped-back Love Yourself. It’s a deceptively feisty lyric with Bieber kicking a former girlfriend to the curb but musically it’s one of the most mature songs we’ve heard from the singer. Another highlight is the electro-rhythms of Children where Bieber seems to acknowledge his potential to do good thanks to his undeniable influence over a generation. It’s pretty inspiring stuff and surprisingly forward-thinking for the star.

Elsewhere on the album title track Purpose is an exploration of Bieber’s beliefs as he admits ‘sometimes I’m weak and I’m gonna do it, and it’s like I’m not giving myself grace’. The dancefloor feel of Get Used To It offers a lighter moment in a surprisingly weighty album, Nas features on the hip-hop influenced We Are, and piano ballad Life is Worth Living feels like a mission statement rather than a throwaway pop track.

Purpose proves that away from the immature behaviour and bravado, Bieber is actually a really great popstar when he bothers to concentrate on his music. We’d much prefer to read about the star’s musical achievements than his personal downfalls so we’re crossing our fingers that Purpose is a turning point for him. Either way Bieber’s rise to fame is a cautionary tale about the dangers of fame at an early age but we’re hopeful he’ll continue to rebuild his image than follow the path of the Lindsay Lohan’s of the world.

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