Why Is Justin Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ Nominated for an Album Of The Year Grammy?
In the years following the release of 2012's Believe, Justin Bieber found himself in the spotlight — not because of music, but for his frequent run-ins with the law, both in the U.S. and around the world. From a DUI arrest to a vandalism charge, Justin was viewed as the ultimate bad boy.
With Purpose, Justin formally said "Sorry." Evidently, it's never too late.
While Justin's music has garnered legions of Beliebers and steady stays at the top of the charts, Justin grabbed the Recording Academy's attention with this particular set of hits, including his collaboration with Jack Ü, "What Do You Mean?" For his work, he received four Grammy nominations at this year's ceremony, including Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year.
But what made Purpose a cut above the rest? Starting with Adele and Beyonce, we took a look at this year's nominees and broke down all the reasons why they deserved the nod -- even though Justin might not even show up to the awards ceremony this year.
ABOUT THE ALBUM: Justin took two years to work on Purpose, but it wasn't because of all the trouble he was getting into. Instead, he was having trouble focusing on what direction the new album should go, especially since his 2013 compilation, Journals, sounded more R&B. Since he worked with Jack Ü on "Where Are Ü Now," which also appears on Purpose, Diplo, especially Skrillex, helped out with the new record's sound. Longtime collaborator Jason Boyd, Bloodpop and Benny Blanco also produced on the project, and Ed Sheeran co-wrote "Love Yourself" for the LP.
SINGLES: While some thought "Where Are Ü Now" was meant to be a single from Purpose, which was still unannounced when the song dropped back in February of 2015, the song instead introduced listeners to the fact that Justin was working with Diplo and Skirllex, AKA Jack Ü. Following a celebrity-driven campaign on social media, fans got to see the fruits of that collaboration for his own record when "What Do You Mean?" released in August of 2015. It became his first No. 1 single on the Billboard Pop Songs chart. His next single, "Sorry," dropped in October of 2015, and was a mainstay in the top five of the charts in all his markets. Wanting to express another side, he dropped "Love Yourself" in November of 2015 on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show before the song officially became the third single in December. The song topped the charts in Australia, the U.S., UK, Ireland and New Zealand.
CRITICAL PRAISE: Aside from making the "Best of 2016" lists in Spin, Rolling Stone and Fuse, Justin got a fair amount of props for the fourth LP. Entertainment Weekly praised Justin for keeping the record aligned with the sounds of the moment. Leah Greenblatt wrote that "Bieber’s sound is much more deliberately of the moment: a skittering, metallic synthesis of dance music and modern R&B whose evolution probably owes a lot to new-school collaborators Diplo and Skrillex, as well as the lesser-known production wizard Poo Bear." Kenneth Partridge's review for Billboard also pointed out that Justin's collaborations helped elevate the LP. "Despite its countless co-writers and producers, chief among them Bieber’s bestie Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, the album boasts a consistent palette of lush, low-key electro-dance sounds: sun-warped synths, chipmunk accent vocals, rattling trap hi-hats, and loads of bass," he wrote. "It’s in this Spotify-age blend of dance, hip-hop, R&B and classic smooth-dude vocalizing that Bieber truly shows his growth." The 405's Samantha O'Connor called it "intimate" and "mature." "Notably shy of repetitive stadium-sized singalongs," she wrote, "it's a more intimate and mature affair on all accounts. By quieting things down, Justin Bieber may just drown out the noise."
CULTURAL IMPACT: Similar to what Beyonce did for Lemonade, Justin included a cinematic element to Purpose. Each of the tracks were made into a video, which opened the doors to parodies of the clips like this one. But rather than a single storyline, he recruited dancers to depict the emotion and message of each song on the record. Although Justin was considered a featured artist, "Where Are Ü Now" was included on the album, too. The song became such a hit that The New York Times broke down how the collaboration came to be.
If there's anyone who really took Biebs under his wing, it was James Corden. Not only have the two done a few "Carpool Karaoke" stints together, but James even let Justin take over the monologue on The Late Late Show with James Corden, as well as sit in as drummer in the band. Justin continued to show off his drumming skills on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with a rematch against Questlove. And while Questlove won in 2010, Justin took the crown when they went head-to-head again.
While some doubted Justin was going to make it back to the top again, Beliebers were ready to support by not only making it to his shows but also grabbing as much of his merch as possible at his pop-up shop.
THE ARTIST SAYS: While Jelena was done for a while, Justin admitted to Ellen DeGeneres that there are songs about Selena Gomez on Purpose.
He also opened up to Complex about the challenges with this album. "I've done probably three or four albums that I haven’t released yet. I’ve gotten all of these different modes, and try to dive into different ideas, and I finally came up with something that was pretty genius. I have these collaborations with Skrillex and Diplo, like “Where Are U Now” that just took off. This is their first top 10 record. It just shows that we’re breaking barriers in the EDM world. I think people have been trying to do it for a while, making dance music, like Usher and all of those people, but I don’t think it’s been done in the right way."
He talked to i-D about his new sound on the record. "I think it's more relatable now," he said. "When I had that young voice it was hard for people to connect. Dudes can listen to it now and say, 'Yeah, I like that new Bieber song."
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