Originally published for The Edge’s album of the year countdown
Justin Bieber had it made. After a career as an irritating tween catnip saw him sell over 40 million records in the US and amass more Twitter followers than anyone but Katy Perry, he began the stereotypical descent into chaos that befalls many a young celebrity. He was getting arrested for egging neighbours and druggedly driving Lamborghinis. The rails he’d fallen off were bespoke, but rapidly fading away. 2015 changed that.
It began in February, when Skrillex and Diplo’s Jack Ü collaborative album landed from the blue with a bizarre Bieber feature. That track, ‘Where Are Ü Now,’ struck platinum thanks to its remarkable blend of incredible production, an infectious dolphin wail of a breakdown that turned out to be Justin’s voice pitched up to 2010 levels, and signs of genuine emotion and humanity in the vocals.
Then, having achieved a solid footing and alerted us to his capability to release tolerable music, November rolled around with Purpose, which instantly took the Edge team by storm. It opens with Justin’s vulnerabilities, as ‘I’ll Show You’ and ‘Sorry’ act as pleas for respect and forgiveness atop delightful foundations from Skrillex and co. that allow, once again, that earnestness to shine. Ed Sheeran and a soft guitar take the reins for the superb juxtapositional anthem of bitterness ‘Love Yourself’, and a pair of rap collaborations ease us away from Selena Gomez.
Halsey drops in, incredible as ever, for a duet on ‘The Feeling,’ which touches on the very concept of love before Justin’s newfound crusade for positivity and such is displayed in a pair of soothing piano ballads, ‘Life Is Worth Living’ and title track ‘Purpose.’ Sandwiched in between are another pair of Skrillex-powered songs to wrap the quintet, with ‘Where Are Ü Now’ receiving a reprise before ‘Children’ wraps up the quintet of Skrillex productions under a coating of charity and perplexing inspiration.
Purpose is the album we didn’t know we wanted. Capable of pandering to the existing fanbase whilst endearing the Canadian adult to those who had previously despaired, it’s equal portions succulent pop, a heartfelt exploration of love, and a sophisticated dance compliation. Every breath recorded within tantalises, teasing a lyric to echo through the most diverse of arenas. It’s not too late to say sorry, for now we all beliebe.
Out now via Def Jam