Bieber Fever or Justinian Plague?

Artwork by Hannah Kahn

By Hannah Kahn

Gone are the days of Justin Bieber’s signature flow peeking out from under his purple hoodie. Bieber has truly transformed. After launching his career as an adorably squeaky Canadian cutie, he became a seemingly doomed child star. The 21-year-old singer has become relevant again, but this time the buzz is actually positive. Coming off a rocky, uber-public breakup with Selena Gomez and the most stylish DUI of all time (a drunken race between a yellow Lambo and a red Ferrari), not to mention a hilarious yet cringeworthy Comedy Central roast, Bieber has gotten his share of bad press.

Thus, Purpose: THE MOVEMENT was born. Bieber released a video, explaining, “There were times when I thought, I don’t wanna do this anymore. I lost my purpose for a while, but I found it. Purpose is so important.” For Bieber, the album’s inspiration came from the idea that “the best is yet to come” and “there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” Although these are not groundbreaking aphorisms, they are preferable to some of Bieber’s old mottos, such as “I feel like the Kurt Cobain of my generation, but people just don’t understand me.”

Along with the album, Bieber dropped 13 videos over the course of a day. Unlike those of most male singers, the music videos (admittedly with an exception or two) don’t include beautiful, scantily-clad women fawning over Bieber—in fact, many don’t feature Bieber at all. The once obliviously egocentric superstar (this is the same guy who smiled in his mugshot and who was carried up The Great Wall of China by bodyguards) is now taking the camera off of himself. Instead, he turns it on extremely talented professional dancers with specializations ranging from modern to hip hop to interpretive dance. One of the album’s singles, “Sorry,” was turned into a video featuring a group of female dancers of all shapes and sizes, clad in Ezoo-meets-Fresh-Prince apparel, dropping and twerking to their hearts’ content. On the other side of the spectrum, “Life is Worth Living” is a much more somber tune with an appropriately melancholy video. A male and female pair performs exceptionally difficult choreography with immaculate precision and grace.

Purpose’s standout track is “Love Yourself,” the ultimate revenge song, written by Bieber and fellow tween obsession Ed Sheeran. It’s respectful yet cutting, lacking the immature name calling of many other artists of his generation. Instead, Bieber opts for tasteful digs, i.e., “My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone.” If that doesn’t hurt, I don’t know what does. Bieber juxtaposes the bitter lyrics with a sweet melody, topped off with an immaculate acoustic guitar accompaniment, making you feel like Justin Bieber is singing for you at your own private concert. On a beach. On your honeymoon. It’s that good.

While he remains a controversial figure, there is no doubt that Bieber has matured. Bieber’s efforts to shift focus from his image to his music have clearly paid off. Even though there will be more Bieber escapades to come, it’s nice to see that he has found his purpose.

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