Plenty of hype preceded Justin Bieber’s Purpose before its release last Friday, but the singer nevertheless pulled a Beyoncé when he unexpectedly released a new music video for every track on the album. The 13 videos popped up on Bieber’s YouTube channel Saturday, and together, they form Purpose: The Movement, a visual concept album that incorporates themes from each track.
Each of the 13 new videos features dancers—in a group or in pairs—performing a set of choreography over Bieber’s vocals. Bieber appears in only two videos: the first one, for “Mark My Words,” and the last one, for “Purpose.” In both he plays a sort of repentant demigod who wanders the desert in ripped denim with a crinkled brow. In between “Mark My Words” and “Purpose,” which bookend the project, are a smattering of videos that vary enormously in quality and watchability. (Full disclosure: I am a Bieber fan, but I’m also a former competitive dancer; some of these were so bad I had to stop halfway through.) Bieber doesn’t come close to Beyoncé, whose videos stand alone as high art, or even to the genius of Drake in “Hotline Bling,” but you can’t blame him for trying.
“Mark My Words”
Watch the first minute and 15 seconds of this video to hear Bieber explain why Purpose is so morose. Then, unless you want to see Bieber gesticulating limply from the top of an antique piano in the middle of a desert (or you really love this song), you can skip to the end.
“I’ll Show You”
Here Bieber begins the people-dancing-in-a-poorly-lit-warehouse trend that persists throughout this visual album. I actually like the original video for this song better because it shows Bieber actually sort of being a goof for once (see the hill-rolling episode at 2:29), but this one isn’t terrible: imagine the Backstreet Boys on So You Think You Can Dance lit in purple and eventually shirtless.
“What Do You Mean?”
This version of the “What Do You Mean” video, on the other hand, is infinitely preferable to the original, in which a bizarre escape sequence turns into a skateboard party. It features the same fantastic dancers as his video for “Sorry,” and they’re even wearing the same retro outfits. Points for fun and consistency.
“Sorry” is without question the best video on this album. Watch it 27,000 times.
We’re privy to Bieber’s philosophy on love in the intro to this video, which features a man and a woman facing away from each other on a bed. They proceed to perform an antagonistic interpretive dance throughout their house, which is lovely, if a little obvious in its symbolism. I recommend watching this until the cool living room scene (2:04) and then skipping ahead—the ending is predictable.
This one is slow to get started, but it eventually follows a group of women who meet a group of guys in a diner. One member of each party leaves the restaurant and does a sexy couple’s dance in front of a lit-up Hard Rock Café, but at 3:17 our cute protagonists are replaced by lots of gyrating women behind a mysterious hotel room door. Not that there’s anything wrong with gyrating women if they’re gyrating of their own volition, but I miss the dancing couple. Watch for the dance scene between 1:25 and 2:58, but skip the rest.
Skip this one completely unless you’re dying to see Big Sean poorly pantomime his own lyrics.
Members of the ReQuest and The Royal Family dance crews make their third appearance here, and despite the weird pink lighting, the synchronized choreography makes this video worth watching … until Travi$ Scott comes in at 1:57. Once his verse starts, all we get is a series of weird facial close-ups and a jarring ending. Both are skippable.
Again with the Magic-Mike-type dudes and the warehouse. Unfortunately this video is more than twice as long as the video for “I’ll Show You,” which makes it half as watchable. Overly dramatic strobe lights, a pointed oxygen mask, and a truly strange duet that begins at 1:47 make this one of the more bizarre (and possibly nightmare-inducing) videos of the bunch. Dancers convey enough emotion through movement—the extras are overkill. Skip.
“Life Is Worth Living”
I had high hopes for this video until about twenty seconds in, when the camera focuses in on a gaping wound on the female protagonist’s chest. (Her heart is missing. Get it?) The dancers are talented, but unless you’re very into modern choreography and heavy-handed symbolism, you should skip this one, too.
“Where Are Ü Now”
This video begins with Skrillex and Diplo on some rooftop discussing a tour and, eventually, talking about getting food. Cut to some bro pals breakdancing their way through what looks like a midwestern supermarket. The whole thing is shot with a GoPro, which is jarring, but watching a bunch of gorgeous dudes jump over shopping carts is surprisingly fun, especially when the camera pans to show their stunned fellow shoppers looking on.
“Children” is a misguided jumble of dystopian imagery and philanthropic calls to action. Who are these children? Why are they in a jungle? What are they running from? We don’t know, but they’re clearly anguished, hence the grimaces and full 15 seconds of fake crying (beginning at 1:33). Watch for the insanely great group choreography from 1:00 to 1:17.
Here Bieber plays a radiant minor god with six dirty, dusty, loincloth-clad women swirling around him clutching his clothes and clinging to his chest and literally hugging his knees. Strangely, the nauseating imagery contrasts with Bieber’s lyrics, which ask others to forgive him (“Ask you to forgive me for my sins, oh would you please?”). The video ends with Bieber finally removing his denim jacket (deserts are hot, man) and sprinkling a bit of sand over his white T-shirt. Perhaps “Purpose,” like “Sorry,” would’ve benefited from his absence.