Image courtesy of Billboard.com
By Caroline Morris
When Justin Bieber burst onto the scene in 2009 he incited Bieber Fever worldwide. Now, over a decade later, he maintains his place in the spotlight as his sixth studio album Justice is released.
Despite Bieber’s ubiquitous presence in the music industry, his performance on March 17, 2021 was his first with NPR’s Tiny Desk. He performed with them to give an exclusive look at his new album, Justice, which dropped on March 19, 2021.
The concert opens on Bieber and his band in a casually decorated open space. Tapestries and candles are strewn everywhere to create the ambiance of an open mic, and Bieber’s amorphous outfit of white and beige mirrors the laid back vibe.
Bieber opens with the song “Holy,” a previously released single typically featuring Chance the Rapper. The song opens with Bieber’s incredibly smooth vocals that sound almost autotuned in their flawlessness.
As the ballad continues, it diverts from the radio version familiar to listeners’ ears. DJ Tay James brings in the turntables to provide a funky back beat, likely to provide the dynamacy to the song that Chance the Rapper usually brings.
Despite this song having been previously released, hearing it live transforms it. Bieber’s voice shines during live performance, sounding angelic as he sings “Holy.”
Bieber then jumps onto the keyboard to transition into his new song “Peaches,” which on his album features guest vocals from GIVEŌN and Daniel Caesar, the former previously featured on Tiny Desk himself.
This track imitates an R&B sound and uses an echo effect to make Bieber’s clear cut vocal tone a little more haunting, especially when his exquisite vocals riffs linger in the air.
The lyrical content of this song differs distinctly from the first track that focused on an intimate and perhaps Christian image of love.
“I get my weed from California (That’s that shit)/I took my chick up to the North, yeah (Badass bitch).”
This song definitely lacks in depth and creativity. Those same lyrics repeat over and over again so that it feels like there’s no progression beyond slight instrumentation changes in the accompaniment.
“Hold On” comes next, opening with a very mellow tone only to take on an upbeat, pop-rock sound at the chorus.
The star of this piece is definitely the bassline. Harv, the bassist, keeps up a steady rhythm throughout the song that catches the ear and pulls at the body. This definitely distinguishes the song from being lost in a sea of Bieber’s other music, because it adds a new element.
In both “Hold On” and “Peaches,” Bieber seems to be trying his hand at pushing out of the one-dimensional pop genre, and he achieves a degree of success, but the underlying category for Bieber’s music remains pop.
The final song Bieber performs is “Anyone,” a ballad that mixes with electronics, previously released as a single.
Bieber’s voice on this track can only be described as pretty, as the higher register of the song works alongside the almost ethereal lyrics.
“Sleep with me here in the silence/Come kiss me, silver and gold,” Bieber croons, depicting an airy and sentimental image of love.
The lyrics of the song set it apart, the words so sweet and intimate that they almost hurt to hear for the wanting of such love.
“Looking back on my life, you’re the only good I’ve ever done.”
Justin Bieber’s Tiny Desk Concert had its highs and lows. His natural vocal talent shone through in each of the songs, and his tentative forays into blending genres were well done, but his personal performance did lack panache. Bieber did not interact with his bandmates and the only time he seemed engaged with the camera was when he had his face shoved against the lens, leaving much to be desired for stage presence.
In the end, the music is the music, and in that area he satisfies. So check out Bieber’s Tiny Desk Concert and feel free to click to another tab while it plays.