“Rollin' eyes back in my head, make my toes curl, yeah, yeah,” Justin Bieber croons to his wife Hailey Baldwin in his new hit “Yummy,” a catchy ode seemingly to their sex–life and the first song off of his latest album Changes. In fact, the whole album seems like an ode to Baldwin and their relationship, with allusions to their extracurricular activities (to put it euphemistically) and introspections on their newfound love and how it has “changed” him.
Changes sounds different from anything Bieber has put out before, with the album seeming to explore more R&B territory than his usual genre of pop. The album is cohesive, unlike Bieber’s last album released in 2015 Purpose, which was an amalgamation of techno–beat–drop bops (like “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry”) and deeper ballads (like “Love Yourself” and “Life is Worth Living”). Most songs on Changes are simple and slow—the kinds of songs with a beat that you can’t help but casually tap your foot to, but likely won’t be dancing to at a party or club (unless the songs are extremely remixed).
Bieber’s voice is as smooth as ever and each song shows off his vocal range, peppered with unexpected yet effortless switches from rich tenor to delicate breathy falsetto. And the songs are catchy, with repetitive lyrics that will play on a continuous loop in your head even after you press pause, so listen at your own risk. Avoid “Yummy,” “Intentions,” and “Forever” if songs easily get stuck in your head.
Bieber has grown up in the public eye—transitioning from golden boy with the Hair Swoop to tattooed and tormented popstar over the years. It's fitting that he wants Changes—his first album release after a five–year hiatus–to reflect his maturation, opting for a more sophisticated sound and addressing the most climactic and meaningful part of his journey: his marriage to and love for Baldwin. He’s not the same prepubescent boy who sang “Baby” about an innocent crush—he’s now a married man serenading his wife.
But the album seems disappointingly anticlimactic and elementary for a comeback.
The lyrics and rhymes are often embarrassingly simple—sometimes even nonsensical. For instance, when describing how his love for Baldwin is infinite, Bieber brands it as “Habitual,” a rather bizarre word choice, and rhymes the word uncreatively with adjectives like “untraditional” and “unconventional.”
In “Intentions,” he tells Baldwin unoriginally that she’s so “picture perfect [that she doesn’t] need [a] filter.” There’s a song that asks Baldwin to be “with [him] forever, ever, ever” because “waking up all alone ain't better, better, better.” And then there’s “Yummy,” whose lyrics are basically just that word.
And though the album is cohesive because of its overall more sophisticated R&B style, that’s mainly because most of the songs genuinely sound the same, both in their tune and in their overall lightheartedness. It gives the album a one–dimensionality and flatness that wasn’t present in Purpose, which included songs whose substances and sounds varied.
It’s great that Bieber has found love and is using Changes as a platform to proclaim it, but the album’s hopeful tone and lack of tension have created a work that lacks a certain edge and universality. The album seems too personal in some ways, like in “Yummy’s” vulgarity and the way “Confirmation” and other songs seem to speak directly to Baldwin. But it also doesn’t feel personal enough to resonate deeply—we don’t really hear about Bieber’s “changes,” and what happened over his five–year break that got him to this place of contentedness.
Ultimately, Changes does reflect changes for Bieber: a new chapter in his personal life, and a new era for him as an artist. The former is undoubtedly exciting and climactic, but the status of the latter is questionable.