As I Am by Justin Bieber & Khalid
I guess 2021 is the year that pianos absolutely eviscerate the innocent pop music connoisseur. Am I mad about it? No. Will I just let them occur without bringing attention to the apparent trend? Also no. I don’t have the self-control for that. While we’re at it, I would just like to ask of the producers of this song, what is that ethereal sound accompanying the piano as Justin heavenly vocals begin in the first verse? Just curious. (Also, “Justin?” Apparently, I think I’m on a first-name basis with the man lol I mean, he did have my teenie bopper heart as I cried, wanting to be the One Less Lonely Girl. I do doubt that was as emotional of an experience for him as it was for me, though.)
The vocals sound stripped while also giving the feeling that we are in a church. If hymns sounded like this, I’d probably know more than the few I do. But then again, I don’t think anyone would want me belting the lyrics to a religious song the way I do this one. The production gives me Don’t Give Up On Me by Andy Grammer or Permanent by Kygo spiritual vibes. THE HARMONIES. You’re joking. They make me hold my breath, then they’re followed by a subtle beat drop in the chorus to which I can exhale.
Justin Bieber is a vocalist through and through. Every time I am surprised and revel at his talent, I remind myself that he is the prodigal son of the Usher (baby). Justin is a legend in his own right, but lord have mercy, his vocals are on point even as he reaches those high but crisp notes in his upper register. Before I even get to sir Khalid, I want to discuss lyrics. Okay, Justice as an album contains so many tracks that are just immaculate, but this song is SLEPT ON, in my opinion. Well, with over 100 million streams on Spotify, it’s not exactly slept on, but certainly does not receive credit where credit is due.
The lyrics are what set it apart for me. Lyrics are usually what speaks to me in music. Obviously, there are so many elements to making a timeless song, but the words are what are important to me. Everyone had a hard time and went through their own dark night of the soul due to COVID. Humans are not made to live in isolation. By nature, we are social creatures. This particular social creature decided that COVID was the time to formally unpack 23 years of trauma, heartbreak, and unhelpful mechanisms whilst not being able to be with any loved ones. Justin and Khalid took the words from my soul as I, too, questioned how anyone could love me As I Am, mainly because I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t. This track has been on rotation for that long. It is the constant reminder that me just being me is, in fact, enough. Damn.
So now, Khalid’s vocals. They do something to me. That lower register and the clean tone? We have been blessed as listeners for this audible gold this man shares with the world. The pre-chorus vocal shift from Justin leading then Khalid after their respective vocals is such a clear sign of game recognizing game. By the way that this song is shared between the two artists, it really could be a feature for either of them. The harmonies all the way through are excellent, but the stripped harmony with Khalid’s lower harmony leading before going into the chorus is just *chef’s kiss*. BARS on the bridge. Hot damn. There’s more of that Usher R&B influence. The lyrics hit me every time. The last verse switching off and ending in a harmony. Honey. Top drawer. It’s a song that I have yet to skip if it comes on shuffle, and I have a feeling it will be on the rotation for a while.
Kailani Norwell has a big mouth, a big heart, a big brain (metaphorically speaking), a big fucking ego, and an even bigger take on everything and anything. She has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge–to learn all that she can–and for personal development. While she dreams larger than life and encourages others to follow what puts sparks in their eyes, she typically plays incredibly small. She has indebted herself for America’s most expensive therapist–a bachelor’s and master’s degree in clinical psychology. Writing is her passion. It’s what ignites her soul. It is her most sincere form of expression. She doesn’t think she’s to write the next great American novel, but she’s to write something.