Justin Bieber’s hiatus, return and musical direction moving forward as his album looms.
The last time Justin Bieber released a solo single or a studio album, Obama was still President, we all thought Jon Snow was dead, and Kobe Bryant was the star of the Los Angeles Laker (not LeBron James). Seems like ages ago, right? Needless to say, a lot has changed since then - one thing that hasn’t is the Biebs’ ability to serenade with the best of them. We’re lightyear’s away from the world that Bieber gave Purpose, his highly successful fourth project, yet out of the proverbial time capsule, he emerges ready to marvel fans once again with his vivacious vocals.
Bieber attends the fight between KSI and Logan Paul at the Staples Center, November 2019 - Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Purpose amassed Bieber three no. 1 singles, propelling him in the most rarified of air. But that kind of altitude could rattle anyone - so albeit for a time, the starlet allowed the world of music to eclipse him. He vanished from the scene for a better part of the decade. Bieber’s hiatus is almost two years longer than Adele - who went missing for three and a half trips around the sun after the birth of her child. Upon returning, though, she would release her defining no. 1 single “Hello,” a gem from her recording-setting album 25. The project would go on to become the highest-selling debut of all-time.
Usher, Bieber’s mentor, took a hiatus of his own in 2001. This before releasing 8701, a legendary albumthat went on to sell almost 5 million copies in the United States alone and go 4-times platinum, Usher’s sabbatical spanned four years. So there is a playbook for Bieber to return and return with a vengeance. When addressing if he thought the time off would hurt his career, Usher told MTV, “I feel what’s meant for me will wait for me.”
So could the blue-eyed, heartthrob reengineer this type of success after a half-decade album drought?
Since we’ve last seen Bieber, he’s gone through a very public breakup with Selena Gomez, beef with The Weeknd, canceled the final leg of his Purpose World Tour, and married Hailey Baldwin. He’s also tussled with his mental health and drug abuse. At length, he’s spoken about devotion to God and taking a stance against racism. Bieber has grown a great deal over the past half a decade, but before the song’s official release, many pondered how his sound would evolve. Furthermore, what would the now-married pop mogul have to say?
Bieber and his wife Hailey attend 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs - Omar Rawlings/Getty Images
In a December 24th Instagram video, Justin said, “As humans, we are imperfect. My past, my mistakes, all the things that I’ve been through, I believe that I’m right where I’m supposed to be and God has me right where he wants me. I feel like this is different than the previous albums just because of where I’m at in my life. I’m excited to perform it and to tour it. We all have different stories. I’m just excited to share mine.”
Bieber officially announced his new single “Yummy,” alongside the album’s trailerand hints of a tour to follow. If that wasn’t enough to sputter the hype vehicle, Justin released a trailer on New Year's Eve announcing his 10-episode YouTube Originals documentary series.
This isn’t the teenage bubblegum version of Justin Bieber (not even close), and the miles traveled since his early success show resoundingly on “Yummy.” It’s a stark contrast to the Mickey-Mousery of older records like “One Time,” which he released in 2009 and was the antithesis of Bieber Mania.
“Your world is my world
And my fight is your fight
My breath is your breath
And your heart (is my heart)
You're my one love
My one heart
My one life for sure
Let me tell you one time (girl I love, girl I love you)”
“Yummy” comparatively is a seductive and graphically descriptive sonnet to sexual innuendo. His delivery registers like a snake charmer’s hypnotizing command of sound, eventually making your shoulders bounce. The lyrics are pretty straightforward but few can bellow and belt on a number like the Beibs. There isn’t a whole lot of substance on the record but that’s not really what you sign up for pressing play on a Beiber track. He seems like he’s trying to fit his music into the box of current trends. Uninspiring but packaged to sell.
