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Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is. You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her. That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me. But if I’m gonna be so invested in you, if you die, or something happens to you, I’m gonna be so destroyed, I won’t be able to go on. If I can love you and know that I’m not who I am because you’re being nice to me, but that I love you and I think you’re an incredible person but you’re just as broken as I am on the inside. We’re all just trying to figure it out.
-Justin Bieber, COMPLEX Magazine, 2015
UPDATE—November 12, 2015:
I remember catching clips of Justin Bieber on The Ellen DeGeneres Show when my mom watched the show regularly my senior year of high school. Bieber has since had a special relationship with Ellen. He regularly goes on to make big announcements. (Side note: she always seems to be the first to have viral sensations on her show, i.e. “Apparently” Kid.) Here is his first appearance:
I wasn’t really introduced to Bieber and his music until I was about a sophomore in college (2010) and girls—yes, Susie—would be singing along to songs like “Baby” or “One Time” on the 20-minute car ride from campus to Wal-Mart. Susie’s dorm even did a flash mob with his rendition of “Drummer Boy,” at the Taylor University Silent Night game, and Bieber noticed.
I remember feeling guilty for liking the songs—they were so catchy, though—and wondering why people hated the kid so much. I didn’t understand it. What I realized is most of the hate thrown toward Bieber came from guys—guys that likely either 1) were sick of hearing their sisters faint over Justin, or 2) were jealous of how popular he was.
It’s the boyband phenomenon. For guys, it’s emasculating—among peers, at least—to be a fan of music made by boys or young men. For the same reason guys were derided for liking Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, guys like me are laughed at for appreciating Bieber’s raw talent.
I get it. It’s fine. But I am a fan of Bieber’s music, and I’m not really ashamed of it. I get made fun of for it, sure, and I will get made fun of for writing this blog post, but I truly think he has a HUGE amount of talent.
To simply answer the question, “Why write about Justin Bieber?” I would say, “Because he is one of the most fascinating icons of Millennial culture.” To complicatedly answer the question, “Why write about Justin Bieber?” I say the following…
I was recently watching some Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos, and I came across his recent interview with Justin Bieber. Here is the interview:
In the interview, Jimmy Fallon is referring to the Bieber’s performance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at which Bieber cried at the end of his performance.
As I watched the video of Bieber being interviewed by Jimmy, I thought to myself, “Holy cow. I feel for this kid. He’s done a bunch of dumb stuff, sure, but I really think he’s growing up.”
Think about it for a second. Justin Bieber was discovered in 2008 at age 13-14. Then, he was shipped off to Atlanta from his native Canada to work in the real world with artists like Usher on the Def Jam Records label and given millions of dollars.
The dude went from Canada to Atlanta…ATLANTA.
All of this before he could drive.
I cannot imagine having to do everything he did from age 14-21. Justin Bieber made mistakes like any adolescent/young adult—he just had more resources to make a bigger mess on a bigger stage than anyone else.
I was an idiot in high school, and even early on in college, though I certainly could have been worse. But, if I had the spotlight and spending money that Bieber had at his age, I’d be lucky to be a free man.
We will get into more detail on the difficult years later, but suffice to say this:
I want to write on Justin Bieber because I want people to stop hating him for being human and start appreciating the talent he really does have, much to the chagrin of many.
Bieber has never really been “gone.” He’s always had his devoted “Beliebers,” but he has fallen from grace with broader culture—he even lost my support for a time, and I’ve always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I’m convinced, though, that over the course of the next 10 years or so, we will see Justin Bieber skyrocket to popularity similar to how Justin Timberlake has after his long hiatus of being somewhat off-the-radar following his Bieber-esque mega-fame with *NSYNC.
Where better to start than the beginning?
