Illustration by Kathleen Hetherington

After a messy and desperate rollout, Justin Bieber has released his latest album “Changes.” Packed with forgettable, identical, mellow trap-pop, “Changes” repeatedly exposes Bieber’s inability to connect to his audience.

“Changes” is meant to refer to the overall life changes Bieber has been making and made since his last album, 2015’s “Purpose.” These changes range from his decision to attend church to marry Hailey Baldwin, whose last name is now Bieber. In the title track, Bieber says he is going through so many changes, but maybe he should have waited for those changes to come to fruition.

Despite not having released an album since 2015, Bieber is showing little to no growth on “Changes”. Every song still lyrically revolves around some nameless, faceless girl set in front of mellow, non-offensive, trap-pop production. Bieber loves to talk about change, but he struggles to show what those changes are. 

Sure, nothing sounds like his breakout hit “Baby,” but almost everything sounds reminiscent of his 2015 hit “Sorry,” or the lead single off “Changes,” “Yummy.” Bieber is not making an effort to try out new sounds or lyrical themes. Instead, he is playing it safe because he has lost his ability to connect with his audience. Bieber is watching his audience age and change. His album shows that he obviously wishes he was changing too, but he is stuck playing the same style of music for new crops of faceless young girls. 

The unasked-for release of “Yummy” should have been the tell-tale sign that “Changes” was going to be, well, not great. The thing with Bieber, though, is that he totally has the ability to make good music. “Purpose” was a good pop album and all the singles were great, which is why the lead single off “Changes” sounding like that should have said it all.

Not only does “Yummy” sound unfortunate, but the song’s existence is embarrassing. Bieber’s desperate, tireless promotion of “Yummy” is already one of the most embarrassing moments from 2020. Despite his attempts at begging on social media, the grating, yet catchy track missed the top spot, something that can be considered a surprise for the star who had three consecutive chart-toppers on his last album.

To talk about “Changes” as a body of work would be to pretend that there are standout tracks. Sadly, not hyperbolically, every song on “Changes” blends together into one, big forgettable 51 minutes of Bieber. “Available” sounds like “Yummy,” “All Around Me” sounds like “Second Emotion” and so on. 

The features on “Changes” are not great, not bad, just phoned in. Post Malone and Clever sound a bit out of place and unneeded on “Forever”; Kehlani’s verse is wasted on “Get Me” and Lil Dicky’s verse on “Running Over” is expectedly corny. Travis Scott’s verse on “Second Emotion” is actually one of the album’s highlights, though.

“Changes” is as if Bieber went into the studio, liked one song he recorded and then demanded that every other song sound the exact same. Bieber has talent and potential, which makes this album such a disappointment. Bieber has always favored commercial success over critical respect, but even his previous albums had solid collections of fresh, good songs. 

Bieber wants people to think he has changed but this album does not show any sort of change. If Bieber wants to move past being a teen sensation, he needs to bring his life changes into the sound of his music. Those faceless girls grew up, now if only Bieber would too.