I only know the lyrics to “Baby” because I was held captive in an intermediate school gymnasium.
My friend rapped—“She knows she got me dazin’/ ‘coz she was so amazin’”—while I prayed for a basketball to hit my brain and knock me unconscious.
I was not optimistic enough to imagine a future where Justin Bieber would have sabotaged his career in a haze of pot smoke and speeding tickets. Boy Meets Prison was to be the sitcom of our preteen years, but most of us—the sane of us—turned off the channel.
And now, having lost an octave, Justin is back—back to croon apologies to gymnasium graduates that spurn my-first-love songs.
Justin, however, rigged the game.
With the lyrics of songwriter Poo Bear and the electronic tick-tock of Skrillex, “What Do You Mean?” became Justin’s first No. 1 single. Its album, “Purpose”, sold 525,000 copies in its first week and stands to be Justin’s sixth No. 1 record.
Justin, though not an engineer of his revival, swallows his penance. He joins few pop-and-lock dancers in his “PURPOSE: The Movement” music videos, and his album’s test-tube conception leaves him nothing to perform live but a stomp routine.
He doesn’t complain.
This is the Justin-less product, and it’s one we’re buying. No more “Baby” voice, no more $40,668 eBay hair, and no more mugshot smile.
The Justin “comeback” as hopefuls have called it—is far from cutting edge. Its only spot for him is on the cover, where he bows his head in prayer or apology and grasps at sex appeal.
But it is beyond cunning. Its choreography is deliberate: no obvious Selena songs, no much-needed expletives in “Love Yourself,” no noticeability in a collaboration more Halsey than Justin.
Sales soar, but the Boy Wonder of pop music remains 21 and tired, for this album is self-flagellating, and he pines for fame that destroyed him. He’s “only human”, he sings. He’s “not made out of steel”. Why can’t we just forgive him already?
Oh, but Justin—we already have.