I’ve spent the better part of the last decade underestimating Justin Bieber.
When he debuted in 2009 with that floppy haircut and Usher’s co-sign, I figured he would be another flash-in-the-pan that we would forget about after he fully tapped the well of tween girl fandom. Instead, he became a global sensation. When he transitioned into his inevitable rebellious phase, peeing in mop buckets, getting arrested and blanketing himself in ill-advised tattoos, I assumed he would flame out spectacularly and become the latest to join the “where are they now” club. Rather, he released Purpose and became the biggest male singer in the world, thanks in part to a canny ear that put him a step ahead of the rest of pop (dubstep, tropical house, and Ed Sheeran all owe portions of their ubiquity to Bieber). Even as his personal life became more erratic, his hit-making ability was undeterred; hit collaborations “Cold Water”, “I’m The One”, “Let Me Love You”, “I Don’t Care” and the record-breaking “Despacito” remix all happened amidst several tabloid crises. Bieber has flouted every low expectation set against him, so effortlessly in fact that maybe, just maybe, he deserved the benefit of the doubt all along.
And then comes “Yummy”, Bieber’s first solo single in five years, and with it a complete squandering of that benefit. The song is a staggering disappointment and the biggest pop misfire since Justin Timberlake went native for 2018’s largely-forgotten Man of the Woods. As Timberlake retreaded his well-worn Timbaland roots, Bieber similarly eschews growth, instead aping the worst of mainstream meme-trap music. Down to its brittle bones, “Yummy” is a shockingly blatant rip-off of Drake’s “Hotline Bling”, a song as old as Purpose itself. To borrow a word from Madonna, the song is shamelessly reductive, offering nothing more than a cliff-notes take on stylings that Drake popularized five years ago. And yet, what makes it especially galling is its lyrics. “Yummy” might be one of the least sexy songs about sex in recent memory, with Bieber praising his partner’s ability to “split it”, “make his eyes roll” and “make his toes curl”. It’s a gross, hollow shell of a song, one you hope isn’t meant to tribute his wife Hailey Baldwin, because yikes if it is. Even if you acquiesce to the somewhat-catchiness of its chorus, repeating “yum” and “yummy” so many times in any context, let alone in a sexual one, will leave you wanting a hot shower to wash it off of you.
Pop music isn’t in the most inspiring of places at the moment, but as one of its supposed stalwarts, you would think Justin Bieber’s full comeback would be something better than whatever “Yummy” is supposed to be. Either Bieber has finally lost the pop plot after years of endless personal turmoil, or he never had it to begin with, and the last decade has been the longest of flukes. Whatever “Yummy’s” cause, it is undoubtedly a terrible way to begin a new year, and decade.
If you’re so inclined, you can stream “Yummy” below: