Changes, Justin Bieber’s fifth studio album, is here (out Feb. 14 via Def Jam Recordings) nearly five years after 2015’s Purpose. Everyone should aim to change over five years, and the 25-year-old artist is no different. With this body of work, he strips the fear associated with change because change led to him being better than ever.
From top to bottom, Changes showcases Justin at his best. Vocally, he smoothly weaves between registers, dictated by emotion, and shines in falsettos. Lyrically, his devotion to his wife, 23-year-old model Hailey Baldwin Bieber, is unquestionable. Musically, this album will likely always be compared to 2013 passion project Journals because of the R&B (or R&Bieber) undertones. That’s fair. But Changes is not Journals.
The 10-track Journals was underlined by a breakup and the toxic relationship left behind.
Changes orbits around a committed, happy and stable marriage.
Changes is different than anything we have heard from Justin since soaring to worldwide fame in 2009 because, well, he is different. He has fought through teenaged drug abuse, mental health issues, a recent Lyme disease diagnosis and many other growing pains. These tracks are without doubt love letters to Hailey, but also to himself.
“It feels good to share, man, to be honest,” Justin said in the fifth episode of his YouTube docuseries Seasons. “I haven’t talked about any of this. Not like this, ’cause I don’t think I was ready. I don’t think I was mature enough to even take responsibility and really mean it.”
In another way, the 17-track album shows Justin completely taking responsibility over his musical legacy—snuggling back into the R&B pocket he began in as anonymous Kidrauhl covering the likes of Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake and Ne-Yo.
Where Purpose was widely labeled as his comeback album with global pop-dance smashes “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry” solidifying he had not at all lost a step following a string a public incidents that need not to be rehashed here, Changes is a comeback on Justin’s own terms that focuses on the human condition and true fulfillment rather than industry successes.
He has earned that without any qualifiers, and especially so when considering his extensive history of peaking at No. 1 in various categories on the Billboard charts before his 26th birthday (26!).
Changes comes across more as a personal ode than an attempt to make an artistic statement, as if he’s saying: Here it is. Like it or don’t, that’s up to you, because I love it and don’t need external validation anymore. Me and mine are good.
For those of us on the outside looking in, however, below is a dive into standout lyrics from each Changes track.
“From my home to the road / I’ll make sure you’re comfortable / You make sure I’m comfortable / Our love’s unconditional / I need you all around me”
Get used to this theme. Justin sets the tone right away: the next 51 minutes will take you down a rabbit hole of habitual, forever, unconditional love.
Digging a little bit deeper, while knowing this is not at all what Justin was thinking when actually writing these words, this post-chorus brings to mind how Justin’s Purpose Tour ended, his upcoming Changes Tour, and the differences. The Purpose Tour ended early because Justin was absolutely burnt out. As he embarks on another round years later, he has a firm support system in tact all around him—led by Hailey.
“My love for you’s habitual, yeah (So habitual) / Not for a moment, but forever”
Can’t type. Too teary-eyed.
“So when you come around me / Treat me like you miss me / Even though you been with me”
“Come Around Me” is all about lovemaking, and there’s no need to look into it any further than that.
Changes is largely a slow burn—much like a marriage is intended to be, not-so-coincidentally—and this song is also on the slower side, but the trap beats alongside Justin’s rap-leaning chorus is a fun shakeup. (Don’t worry, the album’s through-line falsettos still make an appearance.)
“Shower you with all my attention / Yeah, these are my only intentions”
Justin is serenading Hailey and assuring her that his intentions are purely for her to know she’s “picture perfect” without a filter. “Love you now, a little more tomorrow,” he adds in the second verse. He even wrote on the wall at Spotify’s House of Changes event in L.A. on album release night, “My intention is to be the best family man I can be.”
That said, the music video puts an alternative spin on the song’s meaning. Justin and Quavo spent the day at the Alexandria House, a non-profit Los Angeles transitional residence for women and children. Justin separately told MTV’s Fresh Out Live that “Intentions” video was meant to “shine a light on social issues that are happening in our world and in our country” that wrongly marginalized people are struggling with. In other words, he also showered deserving causes with his attention.