In 2007, Justin Bieber was discovered via this video (among others):
Bieber was discovered by a guy named Scooter Braun, who you’ve probably never heard of. Braun is a talent manager and recording studio manager (Raymond-Braun Media Group, with Usher) who was described in 2006 like this:
As he’s driving and texting on his T-Mobile Sidekick, Braun’s Verizon cell phone rings. It’s the representative for Britney Spears. Braun is throwing a party for Kevin Federline in Miami at the end of the month and has found a place for the celeb couple to stay while they’re in town — a luxurious $3.7 million house on nearby Allison Island.
That’s so 2006. Ok, anyway, the article continues:
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what the hell he does,” says his best friend Fernando Cuartas, who played basketball with Braun in high school and lived with him for a year after college. “But he’s always got several projects going on. Whether it’s promoting, or developing artists, it’s always something.”
Talk to the people who have worked with Scooter Braun, and they’ll all describe him the same way: He’s a “hustla.”
“It’s not just hustle, it’s focused hustle,” says Chaka Zulu, who is co-CEO with Ludacris of Disturbing Tha Peace Records. “He takes the opportunity and knows how to stretch it.”
“He’s hustle concentrate,” says Jazze Pha, the rap producer who has worked with Ciara, Slick Rick and Nelly. “You ever made Minute Maid out of a can? That’s the kind of hustle he’s got.”
So this dude named Scooter who has so much hustle, he’s like drinking “Minute Maid out of a can,” discovers this kid who plays guitar on the streets of Stratford, Canada:
and sings Chris Brown on his couch:
Bieber’s mom, Patricia, was apparently concerned about him signing with Braun because of his Judaism (nevermind the fact his name is Scooter and his hustle is like Minute Maid…er something). If you aren’t aware, Bieber’s mother is devoutly Christian. This is his first appearance on television, I believe, which of all things, was on a Christian program in Canada:
Ok, for the record, that video is cringeworthy, not because of Bieber, but because of how petty it all seems. Seeing how huge Bieber is now, that video seems horribly patronizing. “Awww… isn’t that so cute…You can GOOGLE Justin!”
If only they would have known…
Without going into all of the details, Justin Timberlake and Usher had an informal battle of sorts about who would sign/mentor the kid. Usher won. I think it worked out for Bieber, but later I’ll explain how I think both will end up characterizing his career.
Basically, when he came to the United States and eventually started making music, his popularity skyrocketed. I mean. This is a dude just impersonating him. This dude isn’t even him:
Bieber’s popularity exploded, but eventually, so did his public image.
From the start, guys as old or older than Justin Bieber loathed him. It’s like One Direction today, or perhaps the boy bands of the 1990s—it’s almost obligatory that teenage guys loath teenage heartthrobs. Why? It’s simple: teenage heartthrobs steal the attention of teenage girls away from average teenage boys.
Unfortunately, jealous teenage boys weren’t the only ones to loathe him for long. He got booed. A lot.
Eventually, the Bieber-hate went from baseless and lame to a bizarre form of legitimate due to his public mistakes. Here’s a list from 2014 of all of the run-ins with the law Justin had experienced so far. Plenty of other events took place in which no charges were filed, and thus aren’t included on this list:
April 24, 2013: Swedish police reportedly find drugs and a stun gun on board one of the Biebs’ tour buses. No criminal charges are filed and Bieber was not on the vehicle at the time.
Nov. 8, 2013: Bieber is charged with vandalism after spray-painting graffiti in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is forced to pay a fine but is not arrested.
Dec. 30, 2013: Toronto police allege that Bieber hit a limo driver on the back of the head on this date after he was picked up with five other people. The singer pleads not guilty and a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8, 2014.
Jan. 14, 2014: Bieber is detained after being accused of throwing about 24 eggs at his neighbour’s house in Calabasas on Jan. 9, causing around $2,000 in damage. On July 9, the singer pleads no contest to misdemeanor vandalism and is ordered to pay $81,000 in damages and to serve two years of probation, five days of community service and 12 weeks of anger management.
