This year, I’ve challenged myself to write a review of every song that manages to get to No. 1 in the UK charts. Here’s the latest one:
OK, so we need to talk. A few weeks ago, Justin Bieber occupied three out of the Top 5 positions in the UK charts. He currently has the No. 1 and No. 2 spots (those being Sorry and Love Yourself, both of which follow his previous No. 1 Where Have You Been). This is insane. This type of thing doesn’t happen. What is going on?
I’ll tell you what’s going on: Bieber’s slowly improving. The thing that strikes me most about his new songs compared to the old ones are that they finally sound like they’re written by a human. Early Bieber songs had sentiments no-one has ever held: no-one’s called someone an “Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo Lover”; no-one’s ever seduced someone by just going “Baby Baby Baby Oh” at them; no prepubescent white kid has ever convincingly called someone “Shortie”. Early Beiber songs were written by people who obviously didn’t know what their words meant, this being a large part of why he was so hatable: with his meaningless lyrics, squeaky-clean appearance and hollow production, Justin Bieber barely came across as real during those days*. People hated Justin Bieber because, on some level, they couldn’t accept that he existed.
The sentiments in his current work are at least identifiable as belonging to our species. “Is it to late to say sorry?” “What do you mean?” These are questions that people have asked. Justin Bieber is human now. Amazingly, that’s a step up.
Not that the lyrics are flawless, Love Yourself in particular having quite a few stupid lines which negate it’s meaning. “I didn’t want to write a song” says Justin Bieber, making you wonder why he did. Looking further into the song, you realise that it’s about a woman who he used to date but is now over; yet, like Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, if he was truly over her, he wouldn’t have written the song**. It negates itself; everything in it is a complete lie.
(Interestingly though, Shake It Off was my second worst No. 1 of 2014 while Ed Sheeran was my No. 1. Guess who co-wrote Love Yourself: Mr Sheeran. It’s literally the worst elements of my least favourite songs combined into one track: no wonder I consider it the worst of Bieber’s recent work***.)
There is another large problem too: Bieber himself. As a songwriter and a producer, he’s maturing nicely, but as a singer, he’s still average at best. I didn’t mention this in my previous reviews because my reviews are less “Does it sound good?” and more “Does it mean anything?”, but it is something other reviewers have said and I definitely agree: the worst thing about a current Justin Bieber hit is that he’s the one singing it.
So where does that actually leave us in regards to Bieber? Well, he’s getting better. I would actually say that all three of his latest songs are good and I am really interested to see what he releases next (something I can say for the first time ever). None of his songs are particularly great though – I’m slowly coming to the opinion that Bieber should be a producer/songwriter and stay away from the spotlight as much as possible. Who knows though: the next song he releases could be genuinely fantastic. It’s not out of the realm of possibility anymore.
* The easiest way of make a lot of people hate someone being to dehumanize them.
** People don’t dedicate songs to people they don’t care about, unless they’re writing a Fast and the Furious soundtrack.
*** That said though, the line “You should go and love yourself” is wonderful.