Fiorella Beccaglia Managing Editor
After a 4-year hiatus, the Biebs returns as Mr. Bieber with a new R&B album called “Changes.” Justin recorded “Changes” mostly with his main writing collaborator Poo Bear and Josh Gudwin, his trusted producer and audio engineer. Without the presence of someone like Skrillex (who helmed six songs on 2015’s “Purpose”), “Changes” settles into a chill, stream-friendly vibe. Its 16 songs (plus a remix) are all very different from the “Purpose” singles.
“Changes” comes after an extended period of personal struggle, as presented in Justin’s new docuseries, “Seasons” (which, by the way, I also recommend). Public mess-ups, breakups, personal struggles, and more have clouded the adulthood of a still-young star who’s been immensely famous since he was 15. “Changes” celebrates the stability he’s finally found. Song after song, Justin tells us that he’s young, in love, and doing very well. There’s an endearing newness to the way he sings about his wife, Hailey Bieber, a gorgeous model who shares the Christian values he’s been looking for all his life. On “Forever,” he wonders, “Could you be here with me forever?” He begs for close physical proximity on “All Around Me.” On “E.T.A.” he wonders just how long he will have to wait for his wife to get home.
I have followed Justin’s career for a long time and know all of his songs by heart. I think he’s one of the most talented and genuine musicians in the industry. However, “Changes” is not his best work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, just not as good as he could be. What’s ultimately missing from this album is his amazing versatility as an artist. He has positioned “Changes” as “R&Bieber,” but his new R&B lacks the variety and malleability of his excellent 2013 mixtape, “Journals.” If you haven’t ever heard “Journals” and love R&B, this album was a true R&Bieber moment.
Nonetheless, I still think “Changes” contains a few of the best songs he has ever written. My three favorites—in this order—are “Habitual,” “Changes,” and “Available.” While his vocals remain pristine, the rest of the songs are mostly average but definitely better than those in “Believe” since Justin has clearly found himself. Nearly every song resembles every other in tempo, arrangement, and often in lyrics. The diction in most is very poetic and sophisticated (like in “Habitual”), while in some it’s simple and playful (like in “Yummy”).
As a huge fan of Justin’s, it’s nice to know his life is so loving and boring now compared to what it used to be. The fact that he’s expressing that feeling through music is comforting, too, since he has struggled with mental illness and addiction for years. At the end of the day, I’m glad Justin has found himself and has stopped being manufactured into something he never liked.