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Opinions

Let’s talk about Justin Bieber, not Selena and Hailey

How about we don’t pit women against each other over a man yet again?

In the aftermath of popular media’s latest example of pitting women against each other, let’s talk about Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber. In case you’re lucky enough to have not had this media firestorm cross your feed, let me catch you up. 

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were an on-and-off again pop culture power couple from 2010 to 2018. Commonly referred to as “Jelena,” the couple was beloved by their separate (though mostly intersecting) young fanbases.

Both very successful young artists, they had a very public, difficult romance as they grew up together in the spotlight. However, six months after their final split, Justin announced his engagement to Hailey Baldwin. 

Since then, Hailey has been labelled a mean, petty, obsessive, and crazed fangirl, while Selena has been picked apart all the same. Both women have had every social media post over-analyzed and have been accused of being shady towards the other.

Why, though? Why has the media hurled insult after insult at these women?

It all stems from two Instagram stories. Selena Gomez poked fun at herself over an Instagram story for accidentally over-laminating her eyebrows. Then, Kylie Jenner posted a close-up selfie captioned: “This was an accident??” followed by a screenshot of her and Hailey Bieber on FaceTime, showing only their eyebrows. This sparked outrage online and people quickly began to throw both Hailey and Selena in the ring. 

Now, while there might be some validity to claims of Hailey Bieber being mean or petty towards her husband’s ex, it does not justify the onslaught of hate she’s received. Don’t get me wrong, when this drama initially surfaced, I was team Selena (who took a brief break from social media following this fiasco) all the way… that is until I saw just how awful people were treating Hailey, who took the brunt of it. 

I myself got caught up in the TikTok edits and story after story, the rehashing of old posts that could’ve potentially been shade. But why is it that both Selena and Hailey were the ones being picked apart in the media? Aren’t we all forgetting the common denominator? Justin Bieber himself. 

Now, Justin went through a notorious “bad boy” stage, collecting a fascinating range of crimes for his record. From drunk driving, resisting arrest and egging a neighbour’s house, to losing custody of an illegal pet monkey, it’s clear that he’s not the most mature partner to have. Obviously this is blatant immaturity, but easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. What shouldn’t be overlooked though is Selena’s claim of emotional abuse. Selena admitted in an NPR interview that she was emotionally abused in her past relationship. “I think that it’s something that — I had to find a way to understand it as an adult,” she said. 

Selena has spoken openly about her struggles with mental health since cutting her Revival tour short due to both medical and psychological reasons in 2016. She now runs a highly successful company, Rare Beauty, as well as being both an executive producer and lead actress in the hit show Only Murders In The Building.  So, clearly she came out the other side for the better.

Hailey is also a success in her own right. Previous to her marriage, she had a booked and busy modelling career, working on campaigns for major labels like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and more. She now owns her own skincare company Rhode and has recently premiered her new cooking show What’s In My Kitchen? So again, she is an independently successful woman being dragged down by her husband. 

Also, a quick question: when was the last time Justin did anything noteworthy?

Hailey, however, is now the next victim to the “Peaches” singer’s immaturity, with video after video surfacing of Justin either being annoyed by or completely indifferent to his wife’s presence. For example, there’s a video of him closing a car door in her face as they both try to get out on the same side of the car.  He may have matured, just not that much. When being asked by a fan what he does on a regular day he answered: “When I’m with my wife, we like to… You guys can guess what we do. It gets pretty crazy… that’s pretty much all we do,” revealing details of their intimate life. 

Neither woman has openly attacked the other; still, we pit them against each other because of the one thing they have in common: a man.

Selena recently stepped in, posting to her Instagram story saying “Hailey Bieber reached out to me and let me know that she has been receiving death threats and such hateful negativity. This isn’t what I stand for. Nobody should have to experience hate of bullying.” 

So, here we are, right after Women’s History Month, continuing to judge women because of their association with a man, instead of judging the man himself. So, if you ask me, I’d say I’m not team Selena or team Hailey, but rather team not absolving men of responsibility.

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Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Justin Bieber – Justice

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.

 

6/10

Trial Track: “Peaches”

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Music

Is this the end of the Grammys?

This year’s nominations reveal an industry struggling to reflect the pulse of contemporary music.

Whenever award show nominations are announced you can expect controversy. Especially in recent years as the general public (i.e. white people) have become more aware of systemic racism in the music industry, which manifests itself at award shows. Think Beyoncé losing album of the year to both Adele and Beck, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly losing to Taylor Swift’s 1989, or Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE losing to Mumford & Sons.