Jan. 23, 2014: On the night that inspired a thousand mugshot memes, Bieber is arrested in Miami Beach for an alleged DUI while drag racing. He is also charged with driving with an expired license and resisting arrest, and is released on $2,500 bail. On Aug. 13, he pleads guilty to reckless driving and resisting arrest and a plea deal forces him to take a 12-hour anger management course and to pay a $500 fine and $50,000 to a local children’s organization.
Jan. 29, 2014: Bieber surrenders to authorities at a Toronto police station over charges relating to the alleged assault of a Toronto limo driver. The cops allege that on Dec. 29, 2013 Bieber was one of six people the limo driver picked up from a night club and that the driver was allegedly attacked on the way to a hotel.
March 6, 2014: While being deposed for a lawsuit (which involved his bodyguard allegedly pulling a gun on a photographer), Bieber bristles when asked about his off-on girlfriend Selena Gomez. “Don’t ask me about her again,” he says. The Biebs has been ridiculed by the press for his bratty behaviour during the proceedings.
Aug. 20, 2014: Photographer Aja Oxman alleges that Bieber ordered his bodyguard to nab the photographer’s memory card after he took photos of the singer in Hawaii in November. Dwayne Patterson allegedly put Oxman in a chokehold and damaged his camera. The photographer was reportedly seeking more than $25,000 in damages but lack of evidence meant Bieber was neither arrested nor charged.
Aug. 29, 2014: Bieber is arrested in Stratford, Ont. on charges of dangerous driving while on his ATV.
As you can imagine, the arrests and other various publicity stunts didn’t only hurt his relationship with the law enforcement community. It hurt his relationship with the music community, too. Here he is getting booed at the 2013 Billboard awards:
To be fair, they may have been booing him there because they thought he was Robin Thicke, so that’s not all bad.
However, they definitely were booing Justin on this one. No mistaking him here:
He had some performance hiccups, like fainting on stage in London in 2013:
And teenage Biebs just never really lived up to the hype generated by tweenage Biebs.
Like I said at the top, I have an amount of respect for Justin Bieber that gets me ridiculed whenever I share it, but the late-teen, early-20s years were rough for Bieber. His body and lifestyle were making the transition to adulthood, but his attitude wasn’t.
I have to admit, I have almost always wanted what was best for Bieber and really defended him in public conversations and such throughout his career, but when this video came out, I decided to finally give up:
I was seriously bummed. I thought Biebs was just a good dude who got caught up in some bad stuff, but when I saw this video, I was done. I couldn’t really make myself defend him anymore.
In 2014, following the release of a video showing Bieber making racist comments toward the beginning of his career, he participated in a week long Bible study with Pastor Carl Lentz of the New York City Hillsong Church, and was eventually baptized in a “low-key ceremony” by the pastor (as if anything Biebs does can actually be low-key, no matter how hard he may try).
Here’s a bit from Bieber answering a question about his Christian faith in a recent interview:
“I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, “You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.” We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in.” (COMPLEX interview)
In his performance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards (shared a few videos below and linked above) Bieber nearly quotes Scripture in the black room as he’s harnessed up to fly through the venue. He says, “When you fall, it allows you to get up stronger. It allows you not to lean on your own understanding, give into faith, believe in something bigger than yourself, and find your purpose.”
I want to think Bieber is a truly reborn believer in Jesus. I hope he is. But I’m pulling for him to succeed even if he’s not.
Regardless, things were rough there for a couple of years, but in 2015, everything changed.
Following what could only be described as a tumultuous few years, Bieber began 2015 with a collaboration that would kick off his revival, whether he knew it or not.
In February of this year, he released a song called “Where Are Ü Now” with Skrillex and Diplo (“Jack Ü”) that has rocked the dance music world most of the year (and provided us with one of the cooler music videos I’ve seen in a while):
The song was a hit all spring and summer at all of the dance music festivals and surely at summer parties. Bieber was making national news with his music again, which was something that had not happened in a long time.
