The Canadian pop icon’s latest is a solid outing held back by questionable decisions.
An album is only as good as the sum of its parts, and sometimes all it takes is one bad decision to derail an otherwise good project. Unfortunately, this is the case with Justin Bieber’s latest outing, Justice.
Justice is the Canadian artist’s sixth album and his second in a little over a year. While it is musically quite good, the album’s thematic framing is a massive misstep. The record presents itself to fit the theme of justice, yet Bieber never even mentions or sings about the concept.
This is a jarring decision that sours the listening experience from the very beginning. When you press play on this LP, the first voice you hear is not Justin Bieber’s, but a sample of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It’s an attempt to set the tone for this album, enforcing its supposed “theme,” yet it goes absolutely nowhere with it.
It’s hard to understand the reason why Bieber or anyone else who heard this album in advance thought it was acceptable for the 27-year-old pop star to use the speeches of an important historical figure to introduce love songs about his wife. It’s a bizarre and confounding choice that comes off very disingenuous.
In such a tumultuous time, one when many social justice movements are fighting against inequality, Bieber tacking Dr. King’s words onto a collection of love songs just comes off as lazy and borderline insensitive. With so much happening, if he really wanted to say something of substance, he could’ve done it for himself instead of relying on these quotes.
It’s a shame because this album had a lot of potential. While some of the songs miss the mark, the production is solid throughout and Bieber is at his most mature, both personally and vocally, singing of marital love and spirituality. While he isn’t some out-of-this-world vocalist, he knows what he can do within his range and it makes for quite a few captivating moments.
One of the bigger standouts is “Lonely,” which sees Bieber reflecting on his life growing up in the spotlight and all of the repercussions and downsides that came with it. It’s an incredibly human moment, and one that, despite his unique situation, is actually very relatable.
It’s moments like this, “Deserve You” or the excellent summer jam “Peaches” that make Justice’s missteps so frustrating. This isn’t a bad album, but it is bogged down by some outright terrible decisions.
Instead of framing this record as being something it’s not, Bieber should’ve embraced what it’s actually about. He’s so impassioned when singing about his faith or his wife, shifting the focus to a theme that isn’t present is an injustice to the great moments Bieber produced here.
Trial Track: “Peaches”