As much as Justin Bieber may try to resist it, the pop genre fits him as perfectly a sequined glove did to this prince-of-pop’s king predecessor, Michael Jackson. Bieber’s sixth studio album, Justice, tells a story of a man who grew up and (barely) made it out on the other side, but is grateful for the journey now that he’s fully enveloped in love and grace. Instead of running from his past mistakes and insecurities, he’s facing them head-on, supercharged by his relationships with his faith and ones he holds most dear. As opposed to his previous album, the 2020 R&B-fueled Changes, Justice blends his experimental background with his stable pop persona, serving a more optimistic tone and upbeat energy perfect for yet another sold-out arena tour.
The iconic statement from Martin Luther King Jr., “injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere,” leads the opening of the album, although it doesn’t exactly fit the narrative about to be told in the literal sense. Justice seems to be Bieber’s way of saying he’s standing up and showing up for at least the one person in life he knows to be good and pure, his wife, and that maybe that small but just as powerful act is enough. He re-visits Dr. King’s words in the appropriately-titled ‘The MLK Interlude’, “if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live; you died when you refused to stand up for right/You died when you refused to stand up for truth/You died when you refused to stand up for justice”. He then seamlessly transitions into ‘Die For You’, a super uppity track with 80s influences that makes those civil duty phrases more personal and modern.
A flurry of hit singles has already hyped up this album before its release; ‘Holy’, ‘Lonely’, ‘Anybody’, and ‘Hold On’. His newest single, ‘Peaches’, is less PG-rated that the other four, but perfect for the fans that have grown up with him for the past dozen years. With a super catchy cool-kid chorus of “I got my peaches out in Georgia (Oh, yeah, shit)/I get my weed from California (That’s that shit)/I took my chick up to the North, yeah (bad-ass bitch)/ I get my light right from the source, yeah (yeah, that’s it)”, it’s sure to inspire lots of Instagram captions in the near future and is just another way of him dominating the social media sphere.
Specifically, ‘Unstable’, ‘Deserve You’, and ‘As I Am’ (‘Lonely’, obviously, leans into this theme as well) tackle a myriad of self-love issues, and gives a voice to fans who struggle with this in a way he’s never expressed himself succumbing to before. These challenges, such as anxiety, destructive tendencies, abandonment, and the perception of being unlovable, are evident in his lyrics, such as “I pray I don’t go back to the way I was”, “sometimes, I don’t know why you care/Take me with the good and the ugly/say, “I’m not goin’ anywhere”, and “never judged me when I was unable/to love myself, to trust myself.” By resisting these toxic ways of his past self, Bieber is able to open himself up and recognize the good changes of the present, now finally being in a healthy relationship. If that’s not a happily ever, then what is?
‘Off My Face’ has a mellow vibe, but also that signature, irresistible, smooth-as-butter Bieber crooning that’s sure to be a future soundtrack of lovers slow dancing at a wedding. ‘Loved By You’ encapsulates the concept of the album perfectly, with the lyrics, “I walk a thousand miles/I’ve opened every door/It’s not enough/It’s still your love I’m always looking for/I’ve only got one thing on my mind/I need to be loved by you”. (The sweet-tempered ‘Angels Speak’, would have also rounded out this romantic trio nicely with its heavenly tone and love-soaked lyrics, if it wasn’t made into an exclusive single.)
It’s refreshing to see Bieber come so-full circle to become the artist and person he was always destined to be. Love is what fuels Bieber. He’s got a lot to give, feels safer now about doing so, and revels in finally being able to experience what everybody else does in their more-normal lives, the beautiful gift of being loved in return, unconditionally, for who you truly are. Bieber is back, and yes, better than ever.