I’ve been wanting to write about this song for a while. It’s the track I jam to in my bedroom, it’s the song I sing at music practice, and it’s the first song I really connected with on Purpose.
Not that Purpose is a bad album, it’s actually surprisingly decent for a Bieber album. But *Love Yourself* is the stand out track.
Thematically it’s very similar to J Cole’s “Love Yourz”, but where Love Yourz goes for a more straight up hip-hop treatment, *Love Yourself* is stripped back.
It’s what separates it from the other tracks on the album, and most of what’s in the top 40 at the moment.
A lot is written about the Millennial generation, but very little of it covers what it’s actually like to live in it. This track does that. When we’re talking about songs that define the middle of the second decade of the twentieth century, we won’t be talking about Jess Glynne, we’ll be talking about this.
_For all the times that you rain on my parade
And all the clubs you get in using my name_
One of the strongest openings to a track in recent times. Throughout the song, there’s a quick switch back and forth between talking about the individual and talking about the group, because today they’re one and the same thing.
Relationships today are played out in public – in the clubs, in Facebook and on Twitter – and the perception of the group matters. It makes relationships a minefield, and never ever about just two people.
*You think you broke my heart, oh, girl, for goodness’ sake
You think I’m crying on my own, well I ain’t*
Here’s some quiet defiance. Nowadays you’re not allowed to suffer. You’re expected to be always on, always available, always upbeat. Everything that happens is a “learning experience” or has made you “twice the person” you were.
Inherent in Twitter and social is a need to present a facade to the rest of the world. It’s not a place to admit you’re vulnerable.
_”And I didn’t wanna write a song
‘Cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care, I don’t”_
And we’re back to image. Biebs is denied the catharsis of writing a song because of what the act of writing it would say about him.
It’s Carly Simon – but inward looking.
_”But you still hit my phone up”_
It’s the reality of today. Dozens of Facebook notifications, hundreds of Twitter mentions, thousands of Grindr chats. The expectation that you can be interrupted at a moment’s notice, and that to not reply is to go cold.
_”My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone”_
This line is a reference to his track with Cody Simpson, “Home to Mama”.
“Because I’ll take you home to mama
Let you meet my friends
Because you don’t come with drama”
Again we’re back to the group and opinions of others. Nowadays meshing badly with the group makes any relationship a no-go.
Also, we understand who Bieber is. We know his back story. The real power is that given all that – given the global mega-stardom – that what his mum thinks still matters.
_”‘Cause if you like the way you look that much
Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself”_
Could it have been “fuck yourself”? Yes. Should it have been “fuck yourself”? No.
When the song came out, a few commented that it would be interesting to see which line he performed on tour – whether this was about radio play.
I don’t think it is, and it’s the right decision. There’s lots and lots of very good “fuck you” songs – and throwaway anger would have been out of keeping with this track.
We’ve all been there. As we battle with difficult times in our lives, often the focus is on pleasing other people. Sometimes the search for accolades and recognition (even in the form of likes and comments) feeds the struggle.
But you come to a realisation after a while that it doesn’t mean anything to you – that the highs don’t mean so much anyway – and that instead you need to focus on is appreciating yourself.
But isn’t it the opposite you might say? Isn’t the ‘selfie culture’ about narcissism? No, it’s about validation. It’s about being able to tell a story to ourselves that we matter. That in this cacophany of noise we mean something. But in doing it we build barriers. We exclude when we mean to include.
And really we need to get back to appreciating ourselves again.
_”And when you told me that you hated my friends
The only problem was with you and not them
And every time you told me my opinion was wrong
And tried to make me forget where I came from”_
Because identity is so bound up in the group, if you reject someone’s friends, you’re implicitly rejecting them.
The track really is beautifully simple. It’s the same melody, repeated and rearranged.
This track benefits from not having a large crew of writers. Often when there’s a big crew of writers, you don’t get a sense of where the personality in the track is. That’s not the case here.
But with Love Yourself, you’re looking at a track with longevity. A track that will define its era much more than the EDM we’ve been fed in recent times.
And much like Britney’s “Piece of Me” it’s hard to separate the music from the artist’s current situation. This will be the track that marks the transition in Bieber’s career through from baby faced twink through brat to bona fide pop star.
It’s going to be interesting to see how he follows Purpose, once all is said and done.
Not all of the album is this quality. Some of it has the tendency to veer back into bland pop and blander production.
But he has hit on something. A track that is of its moment and connects. I like it. I like it a lot.