I grew up with positive messages left and right. I ate that shit up. Good stuff—fuck the bad guy! I do not know if this is universal, but the children I went to elementary school with did not agree with this. We tended to butt heads, as kids with newly-found constructions of rivalry are wont to do. It is worth saying that I was self-righteous and I liked telling people what to do a lot and hated when people tried that nonsense on me, so when Mark recommended me Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other, I stared, asking both him and myself “why?” Seven years old and here I was confronting the idea of confronting language, disrespect, and hooliganism on a scale that would most definitely change the course of my life. I still have not heard that Limp Bizkit record in full, but it was the first thing that came to mind around hitting the fifth song of Purpose.
Who is the bad guy?
2013 Bieber’s behavior and the scrutiny that followed turned him into a figure that overshot “bad boy” status, he became an imp, a mythologized, estranged kid forced with balancing both his effervescent fans and a legion of adults and who felt threatened, and here was their chance to rejoice and complain about the children who waste their money and use it to buy things like eggs and motor oil to drench themselves with for weird art sex or something. How dare he have money and use it to mess with people, how dare this bored idiot come down from the mountain made of all the money and take advantage of real life video games we made just for him. You can’t expect every 19 year-old white male to behave, that just wouldn’t be right, after all who else but Bieber would become the the cute, guiding baby-hand of the post-Tower Records world we lick with disdain every 12 minutes, refreshing until receiving a text message with threats to kill our cat. I don’t want to say Justin is what we deserve, that’s not why he’s “back.” He’s just really good at knowing who you are.
If you are one of those folks able to conceive a threshold of a celebrity’s general intelligence through the act of listening to their music or watching Constantine (2005), that’s funny to me. Sometimes I can think that way too, but this summer I was captivated by two songs in particular: Gobby’s “Y Smart Car” and more importantly Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” I don’t know why I haven’t been talking to my friends about the clock sounds that lead the song because I am quite frankly fascinated. They move faster than they should since the song is programmed in 125 bpm so even if the ticks were moving double-time as if this were some “special clock”, my calculations still result in around 62 to 63 bpm—more than a minute. Justin is kind of a special clock if you really feel like thinking about it. He gets that same trademarked relative amount of time as the rest of us, seeing as how he’s a human being, a sentiment Justin asserts a lot on Purpose, but we mustn’t forget how warped celebrities are! Don’t forget! Show business moves quickly, and while 2015’s newly proclaimed Beliebers like me enjoy the raw humanity, chivalry, and overall breeziness he delivered with “What Do You Mean?”, I still think there is going to be a lot of disappointment.
It’s impossible to be paranoid when your questions are being answered, right? That’s definitely the definition of paranoia. Why did Justin do the things he did, why did he put peoples’ lives in danger back then? You’re really not getting those questions answered, so if that’s what you’re looking for in the deep cuts of Purpose, you’ll just find paranoia. Like a true politician Justin doesn’t give you an explanation because he wants to focus on healing, which is pretty admirable, but the imp is still in the process of being killed slowly through the most intense acupuncture the equivalent of posted bail can buy, and who knows if it can even be defeated? Nothing’s wrong in trying to heal, in fact that’s what makes the record human at all. There are people that will flood Justin’s inbox with skepticism. “Do you really care about healing or are you just mad 1D took over in 2013? Do you really want to be a nerd? Fuck me daddy(?) Where oh where is the cool, reckless Justin we all loved to hate back in 2013?” And they’re all great questions. I too want to know who asked Justin to change, but I reckon he had some say in the matter, so I am not paranoid.
For fun’s sake, let’s try this: I feel like Justin Bieber. I am a sought-after cutie, I care about the environment (I think), but I have a wild streak that’s untamable by both my religion and the clumsy authority figures I’m surrounded by. You could say I never really grew up, but this year I too had an awakening. I was not necessarily the most grateful person to the folks in my life. Last year when a friend handed me a large wad of cash to buy food and drinks for a party, I accidentally spent it all on Apricot Pueblan Milk Snake Eggs and a gram of Cocaine. My friend wasn’t too happy, we called our partnership quits, I skipped town reluctantly, and also had a stint in a Florida jail for convincing the customers at a PetCo that I was a gator trapped in a human body (part of a failed attempt to pawn the snake eggs)—all while on a bodacious coke high at 11 in the morning. Unlike Justin, I did not toss my eggs at a neighbor’s window, I kept them and allowed them to hatch and I raised several beautiful baby slitherfriends. Months went by, my aggression got worse and one day I hit the cage out of frustration and the reptiles emitted a strange, mildly disgusting smell that reminded me of the home of that same friend’s party, the buzz of which I had like, totally aborted, you guys. I knew it was too late to redeem myself to those innocent hapless ravers, but perhaps I could make a difference for the future people I have the opportunity to cherish.
So here I am, writing to you, finally blessed with an embargo lift, right in time to discuss Justin Bieber’s latest output. I loved “What Do You Mean?”, I was obsessed. The song feels like the culmination of Bieber’s adulthood, the product of all the years he’s had to really think about life. This time it’s like he’s talking about life, not about life on mars like, on that uh, last highly conceptual space album he recorded, which was fine, kinda weird, but it had some jams. And that’s kinda what I would have to say about Purpose as well. Although the jams are way better on this one, it’s got some of what I’m ashamed to call filler. “Love Yourself” is another blame track with either a patronizing or very witty element of closure, I’m not certain, but Justin, don’t stray, you’re not fooling anyone with the intensely sparing atmosphere and instrumentation!
In part of this journey, Justin runs to a nearby gas station to talk to an unwitting clerk about his revelation and his worries about the future on “Children”, the objective best song on the record. After completing the purchase of rolling papers, Justin eventually relents his barrage of inspiration on the clerk for a quick breather, but during that, the entire sound takes a turn and launches him physically into a nine-year-old’s birthday party. Justin feels alive once more, able to reflect on his childhood, reminded of the dwindling innocence of children on Xbox Live. This is repeated twice, and I think it’s two different nine-year-olds in the same city. This track brings me back to that elementary school I attended, it reminds me of that moment I was asked by Mark to sacrifice my ears to what I thought, at the time, was nearly Satanic, and I get warm thoughts from this now, because that moment was a landmark happening in my life, I am who I am now, in part because of this. Also, I don’t think anyone has recommended me anymore music since I was seven.
Here is my biased and fully involved opinion: this is one of the best albums of the year, because it’s got a great message, but it’s not better than Emotion and it’s not better than In Plain Speech. Justin is like the Ben Carson of boypop music right now: people unfairly tear him down for having values, principles, and theories of which he is fully capable of expanding on, and he’s made a few mistakes on his path to being one of the most important doctors of all time, but look at him now, look at the person you see now and then try looking me in the eye and telling me he won’t save the 400 guardians who protect the Atlantis border’s ecosystem after the Great Rift Tear bound to hit within the next 3 years. Justin is on the same track to do even better things than he is now and he’s already come a long way, and that’s literally undeniable.
My time pissing off my teachers in elementary school is relevant, as is my throwing away a life of college and friendship for a quick thrill. The periods that left me in a mentality akin to the Doldrums of Justin, both separated by about 12 years of filler, are still relevant. But they are not me and now I write to you, honest, real, and clear-headed and I hope you’re proud of both of us.