It’s best to let the music video speak for itself from here.
“Drew House slippers on with a smile on my face / I’m elated that you are my lady”
Justin has not minced words. “Yummy” is about his sex life. “It is what it is, right? I’m married,” he told Ellen on her The Ellen DeGeneres Show birthday episode in late January.
So, leaving that alone, this verse stands out because it subtly nods to how secure Justin is.
He’s thrilled, rightfully, that Hailey is his wife. That’s first and foremost. Secondarily, though, the mention of Drew House says he’s also comfortable in his individual identity. Drew House is Justin’s clothing line. He knows who he is and how he wants to express that to the world, which led to launching a brand that gives others the same opportunity.
“Convinced I’m the only one, trippin’ in my head / Because in reality, you live in my bed / I’m supposed to hold onto everything you said / Yes or no question, don’t leave it unread”
Justin found his happily ever after in Hailey, and vice versa, but these lines serve as a reminder that marriage is when the real work begins. Apple Music’s Zane Lowe accurately described Changes as a “honeymoon record” during his sit-down with Justin, where Justin also expressed that these songs don’t “go super deep with it” because he’s still in the process of learning what it means to be married.
Wedding vows don’t absolve a couple from challenges, which, ideally, only makes the relationship stronger—especially if you feel comfortable enough to vulnerably admit insecurities.
“Would you be here with me forever, ever, ever? / Wakin’ up all alone ain’t better, better, better / Every time I go the wrong way, you turn me back around”
Loneliness is dark, and it can sometimes subconsciously be used as a defense mechanism against putting yourself truly out there. Nobody wants to wake up alone. “Forever” is a reminder of the prize to strive after instead of settling.
“Wednesday / It feel like a Tuesday when you met me / I remember it like it was yesterday / You just said ‘Hello,’ I lost my sanity / Thought you was lookin’ through me / Then you made me laugh with personality / When you said goodbye that was a tragedy”
The Biebers’ love story has been well-documented. They met as kids in 2009, became close friends then briefly took things to the next level in 2016 before an ugly split.
“Running Over” hints toward all of those obstacles before coming back to the present in the chorus, talking about the relationship “turnin’ into something” and being consumed by love.
“I just know where we were, and I know where we are, and I feel like I can see where we’re going,” Hailey said in the eighth episode of Seasons, which chronicles Justin and Hailey’s wedding ceremony in South Carolina last September. “Him and I both trust God so much with every aspect of our life. We’ve trusted Him through the really hard stuff, and we trust Him in the really good stuff.”
The serious elements are lightened by Lil Dicky’s goofy verse, which sort of feels like a nice way to interject Justin’s silly nature that Beliebers have come to adore (shout out Rick the Sizzler and Mustachio).
“Let your frustrations out right here / I’m your psychiatrist, let’s talk about it”
Again: this is obviously directed toward Hailey, but listeners can relate as well. This album feels like a cathartic, 51-minute therapy session.
“Did I come ‘cross your radar? / Cross your mind now and later? / Do you feel like you know me? / It’s just a part of nature / Let’s ask each other questions / Can we do each other favors? / Would you mind the labor? Baby”
Successful relationships are two-way with both parties seconding actions, emotions and intentions. Like in “Available,” this song pulls the curtain back to the potential uneasiness involved for anybody wanting to check in and make sure his or her partner is on the same page.
See, you’re lookin’ beyond the surface / Can tell by the questions you’re asking / You got me low-key nervous”
Hailey and Justin admitted to still getting nervous around each other in the fourth episode of Seasons.
“I think there’s always a little aspect of excitement that should be there, and nerves that should be there, when you’re romantically involved with somebody,” Hailey said. “Especially if it’s your person, and it’s the right person for you. Yeah, he still makes me a little nervous sometimes. Like, I blush and I get a little bit cheesy. Can’t help it.”
“Sometimes, I still get nervous with her in the room for some reason” Justin added. “And it’s weird, I know, but she just makes me nervous ’cause I love her so much, and I want her to like my stuff. And it’s about her, too.”
