New decade, new Bieber. Like him or loathe him, Justin Bieber the publicity magnet and occasional pop star is set to once again be a larger-than-life presence throughout the music world. A new solo album, his first since 2015’s redemption-of-sorts ‘Purpose’, is on the way while a mammoth North American tour will kick off in May. And if that’s still not enough JB for you then Seasons, an intimate YouTube docuseries chronicling the past few years of Bieber’s life, will premiere later this month.
The period since ‘Purpose’ has certainly been eventful for the 25-year-old: a tour cancellation, a high-profile break-up, an even higher-profile marriage, and the kind of whole-hearted embrace of religion and God that Kanye West became equally besotted with in 2019 through his Sunday Service. “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,” Bieber recently declared in a video announcing his plans for 2020. “I feel like this is different than the previous albums just because of where I’m at in my life.”
Clearly self-motivated and willing to draw upon his recent life experience for creative good, the arrival of the next musical chapter of the Justin Bieber story seemed like a fairly appealing prospect at first. But the lyrical content of ‘Yummy’, the first single from his upcoming fifth album, fails those expectations from the off as Bieber decides not to bother us with anything even bordering on the revelatory. “Yeah, you got that yummy-yum / That yummy-yum, that yummy-yummy,” he coos with heart eyes at Hailey Baldwin (“I’m elated that you are my lady,” he adds later on) on the so-radio-friendly-it-hurts chorus. “Say the word, on my way.” The Bieber detractors are on their way, more like — and they’ll have a field day with this.
But all hasn’t been immediately lost for #Bieber2020 (don’t worry, his Canadian nationality means he’s not entering this year’s US presidential race) with ‘Yummy’. The lovestruck tone of this track may be a brazenly obvious ode to his wife (and look how that worked out for Chance The Rapper last year), yet Bieber’s embrace of R&B — or “R&Bieber” as he’s previously termed it — to deliver that message isn’t a complete turn-off.
Producers Poo Bear, Kid Culture and Sasha Sitora opt for minimalism with their choice of instrumentation, melding airy keys with pop-trap beats with an evident view of creating something as universal as the likes of ‘Hotline Bling’ and Childish Gambino‘s ‘Feels Like Summer’. With this kind of musical backing in place, Bieber’s layered vocals and harmonies are able to glide along rather effortlessly — it’s just a shame he doesn’t have more to say with them.
While not quite the unexpected comeback banger that both ‘Purpose’ singles ‘What Do You Mean?’ and ‘Sorry’ were back in 2015, the simple yet navigable ‘Yummy’ will still be gobbled up as the appetising starter that Bieber fans have been craving since the new album announcement. Whether future singles or the new album itself will offer any advance on that simplicity — or indeed whether “R&Bieber” is worthy of the hype he’s afforded it — remains to be seen.