“Yeah, you got that yummy-yum
That yummy-yum, that yummy-yummy
Yeah, you got that yummy-yum
That yummy-yum, that yummy-yummy
Say the word, on my way
Yeah babe, yeah babe, yeah babe
Any night, any day
Say the word, on my way
Yeah babe, yeah babe, yeah babe
In the mornin' or the late
Say the word, on my way”
The song is Produced by Kid Culture, Sasha Sirota, and frequent collaborator Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd. Other works produced by Poo Bear include 112's "Peaches & Cream," "Dance With Me," Usher's "Superstar," Danity Kane's "Sleep On It" and Mariah Carey's "The Distance." The trio unite to engineer a sound that is four tablespoons airy chimes and bells, one cup reverberating baseline and a dash of high-hat sprinkled with a kick for flavor. Blended together and married to Beiber’s rich voice, the beat makes for a body-rocking, intoxicating delectable.
"Yummy" is a flare gun, lighting up the sky but packing just enough flavorless punch to keep your attention. While it is pretty to look at, the song seems most effective in building hype for this long-awaited album. As Popcorn as "Yummy" appears, it has all the fixings of a commercial smash. Catchy, sexy, fun - the track is a satisfying appetizer for Beiber faithful who have likely grown with the singer and are ready for the accelerated explicitness of the lyrics. The instrumental sounds fluffy enough to grace a 10-year old’s, skating rink birthday party playlist with lyrics raunchy enough to be played in the strip club. In all, “Yummy,” loses its sweetness rather quickly. Despite some moderate criticisms, the song tastes just good enough, and starved “beliebers” will gobble it up.
Responding to a Forbesarticle, the Grammy award winner coined his new sound R&Beiber.
The pop sensation has taken detours into country, EDM and even reggae with the likes of Billie Ellish and Ed Sheeran. But his roots will always be Pop and R&B. Since being discovered and mentored by Usher, who no doubt influenced his musical palette, style, and persona, the singer has flourished. Beiber once referred to himself and Usher as a “dynamic duo.” To denote this, days ago their collaboration “Somebody To Love” surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify. Usher’s influence can be heard in Beiber’s vocal delivery. The way he floats in and out of keys sometimes racing up to falsetto’s top floor before parachuting back down in an auspicious display of range and ocular command. Usher’s longterm vision for the singer has been in the works since the early 2010s. He said this about an adolescent Bieber even back then:
“I think he posses the confidence that you have to have as an artist. The talent that you [all] have yet to discover is what I notice more than anything. His ability to play guitar, play the drums, sing while playing the piano - these are all elements that speak to artistry. When you think of a long term story, you can’t just think about what you can do with a hit record, or what you can do with a great video - you have to think about an entire career.”
Is this is the Justin Bieber Usher envisioned all those years ago? Is there still potential untapped or has the arguable King of R&B’s protege peaked only to now be on an inevitable and treacherously mediocre skid down the slope of success? Opposite what gravity feels like for the rest of us, a journey down the mountain is always harder than the climb for a fading star.
The Hip-hop scene wrapped their arms around a young and budding Beiber as the 13-year-old initially traipsed from his rise to the pedestal of stardom, given his co-sign from Usher. Later, his 2013 album Journals had characteristics of R&B influence. An example of this comes on, “All That Matters” a swaggy and smooth single off the memento. As the singer has grown, he’s developed more and more of an edge; in and outside of the studio. In years past, Beiber has gotten features from the likes of Lil Wayne, Migos, and even Future who joined him on “What’s Hannin.” To boot, he’s appeared on a number Hip-Hop and R&B records himself - riding shotgun for tracks like Drake’s “One Dance” remix, DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” or the remix to “Foreign” from Trey Songz. The new album features Ty Dolla, Post Malone, and Kelani - so we're sure the composition will exude an R&B, Hip-hop aroma.
Bieber and Post Malone backstage at Coachella 2018 - Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Bieber’s new album and the tour will garner millions of “Beliebers” reciting his songs and consuming mountains of his content, inevitably. The project will probably produce massive commercial success. So far, “Yummy” is the album-catapulting single of the decade. I mean the decade is only four days old, but that counts for something, right?