This would be the first time he made news with his music in 2015, but it definitely wouldn’t be the last.
The “Roast of Justin Bieber” took place in March of this year. Roasts are usually done on people after they’ve passed their prime and are wading into obscurity. It was quite the opposite for Bieber, even as rough as the participants were on him. The Verge wrote regarding the Roast:
The reality is that despite the millions of devoted fans that Bieber still has, he’s become something of a toxic asset. In the three years since Bieber turned 18, he has yet to release an album, but here are some of his greatest hits: adopting a monkey named Mally and then leaving him at a German zoo; pissing in a bucket and yelling, “F*** Bill Clinton” at a picture of Bill Clinton; egging the home of his Calabasas neighbor and causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages; smoking so much weed with his formerly estranged dad on a private plane that the pilots had to put on oxygen masks; being punched by Orlando Bloom at a club in Ibiza; getting arrested for a DUI after racing his yellow Lamborghini in Miami.
After this rough stretch (for him, for humanity), he began 2015 on an apology tour, first releasing a video in January on his Facebook page after an awkward appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to say he wasn’t proud of how he acted in the recent past, telling his laptop’s camera, “I’m not who I was pretending to be” and “I want to make the best impression on people and be kind and loving and soft.” The next week he went back onThe Ellen Degeneres Show to further explain the feelings he expressed in the video. Now that he’s confessed, the Comedy Central roast would be his public penance, a place to take his lashes and then hopefully move on.
When Bieber took the microphone, at first he remained in his sincere mode, saying, “This was a moment for me to show people where I am at in my life right now. Right now I’m in a moment of change. As I said, I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, but we’re turning a new leaf here.”
Another one of the more likeable things Bieber did in 2015 was join James Corden on one of the earlier episodes of his new late night talk show:
I remember when my brother wanted to show me that video and I was like, “Aww man, not Justin Bieber.” But it’s hilarious, and a lot of fun, and served to help Bieber turn the tide on his public image a bit. It’s so funny to watch Old Bieber sing Baby Bieber songs, too.
No doubt, 2015 has seen the most music-related Bieber news since like 2012.”Where Are Ü Now” began the turning of the tide, but it all changed in August.
On August 28, 2015, Bieber released the first single off of his new album. The song is called “What Do You Mean,” and the album is called Purpose.
Bieber has had a ton of popular music, but “What Do You Mean” became Bieber’s first number one song on the Billboard Top 100. According to Spotify, “What Do You Mean” was played 21 million times in five days—more than any song on Spotify ever.
Justin Bieber was making headlines for his talent again, not his troubles.
The song has a music video and a lyric video (shared above) which have a combined 300 million views. The song has been out for barely two months. After the song released on August 28th, Bieber performed at the MTV VMAs on Sunday, August 30th, a video I have now referenced three times. Watch the video below and remind yourself of this: this is a 21 year old white kid doing those dance moves AND singing at the same time—you can tell he’s actually singing as he huffs and puffs his way through. This is what being trained by Usher can do for you:
2015 VMA, Artists.MTV, Justin Bieber, 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, 2015 VMA, Artists.MTV, Music, Justin Bieber, Full Episodes
This the first time Bieber performed at an awards show since the 2013 Billboard Awards at which he was roundly booed (see earlier video).
It went…well. Really, really well.
I don’t have cable, so I didn’t watch the VMAs, but I watched the video the next morning and I was like, “Holy cow. This dude is back.”
Three days later, on September 2nd, Bieber appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show and talked about how he knows he’s been an idiot in the recent past and he hopes to move on and start being known for music again. You can watch the interview at the top of the blog post.
After I saw that interview, I realized that Justin Bieber isn’t just back making good music, but that he’s headed in a whole new direction.
It’s never really been acceptable for anyone outside of 10-16 year old girls to be fans of Justin Bieber.
That’s all about to change, and it really already has.
