You have to applaud his bravery – Justin Bieber has done the one thing no one expected.
The Canadian former child star, now 25, has stripped away the pop hooks and memorable melodies that made him famous, for years sending hordes of young female fans into tearful hysterics.
Changes, his fifth album and first since 2015’s Grammy Award-winning Purpose, signals he has done just that – changed.
If that album saw Bieber staking his claim as a mature artist then this is the sound of a singer exploring his artistry with a newfound confidence – this time he has less to prove.
Tracks like Habitual and Available are driven almost entirely by their low-slung trap beats, with Bieber’s layered, sometimes muffled, vocals working as an almost secondary instrument.
It’s an album more concerned with establishing a groove than firing a salvo of songs into the charts (even lead single Yummy eschews hooks in favour of hypnotic groove).
Almost all of Changes consists of love songs directed at newlywed Bieber’s wife Hailey Baldwin (niece of Saturday Night Live star Alec).
Depending on how you look at it, the record is either a touching ode to matrimony (the pair say they waited until after before consummating) or a classic case of oversharing.
It must be said, saccarine lyrics like “When you come around me/Treat me like you miss me” and “I never thought I could be loyal to anyone but myself” cloy a little.
And Bieber admitting the track Take It Out On Me refers to what he likes Hailey to do to him “in the sack” only adds to the feeling we may have already heard too much.
But there is no getting away from the fact this album has a real depth of production lacking from much of his previous work.
Forever, which features solid contributions from man of the moment Post Malone and US rapper Clever, is perhaps the most chart-ready song on the album.
Its simple and insistent hook of “Would you be with me forever, ever, ever?” bubbles away above a precocious bassline.
But once again, there are no fireworks. Bieber remains reserved.
And as if he knows some long-standing fans will be distressed by his new direction, Changes ends with a suite of guitar-led tracks, inspired by Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car.
Reminiscent of Bieber’s early years as an anonymous teenager uploading covers to YouTube, this is where the album shines.
ETA and Confirmation pair soulful rock guitar with Bieber’s signature keening vocals – a formula he seems to have perfected.
Changes oozes a cool confidence not heard before in Bieber’s music. Whilst some of its lyrics might miss the mark, it’s a leap in the right direction.