First Impressions is a segment where I give my first (minimally edited) thoughts on an album that’s new (or new to me), without research, months of listening, or the benefit of letting it “ruminate”. It’s a way to get out my thoughts much faster than the time and effort I would put into real album reviews, thoughts, and track rankings.
What happened to Justin Bieber? As I’ve mentioned before, we are all just holding our breath waiting for Justin Bieber to return to his 2015 Purpose form. His entire comeback (coming back from being a douchebag) was marked with great collaborations and singles alike. It was finally not uncool to like Bieber. No longer a punchline, he actually made music you could enjoy in public.
So what’s happened since then? I don’t want to Yoko Ono him, but he got married. That’s not her fault. Love has made him a worse artist, apparently.
While I didn’t exactly give rave reviews to “Anyone”, it is still a likable, cute love song. Maybe not groundbreaking or perfect, but good enough. Apparently, that was just a preview for more of the same on Justice.
If you want to listen to Bieber go on for 45 minutes about how much he loves his wife and how perfect their relationship is, then this is the album for you. Because apparently Changes didn’t cover that topic thoroughly enough.
The only definitively non-love song is “Lonely”, where he at least tried to sing about something else, even if it wasn’t good. He would do well to try to channel this kind of pain and conflict into more songs, preferably with better lyrics and delivery, but I won’t be that picky.
My biggest problem with Justice, though, is that it lacks a lot of passion and meaning for an album that has such a clear motive for both. Musically, it’s a well-produced piece of pop music, but it lacks a lot substance. Most of the songs are well-made, palatable, but forgettable, pop songs. There’s nothing really wrong with that. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, when the trees are just unremarkable trees. Let’s talk about the trees though, so you can see what I mean.
Here are my track-by-track First Impression thoughts (or as close to them as possible). Keep in mind that these thoughts would absolutely change…if I bothered to listen to this album more.
“2 Much” – Really weird that it starts with the Martin Luther King line about a “threat to injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. What the fuck does that have to do with the rest of this half-made song/prelude?
Best part: it’s short.
“Deserve You” – With flashy production and a hot 80s vibe, this track is one of the better on the albums. That being said, I still don’t feel compelled to listen to it outside of the album.
Best part: that juicy synth bassline.
“As I Am” Feat. Khalid – I really expected more for a song that scored a feature from Khalid.
Best part: Khalid
“Off My Face” – Oh hey, did you hear? Justin really loves his fucking wife. It’s actually a pretty good song though that diverges from the usual pop and r&b. Though the lyrics are over-the-top corny, they’re still wholesome and vividly imagined.
Best part: the acoustic guitar and Justin’s vocals synergize really well.
“Holy” Feat. Chance The Rapper – I already know this song from it being a single. It’s a great song, despite my dislike for Chance the Rapper’s style and voice. It’s probably not a great song, but I enjoy it all the same.
Best part: an actual beat, plus some organ. Unlike the shitty acoustic version, which should not be allowed anywhere near Chance’s rap part about Joe Pesci.
“Unstable” – Feat. The Kid LAROI – Whatever. This isn’t nearly as fleshed out or as good as they thought it was. Put it back in the oven. It’s not done.
Best part: ??
MLK Interlude – What the fuck is this? How does this relate to the rest of the album’s message? Unless he’s saying that the thing he would die for now (as opposed to when he’s 90) is his wife… which is just a horrible misuse of MLK. Oh, actually, what’s the next song?
“Die for You” Feat. Dominic Fike – Yeah. That’s exactly what the MLK Interlude was for. Cringe. Too bad because this song’s a banger. At least the verses anyway. I would have loved to hear Dua Lipa on this, by the way.
Best part: that sexy beat
“Hold On” – This is my favorite song on the album. It’s the only one that really stuck with me after I listened to the whole thing, deservedly so.
Best part: infectious beat, catchy hook
“Somebody” – If you listen closely, this song kind of sucks. But if you don’t, this song is pretty good.
Best part: another great beat
“Ghost” – Another song good from a technical standpoint, like “Somebody”, that is perfectly good and inoffensive until you actually listen to it. Put it on life support; maybe that will save it.
Best part: acoustic guitar choruses. Actually the song would be better with this stripped down approach for the whole thing.
“Peaches” Feat. Daniel Caesar & Giveon – This is a love song masquerading as something else. The something else is really good. One of my favorites, “Peaches” just screams summer single. DROP THE SINGLE, BIEBS.
Best part: just the whole vibe, man.
“Love You Different” Feat. BEAM – Melody straight up stolen from an arcade video game. I don’t really like it. No, I won’t elaborate.
Best part: that it reminds me of “What Do U Mean?”
“Loved By You” Feat. Burna Boy – With this generic title, I expected to hate this song. I don’t! This song wants to be loved by me, but instead I just like it as a friend.
Best part: the lyrics. Yes, I like a Bieber song for the lyrics, for once. The beat is pretty fat, and Burna Boy is a nice addition, too.
“Anyone” – Well, you already know how I feel about this one.
Best part: the “In The Air Tonight” transition to a more upbeat, 80s Contemporary Christian concert at the end.
“Lonely” – A song about something! Too bad it’s about as deep as a puddle lyrically. I appreciate the attempt and concept though.
Best part: meaningful lyrics about an actual source of pain.
TRIPLE CHUCKS DELUXE
Surprise! Bieber released a deluxe version of the album with some new tracks! I had already written the rest of this post and was polishing it for release when I realized these songs existed. So here are my thoughts on them as well:
“There She Go” Feat. Lil Uzi Vert – This song was clearly made to be a Tik Tok song and go viral with the youth. I’m not gonna lie though–it’s actually quite the jam, even though I’m not a fan of Lil Uzi Vert’s contribution.
Best part: beat and melody; harmonies
“I Can’t Be Myself” Feat Jaden – Today I learned Jaden Smith goes by just Jaden. I also learned that a “Circles” rip-off can be an amazing song that gives you a shot of dopamine with every bar. This is now my favorite song on the album. Period. It took me about 12 seconds to “like” it on Spotify. It has re-listening value out the wazoo. It’s poppy, dreamy, and even though it’s imitating another very famous song, it pulls off that imitation without sounding like a soulless carbon copy.
Best part: everything. The only flaw it has is that I can’t inject it directly into my veins.
“Lifetime” – Been there, done that. Boring. Next!
Best part: if you’re a teen or someone new to love, life, or lyrics, then the lyrics seem incredibly deep and meaningful. That’s not even a jab. It’s that I think this song is good for someone else, but it ain’t me.
“Wish You Would” Feat Quavo – This reminds me of poppier “No Sense” from Purpose, but Quavo is no Travis Scott.
Best part: that it reminds me of “No Sense”
“Know No Better” Feat. DaBaby – Okay. Yep. Listened to this. Then I forgot it.
Best part: DaBaby can sing????
“Name” Feat. Tori Kelly – Beautiful song about missing an old flame. I could listen to this again for sure.
Best part: lyrics, simplicity, Tori’s voice mixes well with Justin’s