But the nominations for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards are outright confusing.

In the general category, which holds the most prestigious awards, there were the expected nominees: Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, but nominees also included Black Pumas, Coldplay, Jacob Collier, and Noah Cyrus. While Coldplay is a recognizable and successful group, it’s safe to say their relevance has diminished in recent years and their 2019 album Everyday Life flew a bit under the radar. Noah Cyrus is also a name many might recognize, albeit perhaps due to nepotism more than her actual music. Black Pumas has a, “relatively low commercial profile” and “negligible critical profile” as Jon Caramanica put in in The New York Times. You’ve probably never heard of Jacob Collier but he’s already won four Grammys for arranging.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to throw in some more unconventional or unknown nominees, of course. However, these kinds of choices become more questionable when you realize who wasn’t nominated: The Weeknd.

Despite having one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums of the year, and a massively successful single, he didn’t get a single nomination. This makes The Weeknd the most snubbed artist of the year.

For some perspective, Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” got a nomination. Bieber actually scored four nominations despite his album Changes being met with negative reviews from critics. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, it received a score of 57 compared to The Weeknd’s 2020 album After Hours’ 80.

Many have theorized that The Weeknd might have been snubbed because of his Superbowl performance, which will air on the same network a week after the Grammys. Another theory is that After Hours was snubbed because it is a distinctly pop album and the Grammys prefer to put Black artists in R&B, urban, and hip hop categories. Notably, in 2020, Tyler, the Creator criticized the Grammys for placing “guys that look like me” in rap and urban categories.

After the nominations were announced, The Weeknd spoke out on Twitter saying, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”

Halsey, who received 0 nominations for her album Manic, said in an Instagram story, “The Grammys are an elusive process. It can often be about behind the scenes private performances, knowing the right people, campaigning through the grapevine — with the right handshakes and ‘bribes’ that can be just ambiguous enough to pass as ‘not-bribes.'”

Nicki Minaj also took to Twitter saying, “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had seven songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”

Though the Chairman and Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy claimed that the nominees would “reflect diversity of race, gender, age, region, and musical genre,” during the nominee announcement, it seems like the Grammys just decided to nominate Korean band BTS and call it a day.

Though this makes BTS the first South Korean act to be nominated for their music (after they were nominated for Best Recording Package in 2018), BTS was only nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their song “Dynamite” which was coincidentally their first all-English song. Their album Map of the Soul: 7, which received a score of 82 from Metacritic, was named by Rolling Stone as one of the best albums of 2020, and had over four million pre-orders, received 0 nominations.

It seems the Recording Academy thought nominating one Korean group, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, DaBaby, and Beyoncé would be enough to appease their growing list of critics, but the tokenism and performative diversity fell flat on its face.

The Recording Academy has repeatedly failed to be as “diverse” and “inclusive” as it claims to be, and to recognize music that is actually, by all measures, good and popular. This is hurting their credibility and relevance. If things don’t change I think the Grammys will be totally obsolete in the next few years.

Why should I even care about the Grammys? Are these awards really necessary? How does this contribute value to the lives and careers of musicians or to our culture?

These are questions the Recording Academy might want to consider.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Shawn Mendes – Wonder

Shawn Mendes reveals his delicate and true self in his recent album.

On his fourth studio album, Wonder, Shawn Mendes reveals a more delicate side of his life and music, while focusing on his emotions, life experiences, and girlfriend, Camila Cabello.

Mendes starts the album with a slow “Intro,” in which piano dominates, just like deep cuts such as “24 Hours” and “Look Up At The Stars.” This gives a nice break from louder instruments like drums and bass, which can often overpower in more upbeat songs. Overall, this album consists of a perfect balance between slow and fast-paced songs.

Wonder is different from Mendes’ three previous albums, perhaps, because the 22-year-old wanted to be more truthful, which led to him also being delicate. This was not only done by writing and singing about personal topics but also by making gentle beats.

Even the more uptempo songs, like “305” and “Piece Of You,” are delicate because of the lyrics, and some slower parts, like guitar solos. Also, on “Piece Of You,” Mendes sings “I get reckless, I’m obsessive / I’m pathetic and possessive / You’re so sure it makes me insecure,” sharing this darker side of him with the world, and showing that just like everyone, he has flaws and insecurities.

On “Song For No One,” Mendes sings with vulnerability, as only guitar accompanies his vocals. This adds a lot of sensitivity to the album. However, it seems like the song is, indeed, for someone in particular, as he sings “Told you that I really love you / You did not reciprocate those feelings.”

