Monday, January 4th, 2016

Justin Bieber – Love Yourself

We do! #posivibes


Katherine St Asaph: Pro: “Love Yourself” turns not to be patronizing breakup “advice” redolent with the maturity regifted from PRs by critics onto Bieber, but a Cee Lo-level gloss on “go fuck yourself.” Con: “Love Yourself” is a Cee Lo-level gloss on “go fuck yourself” in a song that’s as if John Mayer couldn’t play guitar.

Crystal Leww: I didn’t think that Justin Bieber was going to be the savior of R&B, but I know now that he’s definitely not the savior of acoustic guitar sadboy music. The sadboy thing worked on the trio of 2015 singles “Where Are U Now,” “What Do You Mean,” and “Sorry,” but only when there was dynamic production to go along with it.

Thomas Inskeep: No matter how sweetly he sings it, this is a supremely nasty little song, four minutes of honest-to-goodness slap-in-the-face “HA HA YOU SUCK NOW I’M GONE” sentiment. Benny Blanco’s production is surprisingly minimal: nothing but one little guitar lick, a muted trumpet on the bridge, and Bieber’s vocals (solo on the verses, multitracked on the chorus). It certainly sounds distinctive on the radio. But god, the lyrics — the song is credited to Biebs, Blanco, and Ed fuckin’ Sheeran — are so bitter, so hateful; this is a song for those who’ve been broken up with, and no one else.

Lauren Gilbert: This sounds like (and is) an Ed Sheeran song, all honesty and bitterness, with the feeling of a late-night confidence.  But Bieber doesn’t sell it; he has none of the flow and musicality of Sheeran.  Coming from Bieber, “if you like the way you look that much, oh baby, you should love yourself” sounds snide; Justin Bieber certainly primps and preens as well.  Does Bieber even know where he’s from?

Alex Ostroff: There’s a universe in which “Love Yourself” is a vaguely captivating charismatic asshole song, but Bieber can’t sell it, and just comes off as a slightly less venomous John Mayer. His delivery is beautiful, bland and blank, with no trace of bitterness outside the vitriol. Two points for the inevitable repurposed YouTube covers directed at awful ex-boyfriends.

Alfred Soto: I appreciate the chutzpah: Bieber’s last triptych of singles exploited his self-absorption and willingness to distort his performances for the sake of filthy lucre. Now he’s full on positioning himself as a nasty piece of work, and it can’t be unintentional. Whether Ed Sheeran or Bieber himself deserves the credit I’ll take the maliciousness of these lyrics over anything Sheeran’s released to date. A month ago I hated “Love Yourself.” Hearing it several times on the radio it’s easy to imagine a high school girl directing it at a guy, mimicking Bieber’s ice cold malevolence. How wonderful that would be.

Jonathan Bradley: Bieber and Sheeran sculpt a toxic and torched ornament of a song, in which malice becomes a craft. Bieber, here more than ever the dew-eyed, sympathy-begging teen heartthrob he’s played his entire career, speaks with the blokey geniality of eternal best-mate Ed Sheeran in service of a tireless vindictiveness. “My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone” is now “shake me ’til you wake me from this bad dream” is now “maybe we found love right where we are.” An elegiac horn figure is placed like a doily over the coda of the track.

Micha Cavaseno: A little too brief on the “zinger” chorus, but made up for with the oddly suitable trumpet solo. Bieber here is rather cagey and the slightest bit more shrewd than earnest, but for what that’s worth its definitely a fascinating picture of a guy healing up in dickish fashion. Arrangement leaves me cold beyond the solo though.

Megan Harrington: It’s mean-spirited, but at its center “Love Yourself” has a kernel of good advice. If you’re wasting your time trying to squeeze love out of this egomaniac, you’re better off spending all that energy on yourself. Despite all the bitter, blind hatred, “Love Yourself” is musically gentle and soft spoken. Its sound is at odds with its message in a way that errs on the side of palatability, but it’s almost impossible to feel much sympathy for Bieber. 

Nina Lea Oishi: If “Love Yourself” sounds like Justin Bieber singing an Ed Sheeran song…well, that’s because “Love Yourself” is Justin Bieber singing an Ed Sheeran song. Really, though: “My mama don’t like you/and she likes everyone” is maybe the Ed Sheeran-iest line ever. Still, the underlying bitterness tones down the saccharine. Does it hit all the right, limpid-eyed, deeply earnest marks? Will teenage girls be playing it on their guitars for the next year to come? Do I find it inoffensive enough to actually enjoy it when it comes on the radio? Check, check, and check.

Patrick St. Michel: Just because we all have accepted Bieber now doesn’t mean we have to embrace Ed Sheeran’s dreck. 

Brad Shoup: There is no song on the Hot 100 as quiet — or as angry — as “Love Yourself”. Bieber completely unrigs his ex: there is no defense left, no spark allowed to live. It’s pretty brutal, and it blows up in his face, of course. It’s so one-sided he won’t even let the trumpet make a case. His timbre and the guitar’s are twinned: glum, clear, and withholding a lot of rage. It’s compelling — even as just a contrast in volume — and it’s of a piece with his fake-contrition tour.

Anthony Easton: His voice is just pure butter perfection, and the ambivalence becomes a slightly negging, edge-of-misogyny seduction game, but it is also incredibly sincere. I like how Bieber performs contrition, and the subtle production, the Michael Jackson oooohs, and the anxious percussion all kind of destabilize a text that could be maudlin.             

Natasha Genet Avery: I was driving down the freeway the night Purpose was released when a rogue DJ decided to spin the entire album. He told us listeners to pay attention to “Love Yourself,” and I found myself enjoying the childish yet clever burns and uncharacteristic four-note trumpet line. But what got my attention is how something so underdeveloped got slated for track five and a single release instead of a secret bonus tacked on the end. “Love Yourself” sounds like it was improvised around the fire at band camp: cute and resourceful in the moment, but nothing you need to hear more than once.

Mo Kim: Begins as the kind of spurned, sparse acoustic track that would sound anonymous out of anybody but Bieber’s mouth (if only for the autobiographical subtext). Save the welcome interruption of horns drizzling over the bridge, it stays in that pleasant yet nondescript climate.

Scott Mildenhall: It seems reasonable to assume that some people won’t take to this laborious diatribe just because it comes from Justin Bieber, but a more legitimate problem is how earnest it is. There’s clearly meant to be emotion, but which is he trying to convey? Wounded, bitter, caring, dispassionate; when the lyrical detail amounts to no more than a handful of sub-juvenile putdowns, it’s practically indecipherable. The only certainty is that he’s taking it — the song, not the story — very seriously. It really is hard to miss the looming spectre of Ed Sheeran, partly for his form with this kind of rhetoric, but mostly because of his similarly characteristic subversion of the concept of backing vocals.

Will Adams: After garnering significant critical goodwill solely on the basis of good production and decent hooks, Justin Bieber blasts all of that away in favor of this truly noxious bridge-burning “anthem.” Unsure of who’s to blame here: Benny Blanco, for subbing Skrillex’s beats with the same campfire schlock that even Nico & Vinz were too good for; Ed Sheeran, for thinking his nice-guy-turned-douchey-but-I’m-still-a-nice-guy lyrics grate any less when sung by someone else; or Bieber, whose continual failure to elicit sympathy for his wounded asshole schtick is the only consistency he’s managed as of late. I’ll just blame all of them. May they go love themselves for eternity.

Reader average: [4.37] (8 votes)

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4 Responses to “Justin Bieber – Love Yourself”

  1. His voice is just pure butter perfection

    anthony! :|

  2. he misspelled buttah

  3. am i being shamed. (also they)

  4. Better