14 February 2020 04:36
If Bieber appears better than he was during the tour for his 2015 album Purpose – during the London shows, he stood miserably on stage, unable to muster the enthusiasm even to mime to a backing track – he still seems fragile and troubled, talking with his head in his hands about the effort it takes him to get out of bed in the morning, explaining how the oxygen chamber he keeps in the studio "decreases anxiety". On single "Intentions", he may as well be declaring his love for a household appliance: "Heart full of equity, you're an asset..." From the title alone, "Take it Out on Me" could be a tender invitation to his partner to confide in him – until the raunched-up bass kicks in and Bieber explains that it is in fact about his significant other taking out her frustrations "in the sack, if you know what I mean". The 40 greatest song lyrics 1/40 Nirvana – "All Apologies" "I wish I was like you / Easily amused / Find my nest of salt / Everything's my fault." As headbangers with bleeding poets' hearts, Nirvana were singular. "You might just be a black Bill Gates in the making," she muses, but then decides, actually: "I might just be a black Bill Gates in the making." RO (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella) 6/40 Laura Marling – "Ghosts" "Lover, please do not / Fall to your knees / It's not Like I believe in / Everlasting love." Haunted folkie Marling was 16 when she wrote her break-out ballad – a divination of teenage heartache with a streak of flinty maturity that punches the listener in the gut. EP Getty Images 8/40 Leonard Cohen – "So Long, Marianne" "Well you know that I love to live with you/ but you make me forget so very much / I forget to pray for the angels / and then the angels forget to pray for us." You could fill an entire ledger with unforgettable Cohen lyrics – couplets that cut you in half like a samurai blade so that you don't even notice what's happened until you suddenly slide into pieces.
Endless love, see you down the road." EP Getty 9/40 The Libertines – "Can't Stand Me Now" "An end fitting for the start / you twist and tore our love apart." The great pop bromance of our times came crashing down shortly after Carl Barât and Pete Doherty slung their arms around each others shoulders and delivered this incredible platonic love song. EP Getty Images for NARAS 19/40 Prince – "Sign O' the Times" "A skinny man died of a big disease with a little name/ By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same." Prince's lyrics had always felt like an extension of his dreamily pervy persona and, even as the African-American community bore the brunt of Reagan-era reactionary politics, Prince was living in his own world. RO Getty Images 25/40 Paul Simon – "Graceland" "She comes back to tell me she's gone/ As if I didn't know that/ As if I didn't know my own bed." With contributions from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Boyoyo Boys, Simon's 1986 masterpiece album is regarded nowadays as a landmark interweaving of world music and pop. RO AFP/Getty Images 27/40 Sharon Van Etten – "Every Time the Sun Comes Up" "People say I'm a one-hit wonder/ But what happens when I have two?/ I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom." The breakdown of a 10 year relationship informed some of the hardest hitting songs on the New Jersey songwriter's fourth album. EP Rick Diamond/Getty Images 30/40 Thin Lizzy – "The Boys are Back in Town" "Guess who just got back today/ Them wild-eyed boys that had been away/ Haven't changed that much to say/But man, I still think them cats are crazy." A strut of swaggering confidence captured in musical form – and a celebration of going back to your roots and reconnecting with the people who matter.
Almost all of Changes consists of love songs directed at newlywed Bieber's wife Hailey Baldwin (niece of Saturday Night Live star Alec). 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. 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.