Justin Bieber is speaking out after receiving backlash for incorporating two Martin Luther King Jr. speeches onto his album Justice.
The project opens with MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”) before leading into the album’s first track “2 Much.” Later on “MLK Interlude,” pulled from King’s 1967 sermon “But If Not King,” MLK speaks about causes so great that they are worth dying for, which serves as a lead-in for the Dominic Fike-assisted “Die for You” about Bieber’s love for a woman.
Bieber was criticized for his use of the civil rights icon on an album that doesn’t actually address social justice despite its title. Rolling Stone called the MLK samples a “jarring musical misstep,” while Variety said it “doesn’t make a lick of sense.”
During his first-ever Clubhouse chat with Bieber Nation, Bieber reflected on the controversy and defended his decision.
“Being Canadian,… they didn’t teach us about Black history. It was just not a part of our education system,” he said, according to Billboard. “I think for me, coming from Canada and being uneducated and making insensitive jokes when I was a kid and being insensitive and being honestly just a part of the problem because I just didn’t know better. For me to have this platform to just share this raw moment of Martin Luther King in a time where he knew he was going to die for what he was standing up for.”
Bieber said he was willing to endure “as much hate by putting that on the album” and that his objective was to “amplify” MLK’s “incredibly, touching speech.”
“I want to keep growing and learning about just all social injustices and what it looks like for me to be better, what it looks like for my friends to be better,” he said. “And I know I have a long way to go. I love that when people are listening to my album, these conversations are coming up and they’re like, ‘Well, how is he going from Martin Luther King into a love song?’”
He continued, “I’m not trying to make a connection between me and Martin Luther King. That’s why I never try to talk about social injustice or I didn’t want to be the one to talk about it because I just have so much more learning to do. But I have this man who was ready to die and what he believed to be true. If I’m not willing to face some sort of ridicule or judgment of people wondering my motives or whatever that is, for me, it was a no brainer.”
Bieber’s security Lauren Walters said that as a Black man, he found it “very admirable” that Bieber chose to bring awareness to “something that’s been going on in America for decades, centuries.” “For you to be the No. 1 pop star in the world to talk about these issues, it’s important,” said Walters.
Additionally, MLK’s daughter Bernice King thanked Bieber following the release of Justice, while acknowledging his support for The King Center.
Each of us, including artists and entertainers, can do something.
Thank you, @justinbieber, for your support, in honor of #Justice, of @TheKingCenter‘s work and of our #BeLove campaign, which is a part of our global movement for justice. #MLK #EndRacism https://t.co/nTkR1XdcvW
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 18, 2021