“Get Me” highlights the positive aspect of nervous energy when it stems from the one person who really gets you.
“Distance only made us grow fonder / Of one another / Be honest, what’s your E.T.A.?”
Hailey tweeted that “E.T.A.” is her favorite song on the album. Who can blame her? Wouldn’t you love listening to your husband desperately wonder where you are because he misses you so much?
“It’s really hard being the muse of a whole album,” Hailey playfully joked in the fourth episode of Seasons, but she didn’t need to be joking. It’s the truth.
In a literal sense, too, distance between Hailey and Justin during their break in 2016 and ’17 did make them grow fonder.
Side note: Fans have been asking Justin the E.T.A. for music since the end of the Purpose era. It was a long wait but well worth it.
“I’m goin’ through changes / Don’t mean that I’ve changed”
Purpose‘s title track was a piano-led ballad that introspectively explored the trials Justin encountered while searching for his God-given purpose. The Changes title track falls into the same category but with a distinctive delivery. The evocative, stripped back falsettos seamlessly complement the acoustics as the inevitable changes each human being experiences are outlined through Justin’s own lens: struggling to get out of bed sometimes and not being able to sleep other times, wanting to push further sometimes and feeling stagnant other times. Ultimately, the goal remains the same: drive to grow and be better.
“People change, circumstances change, but God remains the same,” Justin voices at the end of the track, reminiscent again of the heartfelt spoken outro in “Purpose” that also tapped into his enduring faith in God.
Through it all, Justin has not changed into somebody else or betrayed his character; he has evolved into who he was meant to be and actualized what he always envisioned for his life. There are countless examples, but given Changes‘ foundation, we’ll go with this one.
In 2012, Justin told Oprah that he wanted to be married by the time he turned 25 years old. Much more recently, in the fourth episode of Seasons, he opened up about having wanted to get married and have a family since he was a kid. He grew up and did that. How he arrived here, though, could not possibly have been predicted—marrying the person he met by chance backstage 10-plus years ago and formed a lifelong bond with over time—and that’s the point of this song.
Change is inherently challenging and unpredictable, but you have to push through the uncomfortable bits to eventually bask in the rewards meant for you all along.
“All you ever really want / All you ever really need is at home / Yeah, we’ve got the rest / Got the rest, got the rest of our lives”
All the fame and success in the world means nothing without a stable home base.
“Ooh, and I can feel you / Even though I haven’t touched you / Yeah, that’s what love is / That’s what true love is”
As seen in the eighth episode of Seasons, Justin performed “That’s What Love Is” at his wedding reception. “That one’s about, not everything needs to be physical,” he told the camera. “It’s like, I love her without even needing to touch her.”
This sentiment balances out sexually charged songs such as “E.T.A.,” “Come Around Me” or “Yummy.”
Justin has sung plenty about love in his lengthy discography, but his past songs feel now like puppy or perceived love—see: wanting to see his teenaged crush on the weekend in “Baby” or sitting by the fire eating fondue in “Boyfriend”—instead of the real deal. That’s the normal progression for anyone when it comes to matters of the heart.
But this is grown, lasting love. Justin is proud and wants everybody to know what he has finally found.
“At least for now / Trying to avoid disappointment / At least for now / One finger at a time, I turn the pages, yeah”
One fan at the private Indigo at The O2 London event on Feb. 11 relayed that “At Least For Now” was in some way influenced by Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which Justin performed a cover of during a 2016 Live Lounge performance and called one of his all-time favorites because his mother played it a lot in his childhood. It’s a nostalgic touch. Through all the changes, Justin’s roots are still strong.
The album ending (excluding the “Yummy” remix featuring Summer Walker) with Justin consciously making an effort to stay present is fitting. The album is called Changes, and change is going to continue shifting life moving forward, but an acknowledgement that you have to consistently engage in life’s minutia to avoid those changes throwing you too far off course is apt. Anybody is bound to go mad when trying to control the uncontrollable. All any of us have is right now and, if we’re lucky, the very next page.