2020 should have been Justin Bieber’s year. He released so much music, whether it was his own singles, an entire album, or a feature. But he’s not Drake. He can’t just obtain good-faith clout by slapping his name on something mediocre. While he had success commercially on singles with Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, and Chance The Rapper, his album Changes was panned. Lead-off single “Yummy” in particular has received a lot of flak from critics and fans alike as being…oh, what’s the technical term? Not good.
I personally don’t think “Yummy” is really that bad. In fact, “Intentions” annoys me more. But neither of them are that bad, as far as pop song fodder goes. Are they good though? Of fucking course not. But this is the top 40; not the damn hall of fame. I give pop music a wide berth when it comes to being mediocre or disappointing. Does it have a good beat? I’ll vibe to it. I guess after Purpose and so many successful collaborations in the more recent years, we’ve given Bieber a high bar.
So did he get back to that high bar with his 2021 single “Anyone”?
He did not.
The thing though is it’s not a bad song at all. In fact, it has a lot of likable things about it. For example, since getting married, Bieber’s songs about love are like 100x more sappy and romantic, which feels completely genuine. This is a wholesome, sweet song, as far as content and lyrics go. I also like the subdued retro touches, like the reverb and double tracks. The “In the Air Tonight” drum transition leads us into a much more “loud and proud” display of the late-80s/early-90s vibe, injecting much needed energy and life into the song.
The problem with this is that it comes across as less Peter Gabriel and more contemporary Christian concert. This last chorus with the most energy lasts for about 30 seconds before it just ends. Why tease us with this at all? And why does it sound exactly like something you’d hear at some Youth Ministries Summer Jam for Jesus thing? The chorus, for all its attempts at being positive and uplifting, feels flat and empty, with only Justin’s soaring vocals to carry us through. They’re not bad vocals, but it’s just like, where is the rest of the song? It’s a weak-ass chorus.
Also, isn’t it weird that he tried to make an R&B album (key word: “tried”), and then made an 80s pop song? I am not saying I don’t like this direction (I do love this trend in current pop music) but most of Bieber’s career has been pretty much the exact opposite of this. Even when he was first starting out on the scene, he’d rather be caught with Ludacris than Phil Collins. Is he an ever-changing chameleon and student of music, like our friend Miley Cyrus, or does he just use black culture and black music like the latest outfit he wears… also like our friend Miley? Either way, it reminds me of another Justin that I know.
This isn’t the song from Justin Bieber that we needed and wanted. But maybe it’s what we deserve after expecting so much more from him. His best songs this past year were with other people: “Monster”, “Holy”, and “Stuck with U”. I don’t know if Team Bieber knows what they’re doing, but he still seems to find success no matter what he does. So, I guess he’s more like Drake than I thought.