Justin Bieber's decision to open his sixth album, Justice, with a sample of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech--and to plop in another one halfway through--is revealing, but perhaps not for the reasons he intended. In the half-century following Dr. King's assassination, liberalism has turned him, a revolutionary figure once hated by the majority of white Americans for his commitment to racial, religious, and economic justice, into a convenient accessory through which to signal a vague, corporation-safe message in support of Black people.
Justin Bieber is a pop evangelical. Faith has always played a big role in his life - sometimes bigger than others - but the past 18 months has seen interviews and public appearances marked by an up-front willingness to project the religious aspects that seemingly dominate his thinking. 'Justice' - with its 't' shaped like a crucifix - is part of this, but it also links to an ongoing aesthetic evolution with Bieber's stadium-dominated trop-pop.
In a year where racial injustice and suffering was visibly apparent, many celebrities took it upon themselves to use their platform to spread what they believed was awareness. Some posted a black square on Instagram and others participated in cringeworthy sing-along videos. Justin Bieber, however, decided to release his sixth studio album, Justice.
When Bieber first announced the album, he took to Instagram to say, "I know that I cannot simply solve injustice by making music but I do know that if we all do our part by using our gifts to serve this planet and each other, we are that much closer to being united." The 27-year-old singer went on by saying, "this is me doing a small part."
And a small part it was, indeed.