Say what you want about Bieber, his back catalogue contains an incredibly strong group of singles, along with his first two records, that put a lot of modern pop artists to shame. At times it can be difficult to take his work seriously, especially when comparing his previous and seemingly innocent singles, such as ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ and ‘Baby’, with the more mature themes heard on Purpose. However, as with Miley Cyrus, Bieber has inevitably shed off his squeaky clean, Disney approved image, and while some might say breaking the law probably isn’t the best way of achieving this, you could always argue there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Opening this album up, we receive ‘Mark My Words’, an example of Bieber reaching into his bluesy/R&B influences that are more apparent than ever before. It’s certainly not the most intense thing he has created by a long shot, but it sets the tone perfectly for themes of regret, criticism and forgiveness that he continues to delve into.
The first single, ‘What Do You Mean’, moves somewhat out of the comfortable mainstream accessibility of Bieber’s earlier work with subtle hi hat sections, seductive vocal hooks and a somewhat out of place tropical electronic flute ornament in the background. ‘Sorry’ follows in the same vein, yet with more traditional EDM and piano ballad elements, unsurprisingly enhanced by Skrillex’s crisp production of the track.
Purpose features far more guest artists than with previous releases, such as ‘No Sense’, which includes Travis Scott’s brand of fast paced, auto-tuned vocal delivery. There is no doubt that signing with the Def Jam label for this release has allowed Bieber to get far more in touch with his love of hip hop, as well as adding to the whole ‘5am soul-searching’ aesthetic – the likes of which would make Drake blush with envy.
One of the strongest tracks on here, ‘Love Yourself’, co-written by Ed Sheeran, is arguably the most soulful and sincere song Bieber has ever released, despite not being a lead single (yet). The minimal guitar riffs, the slow background clap, and the beautifully ornamented trumpet section towards the end fit very well with Justin’s lyrics of a clearly heart-wrenching breakup. As sad as this song is, the countermelody in the chorus is very uplifting.
While there are a few tracks that could be considered filler material near the end of this record, and certainly the deluxe edition doesn’t really offer much extra in terms of quality musical content that enhances what hasn’t already been said on Purpose, Bieber pleasantly brings across a fresh perspective to his pop sensibilities with his latest release. There’s one or two dud tracks on here, and the almost cringe worthy spoken word outro on All In It doesn’t really come across as particularly convincing when the whole ‘only God can judge me’ cliché has been used so many times. However, this is no doubt one of the finest pop records of 2015.