Justin Bieber, what is going on?
Justin, forever caught in a cycle of messing up and then apologizing for it, is reinventing himself yet again, trying to get himself right with God, his wife, and the public. His latest redemption press tour has consisted of the release of an album, an EP, and multiple interviews and features. However, Justin's rebrand has been consistently raising eyebrows for its consistent exploitation of Black people and Black culture.
Justin has long struggled with his relationship with the public. From being one of the biggest teen stars in the world to having many public meltdowns, from struggles with addiction to run-ins with the law, and controversial behavior for which he has made the requisite apologies, Justin has followed the typical and predictable trajectory of the young and famous.
Yet he has also managed to remain one of the most famous pop stars in the world — the shoutout he received and the starring role he played in Drake's "POPSTAR" proves that the Canadian singer is still synonymous with the term.
Yet over the past few years, Justin seems to have turned a corner from the reckless days of his youth, marrying his onetime on-and-off girlfriend Hailey Baldwin (now Hailey Bieber) and focusing on his marriage and his music. All sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, not. While Justin is no longer embroiled in the same high profile scandals of his past, the past year has been frustrating for Justin fans, as he has doled out content that thinks itself profound but really just exploits and misrepresents the people he claims to be helping or representing.
Before Justin released his latest album, he released a string of music videos to accompany his singles — all of which were attempts to put himself in the shoes of people who are struggling but amounted to not much more than poverty p*rn and out-of touch dramatizations of actual issues.
His video for "Holy" diluted the issues of 2020 — environmentalism, job loss, homelessness, and poverty — with a vague message about love being the answer to everything, and the videos for "Anyone" and "Hold On" followed suit.
Justin Bieber - Holy ft. Chance The Rapperwww.youtube.com
The album announcement explained Justin's gestures at social activism by revealing the album title, Justice, and claiming that the project was Justin's attempt to do his part in healing the world, pretty much.
The album, however, failed to deliver anything but love songs to his wife, peppered with watered down snippets of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches. The most egregious element of the album was a speech about civil disobedience (ostensibly only chosen because of its use of the word "justice"), which uses the quote "If you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live" as a segue to a song named "Die For You." The extreme misappropriation of the quote was almost laughable — like, Justin, your love for your wife is not what Dr. MLK meant by any of that…
As if this weren't enough, only weeks later, Justin released a surprise EP called Freedom in which he continued to engage with social issues by talking about the biggest plague to society: cancel culture. Despite his public platform, his slew of interviews, and his globally streamed albums, Justin crooned out some terrible tracks about feeling silenced.
In the title track of the album, admittedly the best song on the release, Justin collaborates with popular afrobeats rapper BEAM on a track which sees him using a slight, vague island accent — presumably to imitate BEAM and the cadence of other afrobeats artists.
All of this has come to a head (in the most literal form) as Justin posted a series of photos on Instagram that showed off his new hairstyle: dreadlocks.
The initial photos, posted over the weekend, made Justin's hairstyle unclear, concealing his now-revealed transgression in baby-man buns (a la Brad Pitt at the Oscars). But now Bieber is rocking his appropriative take on the Black protective style openly as he shares his latest vacation on Instagram.
Not for the first time, the singer has donned the style with absolutely no regard for its cultural relevance — treating it like an accessory akin to the pearls he also shows off in the picture.
Justin's inability to take criticism for his cultural appropriation and thoughtless use of Black cultures for his own profit is rooted in his idea that anyone who says anything negative about him must just be a hater.
As Justin posts from his vacation — while much of the world is still suffering from the still-raging pandemic — showing off his wife and his insensitivity, we can only surmise that this all this has been an attempt to be included in the Grammy's Hip-Hop category — which he has been desperate for since his fifth album, Changes.
If so, Justin, this is not the way.