‘Justice’ lacks the depth and meaning promised by it’s sampling of MLK and religious cover art imagery
Justin Bieber’s latest album ‘Justice’ has become somewhat infamous online for it’s ‘MLK Interlude’; a one-and-three-quarter minutes cut on the middle of the album that samples a rare Martin Luther King Jr speech and cuts off MLK at the end while he says ‘Justice’ – making the word instead sound like ‘Justin’. Much like the album cover – featuring the ‘t’ in Justice stylised as a Christian cross in a remarkably similar fashion to that of the French dance duo of the same name – the interlude uses the work of someone else to make the album seem more substantial and deep.
Despite the allusion to Christianity on the album cover and the double referencing of MLK, most of ‘Justice’ is as shallow and generic as most other commercial albums. Opener ‘2 Much’ begins with an MLK sample, but ends up being a run of the mill love song that leaves little impression after it’s two-and-a-half minutes are over.
The album is dominated by middling tracks like this. ‘Off My Face’ is a sweet but forgettable acoustic cut, ‘Holy’ is undercut by an uncharacteristically poor Chance The Rapper feature, while ‘As I Am’ does what countless other bland pop songs have done before – combine a generic pop song with a Khalid feature to give off a misplaced sense of depth and melancholy. Occasionally, the tracks are even worse: ‘Die For You’ is made almost unlistenable by how over-produced it is, while album low-point ‘Love You Different’ is a lifeless track seemingly hell-bent on making female listeners’ eye’s roll into the back of their heads, with lyrics like “no need to beat your face in Fenty”.
Towards the albums endpoint, the album quality picks up; going from an actively bad album to an okay – and occasionally even good – record. ‘Ghost’ contains a surprising moment of great lyricism with the line “If I can’t be close to you / I’ll settle for the ghost of you”. ‘Anyone’ is surprisingly affecting, as is ‘Lonely’ – even if it’s undermined by cries of “lo-o-o-onely” in the post-chorus. Number 1 single ‘Peaches’ meanwhile is the album’s catchiest track and best attempt at fusing R&B and pop together, even if the shouts of “that’s the shit” and “badass bitch” take away from the song’s quality. Unfortunately, this pick-up in quality comes far too late in the album and is not substantial enough to make up for the album’s weakest points. Nor does it make the MLK sample any less exploitative and transparent.
Best Tracks: Somebody, Peaches, Anyone, Lonely, Loved By You
Worst Tracks: MLK Interlude, Love You Different, Die For You, Deserve You