Today, in collaborations we can genuinely say we weren’t expecting to see news: Justin Bieber has graciously offered up a songwriting credit to up-and-coming public figure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his new album Justice. In fact—and as several reviewers have noted—Bieber gave King the lead-off spot on the new album, which is probably as close as we’re ever going to get to seeing a socially conscious Justin Bieber release. (Which is to say, it’s a lot of very standard pop-R&B love songs that Justin Bieber has then added some clips of King speeches to, but, you know, each according to their means.)
The critical discourse on the album (or, at least, on the slain-civil-rights-leader portions of the album) essentially breaks down into two camps: Is Bieber cynically invoking King’s name and voice in an effort to seem more responsive to social justice issues than he actually is, or does Justin Bieber genuinely think this is what social consciousness looks like? For what it’s worth, King’s estate seems supportive of the move; as noted by Vulture, King’s daughter Bernice King issued a tweet yesterday thanking Bieber for asking the estate’s permission to use King’s words on the album, where they feature both at the beginning of the lead-off track, “2 Much,” and in their own separate “MLK Interlude.” It’s also worth noting that Bieber has thrown his support of late behind a number of groups working to help minorities and the less advantaged, including Alexandria House, the Equal Justice Initiative, and The King Center itself, of which Bernice King is the current president.
Anyway: Congratulations to Martin Luther King Jr: With credits like this, you may someday still reach Justin Bieber-esque levels of influence on the modern world. (Whoops, made ourselves sad.)