There’s no doubt that Purpose, Justin Bieber’s album released in the Fall of 2015, not so coincidentally had a very clear purpose. While Bieber took a break from the recording studio since the release of Believe in 2012, he still kept himself at the center of the limelight. As Bieber started to find himself butting heads with the law, the once innocent teen heartthrob tainted his image, much to the disappointment of his fans. To break away from both his troubled years and his teen pop star image, Purpose was without question Bieber’s bid at a comeback.
The album was Bieber’s make or break chance to redeem himself and prove himself as a serious, mature artist. However, Bieber might have taken a swing and a miss with this one. In one of his opening tracks, “I’ll Show You,” Bieber asks his fans to remember that he is only human and “sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing”. We can all acknowledge that the spotlight is not the most forgiving, however, perhaps an apology would be more fitting in this context. Instead Bieber assures us that we will never know him and that is one thing he is sure to show us. Show us what exactly? I am not entirely sure. As one of the first tracks on the album, Bieber certainly makes a statement with this slow anthem drowned with self pity.
As the infamous tick-tock starts up, “What Do You Mean” reminds us again why Justin Bieber tops the charts time and time again. As one of the first hit singles off of the album, “What Do You Mean” had fans itching for more with its release. Combining the hip hop, electronic vibes of “Where Are Ü Now” with a more rhythmic, vocally dominated sound gave Bieber perhaps the new sound he needed to show the music industry he was ready to begin the next phase of his career. While the track was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of 2015, “when you nod your head yes, but you want to say no” lacked a certain depth when it came to proving his supposed new and improved character.
In what appears to be a final bid to win over his fans one last time, “Children” is more or less an outreach to humanity asking that we become visionaries for the sake of the next generations. While the intention may have been pure, the vision seems a bit confused. As Bieber repeatedly asks “what about the children?” accompanied by a fast-paced, electronic beat, he offers little direction as to the vision he keeps talking about. He makes it clear we should fight for it, even die for it, but I’m not quite sure what “it” really is. The catchy beat along with the minimal narrative in the lyrics suggests Bieber seized a somewhat pathetic opportunity to paint himself as a active agent for social change without an actual direction to back it.
The charts would argue that Purpose was exactly the comeback Bieber needed at a vital point in his career. When you break it down in terms of its intended purpose, however, the album is more of a muddled array of beats, rhythms, tones and ideas that lost a clear sense of direction along the way.