Changes (Def Jam)
Verdict: A bonus for Beliebers
The Slow Rush (Fiction)
Verdict: Pick ‘n’ mix pop
Justin Bieber’s marriage to American model Hailey Baldwin has clearly given him much-needed stability.
The Canadian heartthrob took a break from music last year to focus on fixing some ‘deep rooted issues’ after admitting to feeling disillusioned during a world tour that often cast him as a troubled soul.
It has taken him four years to deliver a new studio album — a period in which he has also battled Lyme disease — but he has finally come up with the goods in Changes, a loved-up affair in thrall to Baldwin, whom he married in September 2018.
It’s no coincidence that his fifth album is being released on Valentine’s Day and comes packaged in a red sleeve.
Justin and Hailey Bieber are pictured in an undated photo. It has taken him four years to deliver a new studio album — a period in which he has also battled Lyme disease — but he has finally come up with the goods in Changes, a loved-up affair in thrall to Baldwin, whom he married in September 2018
Discovered by soul star Usher after posting cover versions of pop hits on YouTube, Bieber, 25, has been famous since his early teens, slowly edging away from bubblegum music towards futuristic R&B and, on 2015’s Purpose, electronic loops and fractured dance beats. Rather than branch out any further, he uses Changes to refine the styles that suit him best.
With no copies of the new album sent out in advance, reviewers were given a preview at a playback hosted by the singer himself in London this week.
Dressed in jeans, and sporting a new moustache, he chatted informally about the songs while standing behind a large DJ console sipping from a bottle of mineral water. Rather disconcertingly, he also sang along to many of the tracks, a move that could have backfired spectacularly if his new material wasn’t quite up to scratch.
Thankfully, Changes is generally a pretty strong return.
He was originally going to call the album Journals II — making it a companion piece to his 2013 singles compilation Journals — but revised his plans after acknowledging the challenges of a decade spent growing up in public. ‘Good or bad, we all go through things we can’t control,’ he added philosophically. ‘What we can control is how we react to those changes.’
He gave a thumbs-up from behind his DJ podium as romantic ballad Come Around Me was played and then danced along to Forever. ‘This one’s really cool.’
He also explained how Running Over was made with Lil Dicky, a comedian and environmentalist who is a ‘super talented’ rapper — and talked about his love for his wife. He even attempted (unsuccessfully) to contact Hailey in Los Angeles, using FaceTime.
As for the music, the album begins with a series of dreamy, mid-tempo electronic tracks. Come Around Me is a love song a little too high on auto-tune, but Intentions is a quirky synth duet with rapper Quavo.
Justin and Hailey Bieber are pictured in an undated photo. There’s also, in At Least For Now, a song Bieber admits was heavily inspired by Tracy Chapman’s 1988 single Fast Car
On Available, Bieber showcases his trick of singing in the middle of his range before taking off into a soft falsetto. Brash pop hooks are in short supply, but my hunch is that these mellow moments will ultimately turn into earworms. A shift of gear becomes clear as the album progresses, with the electronic instrumentation of the early tracks giving way to the distinctive, finger-picked guitars of ETA, That’s What Love Is and the title track, about ‘trusting God through the bad times’.
There’s also, in At Least For Now, a song Bieber admits was heavily inspired by Tracy Chapman’s 1988 single Fast Car.
Having limited his most recent artistic exploits to one-off liaisons with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, Ed Sheeran and Billie Eilish (a remix of Billie’s Bad Guy), Bieber is now keen to re-boot his solo career. Changes won’t make us all Beliebers, but it’s a confident start.
n THE notion of the one-man-band used to conjure up images of a singer with an acoustic guitar, harmonica and cymbals strapped between his knees. For Kevin Parker, an Australian who records as Tame Impala, the reality is different. An outstanding producer and guitarist who has worked with Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson, he mixes progressive rock with sugary pop.
Successful enough to sell out London’s O2 Arena and New York’s Madison Square Garden (he tours with a full backing band), Parker continues to mix and match genres on his fourth album The Slow Rush. Some of his melodies are undercooked, but he has added a personal touch by writing about his insecurities and romantic indecision.
‘Will I be known and loved?,’ he asks on Borderline, before addressing a troubled relationship with his late father on Posthumous Forgiveness, a two-part epic which begins angrily before expressing compassion and Parker’s regret at never being able to tell his dad about recording at Abbey Road — and taking a phone call from Mick Jagger.
Guitars are thinner on the ground than before, with Breathe Deeper underpinned by Daft Punk-like electronics and Lost In Yesterday driven by a familiar synth motif.
On It Might Be Time, Parker sings of the fear of losing his mojo. On this evidence, there’s little chance of that.
- Both albums are out today. Tame Impala headlines the All Points East Festival in London on May 23 (ticketmaster.co.uk).
HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS: Weather (BMG)
Famous for his Eighties singles Hip To Be Square and The Power Of Love, the New Yorker’s fondness for smooth, soulful grooves remains.
Now 69, he offers a wry take on the ageing process. One Of The Boys makes his outlook clear: ‘I ain’t getting any younger, but I’m a long way from done.’
PUSS N BOOTS: Sister (Virgin EMI)
Since springing to fame with the jazzy Come Away With Me, Norah Jones has moved into rock, dance and electronica.
Puss N Boots is a country project with fellow singers Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper and her new trio shines on a mixture of covers and originals.
It’s Not Easy features her typically husky vocals
NATHANIEL RATELIFF: And It’s Still Alright (Concord)
Rateliff made his name singing brash, blue-eyed soul.
The Denver native is more reflective on a folky collection written on the back of a crumbling relationship and the death of a close friend.
All Or Nothing has a lightness of touch evoking Harry Nilsson.
MAHLER: Symphony No.4 (BIS BIS-2356)
The Fourth is the symphony in which Mahler indulges in the least excess, except perhaps in the long third movement.
Marked ‘Restful’ and ‘Poco adagio’, it is beautifully played by the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vanska, and the SACD made in June 2018 is atmospherically recorded. A rather silly name change took this orchestra out of the limelight, but as Minneapolis SO its history goes back to 1903 and in recent years it has been regaining its popularity.
Vanska makes a few spontaneous tempo changes in the opening movement but these are within the Late Romantic style, and the Scherzo goes very well, with true Viennese lilt.
In the vocal finale our own Carolyn Sampson is pure-toned as she warbles about The Heavenly Life. This is one of the best in these artists’ ongoing Mahler series for BIS.