It can be easy to hate on Biebs, but his 2015 album “Purpose” was an impressive feat.
I’m not sure what my obsession is with 2015 lately. Perhaps because it was when I reached two decades on Earth? It surely was a memorable summer both personally and musically. However, it’s a release by Canada’s golden child Justin Bieber from November of that year which is rattling my head lately. Purpose was a great album front to back, and I don’t think it gets enough discussion. I can’t pinpoint why, but here’s to trying.
I was admittedly salty toward Biebs when he first debuted. Every girl in my high school freshman class was obsessed with him when they should have been obsessed with the starting quarterback of the freshman football team. I threw unwarranted slander his way, but I can’t pretend I didn’t bump “One Time” and “Baby” in my alone time. It got to a point where I no longer hid my fandom which I will absolutely never refer to as “Bieber Fever.” “Boyfriend” dropped in 2012 and was one of my favorite songs of the year. J Bieb was growing up before our eyes, dipping into Hip-Hop and R&B en route to impressing and collaborating with artists in those genres in the process.
Thus, it should come as no shock that he had an A-List of features for Purpose. Well, along with his label affiliation with Def Jam. Over the 18-track deluxe album, Big Sean, Travis Scott, Nas, Halsey, Diplo, and Skrillex all pop up to assist Justin in what is, to me, his best work album-wise. The only reason I say this is because Journals wasn’t an official release. For me, this is fully grown up Justin. It was impressive to see him burst onto the scene in 2009 as the teenage sensation, but something about seeing an artist grow into themselves and hone their abilities is remarkable.
Purpose came after a turbulent year for the 24-year-old, dealing with heartbreak and a temporary retirement stint. Yet singles “Where Are U Now,” “What Do You Mean,” and “Sorry” steamrolled ahead up to the inevitable release of his fourth studio album. “Love Yourself” is the most polite yet rude R&B “fuck you” ballad I have ever heard. Even though the guitar sound may lull you into thinking he’s got some cute shit coming, he quickly gets into telling shawty how he really feels about her. “My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone” is absolutely egregious and I love every second of it. These people from our past often think they have a hold on us and our family, so a moment like this hopefully empowered some scorned lovers to boss up and dismiss their exes.
“No Sense” is a love bop with a smooth chorus highlighted by Trav completely switching the flow at the end. Surely it was an early sign of his music flexibility on a more commercial scale, but the frantic energy they both exude makes it evident this came from a real place for both of them. Halsey joins up for “The Feeling” which has an electro-pop feel to it but it isn’t just about the beat. They both confront their truths as to whether they love the person they’re with or simply the feeling of being in love. Another relatable cut we can simultaneously dance to at a festival and torture ourselves with on a late night.
While Justin has collaborated with a horde of rappers, namely Drake, Lil Wayne, Chance The Rapper, Future, and Ludacris, if you had told me Nas would join him for a song I’d look at your crazily. Now, with more knowledge of the business and that labels strongly encourage their signees to collaborate with their labelmates, it isn’t so far-fetched to me. Though I wonder how much it was the label making Nas do it or Nas seeing a golden opportunity to expand his reach to a new market.
Whatever the case may be, Andre Harris created a beat that both men could simultaneously feel comfortable yet ready for tear it down. It may not be my favorite song on the album, but the Illmatic rapper delivered a strong verse about how difficult it is maintaining a relationship with a woman and how he doesn’t have time for nonsense after all he’s accomplished. It certainly fits the theme, and I’m sure Biebs was ecstatic to have such a powerful name on his tracklist.
The title track is the true moment. All of the negativity of the last few years lead him to the point where he openly discussed his relationship with God. It sounds like a love song, and for what it’s worth it is. He loves God, he loves his fans, and loves the fact he found his “Purpose.” It’s a tear-jerker for sure, much like the piano ballad “Life Is Worth The Living.” To see Bieber addressing his religion and encourage people to live another day wasn’t appreciated in the way it should. We tear down our stars for the bad things they do, but we should equally promote the positivity they put out in their music. Purpose was full of hits, but the same songs that sent commercial shockwaves surely hit home for a lot of his fans.
You can’t help but feel what your favorite artists feel. The heartbreak, the struggle, the anger, and what have you. There were people quite literally prepared to take their lives when the news broke that he may retire, so this moment in 2015 meant a lot to more people than just him and the impact goes far beyond that year. Bieber wasn’t the “cute” little boy that girls obsessed over, much to my chagrin. He was forced to mature and accept where his life was before moving forward. Purpose feels like that acceptance, in addition to a celebration of what was to come in his future now that he was back on track. As we can see now, the happily married singer is doing just fine only now he has a newfound purpose.