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Review: ‘Justice’ by Justin Bieber – A New Era or Familiar Failings?

Justin’s last era was something of a minor disaster. It was intended to be a pleasant, unassuming and uncontroversial pop album that critics could ignore, and the mainstream would put in adverts and “chill vibes” playlists. But when ‘Yummy’ was released, he was met with immediate scorn and derision. This only intensified as the era continued, with desperate promotional tactics (including encouragement of streaming fraud), his laughably juvenile follow up ‘Intentions’, and the widely panned album itself, with its sterile take on trap and RnB.

And so just 8 short months after his last era had begun, a new one had been announced and was accompanied by a new lead single. Therefore, the question is, does Justice succeed where Changes failed?

The answer is… almost. This is almost the perfectly mediocre and unremarkable pop record and era that Justin must have wanted the first time, with singles like ‘Peaches’ even managing to get a little positive buzz. The beat is colourful, sweet, and groovy. Giveon and Daniel Caesar turn in great performances, and if Justin doesn’t outdo them, he doesn’t get completely blown away either (though his shitty adlibs nearly derail the entire song). 

This is also (unfortunately) the only good bop on this entire project. The production on most of the other songs is noticeably cheap and bad, manifesting most clearly in the bass-work (and especially the drops) across the record. The bass is frequently ugly, weak and completely incongruous with the songs it is meant to support: this is most egregiously seen on the worst single ‘Hold On’ (no more words on this one, it just sounds like trash), but also in songs like ‘Die For You’ (whose main other characteristic is Dominic Fike’s utterly anonymous feature), ‘Deserve You’ (which ruins one of Justin’s better vocal performances) and on the lead single ‘Holy’.

However, production is not the greatest sin ‘Holy’ commits. Indeed, I actually really like the gospel piano that kicks the song off, and Justin’s opening verse (“I know a lot about sinners/guess I won’t be a saint”) and pre-chorus (“the way you hold me… feels so holy”), while nothing special, definitely fit and set the mood. Yet, this is immediately ruined by the lyric “Oh God/Running to the altar like a track-star”, which, accompanied by the muddy-too-modern pop bass farting through the timeless instrumentation preceding, wrecks the song beyond all recovery. 

This is not to say that it doesn’t get worse. Far from it: we are also treated to a truly heinous verse from fellow Christian wife-guy Chance the Rapper, who drops turds like, “I’m a believer my heart is fleshy/life is short with a temper like Joe Pesci”. 

Nevertheless, musical deficiencies are not the most distasteful element of the album. That would, of course, be the MLK Jr samples (a sentence that should not exist in reference to a Justin Bieber album). A little before the halfway point Justin decides to include an interlude by Martin Luther King, a snippet of a speech where he excoriates people who refuse to stand up for what they know is right, claiming they have committed a form of spiritual suicide. On an album about racial injustice – or at least with some commentary on this issue – this could be a powerful moment. However, this is a collection of mediocre love songs by a white man who has proven himself incapable of using AAVE (“pimps and the players say don’t go crushin” – eugh) and in this context, a powerful statement about justice and the nature of the soul is about… loving your wife…The mind reels.

In summary, we have a bloated, near-anonymous album that would be a decent 5/10 with a lot of filler, but also some decent and even a couple of very good songs, and we could call it a day. Still, the thoroughly misguided attempt at “political content” seriously damaged my ability to enjoy or appreciate the few diamonds in its tedious, forgettable, and almost genre-less rough. 

Image credit:  Budiey via Flickr & Creative Commons/CC BY-NC 2.0

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