Mendes’ only collaboration was with Justin Bieber, in “Monster.” The two artists have a similar career story, both having started in their teens. They share their similar experiences in “Monster,” such as the downside of becoming famous at a young age. For example, how they weren’t allowed to make mistakes, or how they would feel guilty if they did (“But what if I, what if I trip? / What if I, what if I fall? / Then am I the monster?”).

On “Wonder,” Mendes not only questions if he is being honest with himself (“I wonder if I’m being real / Do I speak my truth or do I filter how I feel?”), but also ingeniously mentions the stereotype that men shouldn’t cry, bringing up the double standard about men crying (“I wonder, when I cry into my hands / I’m conditioned to feel like it makes me less of a man”).

Overall, Wonder feels so delicate and personal, that it’s almost as if Mendes just wrote his thoughts in a journal and made them into songs as he tried to bring down this barrier between his famous-self and his true-self.

 

Rating: 8/10

Trial Track: “Look Up At The Stars”

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Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Justin Bieber – Changes

After taking over four years for himself, Justin Bieber is back with a new style in Changes

After four years of ups and downs, Justin Bieber’s long-awaited return arrived on Feb. 14 with the release of his fifth studio album, Changes.

Unlike some of Bieber’s most popular tracks, “Baby,” “Boyfriend,” and “Despacito,” overall this album has a slow tempo. Yet, some songs distinguish themselves with stronger bass and catchier beats, as heard on “Forever,” featuring Post Malone and Clever, and “Running Over,” featuring Lil Dicky.

It could have been better. The 17-track album is way too long. With most of the songs being slow-paced with low or moderate vocals, it gets repetitive after a few tracks. Besides, “Yummy”—other than being annoyingly catchy—is a complete waste of time.

Whether this album is about Bieber’s wife or his ex-girlfriend, his desire to put his feelings first is evident. Although effort alone is not enough, as he said, he’s been “going through changes.”

This album could have been a total disaster or a total success, and somehow it’s right in the middle. Some songs are enjoyable and some are regrettable. Fortunately for him, Beliebers will always be satisfied with his music because they belieb in him.

Rating: 7/10

Trial Track: “Habitual”

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Opinions

Dear Justin Bieber…

Press photo

So, how was jail? Was it as entertaining as it looks on Orange Is The New Black? Did you meet anybody special? A 300-pound man named Shirley perhaps? Did Selena Gomez leave you a laughter-filled voicemail?

All jokes aside, do you realize how stupid you look right now?  Or that you could’ve seriously hurt somebody? Not only were you driving at twice the legal speed limit, but you were high and had been drinking. I don’t care if you’re ‘young and stupid’ — we’re the same age. I don’t buy that excuse.

Now, let’s discuss your fans for a second. I’m not going to lecture you about being a role model or about how impressionable your young audience is because honestly, that’s not your problem. It’s not a 19-year-old singer’s job to teach large numbers of children right from wrong. Parents are supposed to do that.

Your (very dedicated) fanbase was obviously devastated after hearing about your arrest, as hashtags like “#FreeBieber” and “#PrayForJustin” were trending on Twitter.  Thousands of teenage girls worldwide are petitioning for the freedom of a stranger who was just arrested for something as reckless as a DUI. There’s something very wrong with that fact.

Then again, we’re talking about the same fans who trended the hashtag “#CutForJustin.” It worries me that they’re so dedicated to you, and that they cannot understand or accept the fact that you did something illegal.

Growing up, I poured over gossip magazines, yet here I am, completely normal. I witnessed some of my favourite stars do incredibly stupid things and I never once thought, ‘Hmm, driving drunk and getting arrested looks fun’! What I’m trying to tell you is simple: it’s time to grow up. It would be one thing if you were still a regular teenager back in Stratford, where you could egg a neighbour’s house or get in a fight, and it wouldn’t be headlining news. Unfortunately, you’re not. You’re an internationally known celebrity, and you know that everything you do is documented and discussed.

I know that you’re young and this is when you’re supposed to make mistakes, but didn’t you learn a lesson after the whole Brazilian brothel debacle a few months back? Or after the many assault allegations? If you really didn’t learn your lesson, then one would think you’d smarten up after egging your neighbour’s house, but you didn’t.

I don’t know about the people you hang out with, but my friends would definitely not put up with me acting like that. Where’s your mother?! Where’s your father? Oh wait, he was right beside you when you got arrested. Maybe we found the problem.

