Sometimes whenever you have a doubt, never go back to it with a haphazard way of thinking. When Justin Bieber released Changes last year, there were doubts that he lost the popstar touch that was beautifully effervescent throughout the album prior, Purpose. And reluctantly the music on Changes left many with doubt about his direction and frankly they were right. His newest release Justice is boring and nonsensically offensive with the way it inadvertently places Martin Luther King Jr. audio samples on two separate occasions. But it goes beyond that and the very Creed inspired album artwork. Justice is full of solid production that is otherwise wasted from misguided attempts at conveying proper popstar-like conventions and at times wrought context about faith and religion.
Justice is full of distinct production that hits many nails on a coffin; however when the piano becomes part of that sequence, that individual nail ends up being hammered crooked. It isn’t for any lack of quality or cohesion, as much as it is plainly a component to the sonic atmospheres, all of which are lost through the mix of eclectic songs. Justice is predominantly full of love and christian ballads that evoke various contextual themes like regret, survival, and of course loving thy wife – as evident from his allegiance with Chance the Rapper. But in one of those new rare moments, Chance delivers a construct and solid verse, and that isn’t too hard to do for him considering what was delivered on The Big Day.
The jaunty pop songs are misguided by Justin Bieber approach to the content he wants to write about. A lot of the time we hear these corny and basic pop textures to embolden those aforementioned Christian themes that are otherwise the weaker points of Justice. “Ghost,” primarily showcases how even the embossing work with the mixing can still make a track inherently worse. The percussion is hollow and lost within the this array of uninspired live acoustics in the background.
Justice has no real clear direction and its focus is solely on the components that make for solid pop songs on the radio or another attempt at finding new sonic ground. He does so on tracks like “Hold On,” and “Peaches, featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar. The latter sees him finding his own unique take on an island-R&B hybrid that works less than the live version from his NPR Tiny Desk Concert, but all the more easy to relisten.
When it’s a pop song it feels wrought in its delivery that usually always wastes some of the beautiful co-production from Andrew Watt. The features make these tracks they join their own and throw Justin Bieber to the musical wolves. This is prevalent on the tracks “As I Am” and “Die For You,” featuring Khalid and Dominic Finike respectively. “As I Am,” is the subtly beautiful R&B centric orchestration that has dimensions to the piano keys, while the latter is a neatly executed disco-dance pop like song that feels like an outlier.
There are very few moments on Justice that Justin Bieber lets the curtain open on his life and the rare times he mirrors the songwriting in conjunction with those emotions, we get the best version of this Justin. “Lonely,” is the real highlight, albeit it being a few months old and gone. The emotionally gripping piano keys have a stable balance with the vocalization as he breaks some perceived dimensions of the celebrity world. Unfortunately on a balance scale of “Ghost” to “Lonely,” most of the tracks lean closer to the quality of “Ghost.” It gets that extra boost from the array of unique pop productions, but unless you can isolate the vocal layers from it there isn’t much to boast about.
Justice is a lazy rehash of the career Justin has made of his craft, except this time he grew out of the system and delivers hollow tunes that are otherwise extremely forgettable. There are very few moments where you think Justin Bieber has the right idea, but right away allows it to fall flat amongst the 16-tracklist album.