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Released: 2015

“Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber is a biting commentary on a narcissistic ex-lover wrapped in an acoustic, soul-touching melody. The song portrays an introspective Bieber breaking ties with a self-centered old flame, shining a light on the toxicity of their past relationship while embracing the road to self-discovery and healing.

The opening lines of the song depict the toxic nature of the relationship. Bieber laments, “For all the times that you rained on my parade/And all the clubs you get in using my name.” These lines highlight the ex-lover’s propensity for exploiting Bieber’s fame and crashing his good times. He follows this by expressing the liberation he feels after having moved on from this emotionally draining relationship.

When Bieber drops the line, “My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone,” he’s using a cultural shorthand to convey just how bad things are with his ex. It’s a common saying that implies even the most universally accepting person has issues with this person, emphasizing the ex’s unlikability.

A crucial thematic element in “Love Yourself” is Bieber’s self-realization of the relationship’s toxicity. This underpins lines like, “And I’ve been so caught up in my job / Didn’t see what’s going on, but now I know / I’m better sleeping on my own.” Bieber admits his naivety led him into the destructive relationship, but he’s now awakened, seeing the need for self-love and solitude over being mistreated.

In the chorus, the line “if you like the way you look that much / Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself” gives us the song’s title. Here, Bieber sarcastically suggests that his egotistic ex should engage in self-adoration because they show little regard for others. In pop culture, “love yourself” usually has a positive connotation, but Bieber flips it to denote the ex’s self-absorption.

The bridge, “For all the times that you made me feel small / I fell in love, now I feel nothin’ at all,” offers insight into his emotional turmoil. Bieber outlines the magnitude of emotional exploitation he sustained, leading to his emotional numbness. Holistically, Bieber used “Love Yourself” to redefine self-love, pivoting it from the idyllic concept often championed in pop songs to portray his painful emotional journey.

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