Justice, by Justice Bieber
What does one do after an album has been relatively unsuccessful? For many pop artists, the solution is to release an album that is calculated to perform better to replace a narrative of failure with one of success. And so that was the intent with Justice, which came rather quickly after the failure of Changes (more about this later, possibly). And, contrary to whatever expectations one might have had, this album succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations from those of us who have no personal rooting interest. What prompted this particular review was the fact that Ghost, a song I happen to like from this album, hit the top 10, making it the fourth single from this album to hit the top ten. Being somewhat familiar with this album from its hits, does the whole album live up to the hype? Let’s see.
The album begins with a brief topical monologue and then moves to “2 Much,” an austere ballad about the narrator’s feelings about his beloved, which has a lot of personal detail. “Deserve You” expresses the narrator’s feelings that he doesn’t deserve his partner. “As I Am,” featuring Khalid, is a call from the narrator to his partner that he will be loyal and for her to take him as he is, and Khalid does a good job as a duet partner here. “Off My Face” speaks of the intoxicating nature of love and his infatuation with his partner as Justin sings in his head voice. “Holy,” one of the big hits off of this album, featuring Chance The Rapper, is a song that conflates romantic love with spiritual love, and expresses the narrator’s complicated feelings about both. “Unstable,” featuring the Kid Laroi, is an austere song that praises a lover as a source of security in the midst of a great deal of instability and uncertainty. This is followed by a puzzling MLK interlude that points back to the album’s titular themes of justice. “Die For You,” featuring Dominic Fike, expresses the sentiment that the narrator would die for his partner. “Hold On,” a top twenty single that encourages a loved one to hold on until they reach heaven on earth in a stable relationship. “Somebody” is a song about the need for intimacy and love for people, set to a lovely EDM beat. This is followed by “Ghost,” a bittersweet song about overcoming the loss of a loved one that has become a surprising late-era hit for the singer. “Peaches” is a love song, featuring Daniel Cesar and Giveon, that has some rather hilarious discussions of the author’s fondness for getting good weed and peaches right from the source, along with more standard love song fare. “Love You Different,” featuring BEAM, is another song that expresses the narrator’s commitment to love his partner in the way that she is looking for. “Loved By You,” featuring Burna Boy, is a lovely song that has some intriguing details of the narrator’s self-loathing and his need to be loved by his partner. “Anyone,” a successful single from this album, expresses the narrator’s conviction that his partner is his only chance for love. “Lonely,” with Benny Blanco, the final song from the album and a successful single of its own, ends the song on a downcast note about the loneliness of the life of a famous person.
It is admittedly hard to relate the theme of justice from the album’s title to the song’s contents. At its heart, this album is filled with generally spare and atmospheric songs that detail the singer’s love for his wife. This album feels deeply personal, and if you find that appealing than Bieber’s singing over the solid production and generally limited instrumentation will provide a feeling of space that one can easily appreciate. Again, it is no clear what relationship the album’s title has to do with its contents, but it is not too surprising why the material on the album has resonated well. The album is coherent, the themes are relatable, and if the songs can sometimes be a bit basic, and not all of the say anything that has not been said many, many times before, at least what is said generally appears to be heart-felt and genuine, and there is considerable value in that.