I think it’s time you take a well-deserved break from the spotlight. You’re a laughing stock right now, but it’s only a matter of time until the next celebrity “downward spiral” takes over the headlines. So, what I mean to say is stop being a douchebag, accept the consequences of your actions, and just pray that you don’t get deported. Trust me, Canada doesn’t want you any more than America does.

Yours truly,

Marco

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Arts

Rich in fan-worthy goodies, lacks so much in substance

Bieber: known to be a famed Canadian export alongside Celine Dion, poutine and Rob Ford. He’s the youthful Internet-sensation turned colossal overnight pop-star.

Press photo

Bieber: a powerful force within the social media spectrum, and the pop-star who can’t seem to take a break from all of the online hate, or jealousy, or mob of fans out there viciously wanting to have a piece of him, literally and metaphorically.

Bieber: the once naive young singer from Stratford, infamous for his notorious but dangerously catchy lyrics of  “Oh Baby, baby, baby, ohhhhh…”

Singing along? Gotcha. But this isn’t a karaoke piece.

After all of the countless flops, from riding the Great Wall on a scooter to allegedly harassing his fans, to announcing that he would retire from public life, our little home-grown sweetheart brings us a documentary film which seems to show his good side — and that’s about it. The 90-minute film is called Believe.

The film kicks off with a candid moment of him playing a piano while he talks to people around him. The scene suddenly transitions to random footage of him performing on stage in front his many fans.

Moments later, you see him explaining on camera why he feels judged by many people, and why they should give him a chance. Then you add in a multitude of testimonials from famous contemporary pop artists in the American music business, and an unlimited number of streeter interviews from mostly teenage fans lining up to see one of his concerts. Stitch them all together like a worn-out patchwork quilt, and voila, there’s your documentary.

I wouldn’t really mind this kind of presentation, but chronologically speaking, it was all over the place. What makes this film really uncomfortable to watch is how it feels more like a public relations piece instead of a factual piece of intimate storytelling. When I think of music-related documentaries such as Michael Jackson’s This Is It, or Jukka Kärkkäinen’s The Punk Syndrome, I find an actual narrative of human beings — not musicians — talking about why they do music, how they’re passionate about music, and why music is important to them.

As a music fan, I acknowledge and respect people’s passion and enthusiasm for any artist they like. If you’re a Belieber, this is absolutely a resourceful audiovisual material to indulge in. But if you were hoping to see a candid conversation about an artist and the music that he makes, you will be left very disappointed.

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Arts

Believe … and you shall receive

Justin Bieber wants you to believe, to accept his side of the story and to let him take us along this journey with him.

Press photo

The musical-documentary Believe is directed by Jon M. Chu, the undeniable talent behind great works such as G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Step Up 2: The Streets, and the previous Bieber documentary, Never Say Never. It is no surprise then that he was picked for this sequel. Believe is a visual masterpiece, and Chu is intimately acquainted with Bieber, having worked on the musical tour of the same name.

It’s simple: Bieber, his manager Scooter Braun, his mentor Usher, and the rest of the crew really just want you to believe. Believe in him, and this young man can continue his dream of making music.

And sure, while Bieber may struggle at times, his family and friends are always there to keep him grounded and remind him that pants are meant to cover a certain area of the body — not expose it.

From screaming back at paparazzi to urinating in a bucket in public, Bieber left little of himself behind. The documentary is a response to the highly publicized outrageous moments that have captured the attention of many in the past year.

We get an inside look at Bieber’s creative side, from the moment he sits down to write a song to the recording process with his crew.

We also get to see the kinds of relationships he has with his fans. For instance, Avalanna Routh. Bieber cultivated a friendship with the six-year-old cancer patient, nicknamed “Mrs. Bieber,” and spent many hours with her as well as inviting her to one of his concerts. The news of her death left Bieber mournful, leading him to dedicate his song, “One Less Lonely Girl” to her memory while images of her were displayed during one of his performances.

That’s not to say that Believe is not a an attempt at correcting Bieber’s public image — because it is. The documentary is a way for his fans to shift their focus towards his music and human side, rather than his scandalous personal life. And while potential for growing facial hair is doubtful, there is potential for this young artist to grow and evolve into a fully developed artist.

And if he falls off the rails once more, I’m sure Chu is ready for a third documentary.

Although Believe was well-directed, it may nevertheless be wise to wait for the DVD to come out, unless of course you are a true Belieber.

 

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