“I’m elated that you are my lady.”
That’s what Justin Bieber tells us — well, tells his new wife — in his long-awaited comeback single, “Yummy,” which hit streaming services Thursday night, more than four years after the pop singer’s most recent solo album, 2015’s “Purpose.”
A lithe little R&B number that faintly recalls Ginuwine’s mid-’90s classic “Pony,” “Yummy” is basically three-and-a-half minutes of PG-13 sex talk seemingly directed at Hailey Baldwin, the model and TV presenter who married Bieber in 2018 (and then married him again in a second wedding ceremony last September).
Which, on one hand, can make you want to congratulate the guy.
After becoming insanely famous way too early — “Baby,” his breakout single, came out a full decade ago (!) — Bieber went through some hard times in his slow acclimation to superstardom. (You’ll recall the egging of the neighbor’s house in Calabasas.) And now here he is, having found the transformative love of a woman who makes his toes curl, as he puts it in “Yummy,” his high, breathy voice virtually unchanged since the “Purpose” days.
There’s also something gratifying about Bieber’s embrace of R&B — or R&Bieber, as he’s unfortunately been known to call it — after a few years in which he used features on other artists’ tunes to dabble in country and EDM and Latin pop. True Beliebers know this onetime Usher protégé has never sounded more engaged than he did on “Journals,” his 2013 collection of melisma-heavy bedroom jams.
But the thing about a comeback — especially one by a singer who’s outlasted his teen-idol peers and usurped Justin Timberlake to become the world’s biggest male pop star — is that it summons expectations. And though it’s very cute, “Yummy” feels awfully lightweight for a single that has as much hanging on it as this one does.
It’s the lead-in to an endlessly hyped multimedia onslaught that includes a YouTube reality series, a tour of some of the world’s biggest stadiums and a new album that Bieber has promised will be different from all of his earlier work (except, perhaps, for “Journals,” whose primary producer, Poo Bear, is part of the team behind this song).
Yet “Yummy” loses much of its flavor after only a few spins — so much so that you realize more quickly than you should that Bieber has built the song’s bridge around a name-check of ... his line of branded house slippers.