Just a couple of weeks ago, on October 22nd, Bieber released a second single from the album called, “Sorry,” which as been received with much the same fanfare as “What Do You Mean.” The third single “I’ll Show You,” wasn’t received with quite as much fanfare as the first two, but it’s popular all the same.
I love all of the songs, and my wife has already pre-ordered the album for us when it comes out on Friday.
I’m telling you, this is just the beginning. Bieber is back, and it’s not just to re-live teeny-bopper fame.
I went home to Fort Wayne, IN on Labor Day weekend this year to celebrate my mom’s 50th birthday. This was the weekend after the VMAs and Bieber’s appearance on Fallon’s show.
It just so happens, Bieber was at a friend’s lake house 30 mins north of my house that weekend, and even stopped by a bar in Fort Wayne.
I remember remarking to a few people, “Think about this for a minute: Justin Bieber could be anywhere in the world right now, partying at any strip club, smoking and drinking whatever he wants with whatever women he wants. He just rocked the music world in one week in a way that hadn’t been done since Taylor Swift a year earlier. He was king of the music world, and he spent his weekend in podunk Clear Lake, IN. That’s pretty awesome.”
Bieber even tweeted toward the end of his time in Northeast Indiana:
Small town living is the best
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) September 6, 2015
Here’s a video his friend made of their time in Clear Lake:
It’s taken me over two dozen revisions and about a month and a half to write this post, and even since I started writing, Bieber has been in the news for getting frustrated with a cameraman (he had reason to be), having a picture posted of his man parts (not linking to that), walking out of an interview in Spain (rightfully so), and surely other things.
But here’s what’s been remarkable even amidst those minor incidents: 1) the press has defended not derided Bieber, and 2) his music has drowned out the other noise. All of those minor issues in the last month would have been front-page-level news on the Justin Bieber radar for anyone paying attention, but because he’s making news with his music, all of that other stuff falls by the wayside.
My prediction is that in the next five years or so, perhaps even with this album, we’re going to see a sort of “revival” of Justin Bieber’s music. Truthfully, I think he’s going to skyrocket to a certain level of popularity even he hasn’t yet experienced. Sure, the guy has sold more music than half of the other musicians in the world combined, and it’s going to be hard for him to sell more than he already has, perhaps. But I think Justin Bieber is going to go from boy-toy teeny-bopper popularity to mainstream, it’s-cool-to-like-this-guy level popularity.
Justin Bieber is going to follow in the steps of Justin Timberlake, and with that, we’ve come full circle.
In the beginning, as mentioned toward the top, Justin Timberlake and Usher were engaged in a sort of “bidding war” to sign Bieber before he even moved to the United States. Usher won, and Bieber has the dance moves to prove it. Usher may have had first dibs, but I think Bieber is ultimately on a Timberlake-like trajectory.
From teenage heartthrob boy toy to a fall from grace to widespread popularity, Justin Bieber follows Justin Timberlake. I think that with this record, or perhaps maybe not until his next, grown men (like myself) won’t be giggled at for listening to his music, like is the case with Justin Timberlake today.
I’m really happy to see Bieber doing so well as of late. I’ve always thought the dude got way too much hate when he was so young releasing songs like “One Time,” “Baby,” and the rest. Then, as we saw, he went through a period in which it was pretty easy not to like the kid. Making news with his attitude and not his talent. I was as frustrated with him as anyone, mainly because I have always really wanted the best for him.
But I stick to what I wrote above. I think Justin Bieber just had to work through the growing pains of a maturing adolescent like you or I have, he just had a lot more resources to make a LOT bigger mess on a LOT bigger stage.
He seems like a dude who has grown up, has surrounded himself with the right people, and wants to do what is right.
I hope he succeeds and reminds everyone of how talented he truly is.
Btw, Billboard just confirmed my idea by putting Bieber on the cover, titling it, “The Rebirth of Justin Bieber.”