Fangirls, squad up — it’s time to get your wallets and weapons out. On Friday, November 13th of 2015, both Justin Bieber — the teen heartthrob turned delinquent — and One Direction — the once-quintet from England — each released their fifth albums, Purpose and Made In the A.M. respectively.
While each do not necessarily have anything to do with one the other — one album meant to be a re-emergence, while the other being an indefinite farewell — both artists have had a challenging lead-up to the release of their albums. But it is these struggles that allow them to grow and reach new artistic heights.
Each album starts off on a somber and reflective note — with Purpose starting with the self-assuring “Mark My Words.” The song, along with a multitude of others on the album, touches upon the 21-year-old’s highly publicized relationship with Selena Gomez. However, while the song is meant to allude to his romantic life, it doubles as somewhat of a “welcome back” to the Bieber the world once loved. After an infamous 2014, filled with arrests, controversies, public meltdowns and more, Bieber is firmly stating that he’s more than ready to give it his all.
On the other end of the spectrum, Made In the A.M. kicks off with the “Bittersweet Symphony”-esque “Hey Angel.” The song is an inspiring, heartwarming number that almost seems reflective based upon the troubles leading up to the album. Earlier in 2015, previous One Direction member Zayn Malik announced that he was leaving the band to focus on himself and his solo career, leaving fans devastated and questioning whether the band would be able to continue on without him.
As Made In the A.M. progresses, it is clear that the album is meant to showcase a new artistic side of the band, while also doubling as their final album before a much-needed hiatus. Releasing five albums in as many years, the band has never truly had a chance to take a break due to their whirlwind success. This is touched upon in the first single, “Drag Me Down.” The tune is an angst-filled, reggae/rock number in which the band has never sounded more confident of who they are, stating that “nobody can drag them down.”
An album highlight is the Taylor Swift kiss-off “Perfect,” which plays out almost as a sequel to Swift’s single “Style” (the song was written about her relationship with band member Harry Styles, who coincidentally had a hand in writing “Perfect”). While the album has many faults — including “Olivia,” a song that attempts to be their Beatles moment, but fails — the album still has some gems, including the sentimental “I Want To Write You a Song” and the summer-y “Never Enough.”
Purpose, on the other hand, is a triumphant return for the once critically analyzed Bieber. Preluded by the Diplo and Skrillex collaboration, “Where Are Ü Now,” which appears on the record, Purpose marks a shift from the bubblegum pop seen in previous Bieber records. We’re now getting a more EDM-influenced sound. Tracks such as album highlight “Sorry” and the infectious “What Do You Mean?” allow Bieber to explore new territory while also serving to mature his sound. Other songs display this maturity, including the introspective “Children,” and the title track. Purpose also sees Bieber working with a diverse group of artists, including constant collaborator Big Sean, indie darling Halsey, superstar Ed Sheeran, and EDM hit-maker Skrillex, allowing the star to explore sounds previously left untouched in his career.
While both albums are crafted to be their strongest efforts yet, both have faults. Made In the A.M. lacks true progression from previous albums, with songs such as “End of the Day” and “Temporary Fix” sounding as if they could belong on 2014’s Four. While the band establishes a solid sound, the music can get dull at times.
With Bieber, however, the main issue is consistency. With his experimentation comes a somewhat incoherent record. While some songs explore a dance floor-ready soundscape, others are highly introspective and personal, creating an inconsistent comeback album.
While I have personally never been a big fan of either artist, it is clear that both have tried to create what could be their best album. Purpose and Made In the A.M. both reach what they set out to achieve. While Bieber manages to firmly place himself back in the music industry, 1D allow themselves to properly bow out. As Bieber has finally found his purpose in music, I personally have to say he came out on top for me. One Direction is able to prove that they can thrive without one of their members backing them, but they may still be looking for their own purpose.
Justin Bieber’s Purpose gets a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
One Direction’s Made In the A.M. gets a 2 out of 5 stars.
— Jake Johnson, Music Blogger