Justin Bieber’s fifth studio album ‘Changes’ lacked the magic that his previous records embodied, and that statement was widely backed up by the disappointing chart success and review scores it received. With his worldwide tour being put on hold due to the COVID pandemic, it seemed like the perfect time for him to try re-create that spark with more new music, so he jumped back in the studio and kept grinding during this time of uncertainty.
The lead single ‘Holy’ featuring Chance The Rapper from this forthcoming project was a strong, soulful and catchy return to pop music for the Canadian singer-songwriter. It still wasn’t as strong as the material his fans became acquainted to on ‘Purpose’ and ‘Journals’, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.
‘Lonely’ featuring Benny Blanco is the next piece in this journey, and it’s a mellow reflection on the harm of childhood fame and success. The song was marketed as a “tell-all” and a “candid exploration into what it was really like”, and while it does hear him speaking his truth, it’s also quite predictable and stays very cookie cutter with its approach. With lyrics like “What if you had it all but nobody to call? Maybe then you’d know me. Cause I’ve had everything. But no one’s listening. And that’s just fucking lonely” and “And everybody saw me sick, and it felt like no one gave a shit. They criticized the things I did as an idiot kid”, you kinda want him to get a little grittier and more honest.
I know it would’ve been tough, and lonely for him growing up in the spotlight and being accustomed to these awful attributes that come with fame, but how he’s explained it is something you could pull off Google. What we are lacking in his songwriting is details and raw truth. We are lacking the injection of honesty that his old co-writers Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter pride themselves on in their own work.
Stripping the production back to just a piano, he attempts to elevate the story with an emotional foundation, and while it is sad to listen to, it doesn’t intensely captivate. The most impressive, and exciting thing about this song is his vocal delivery in the chorus where he rolls a slight country-yodel when he sings the word “lonely”. The rest is quite predictable.