Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’ continues to break chart records around the world. Watch the steamy video, which features a bedroom scene with a model named Xenia Deli (we can only assume Justin’s abs taste like raspberry coulis, because the Eastern European model licks the heartthrob’s body clean the way most people would a syrup-dotted dessert plate at a fancy restaurant), a haunting interlude that shows Justin and his love interest stepping through a doorway only to tumble like Lewis Carroll’s Alice down a cavern, where their fall is broken by a well-placed mattress (interesting camera-work affords us a look between the thighs of the Xenia Deli character, who began the music video looking like she was ready to have the Biebs himself — not an Epic Red 6K lens — slide into that area) and an underground skate park scene where Xenia loses the Bieb to his boys for a moment, but reasserts her womanly claim on the hottie by leaping out of nowhere and giving him the most adorable kiss ever recorded (3:54).
Justin has said in interviews that the song is his attempt to express the male point of view in relationship struggles, explaining that his girlfriends and partners are often so moody, elusive, and changeable that he can’t understand where they’re coming from (“What are you talking about?” Justin huffed to New Zealand duo Jono and Ben, re-enacting a confusing conversation with a Bieber ex who may or may not have been Selena Gomez or rumored friend-with-benefits Kendall Jenner. “Yesterday you told me you want to be with me, now today you don’t, like what’s going on?”)
“Sorry,” the newly-released smash, also has a “manthem” feel, with Justin crooning “you know that there is no innocent one in this game for two.” Interesting production effects from collaborator Skrillex really have a chance to shine, adding dimension and emotional texture to what could have been a straightforward love song. The grating noise at 1:44 (right after the “innocent” line) sounds like it could be a grunt of lust from a man who grinded on Biebs’ not-so-innocent girl during a super-freaky dancefloor moment. Or perhaps it can be read as a cry of exasperation from the Bieb himself (so desperate for peace and quiet at this point that he is ready to “take all the blame if you want [him] to” and either go to sleep or get some action).
The chorus (“Is it too late now to say sorry?/ Cause I’m missing more than just your body”) sees Justin emphasizing his willingness to take the blame for any mistakes, and reassuring his flaky lover that this isn’t just about hooking her back in for one quickie.
The outro makes this even clearer: “Not just trying to getcha back on me / Oh no no,” sings the heartthrob, as some clickety new percussion drifts into the soundscape. The outro segment in a song’s structure is where chorus variations (whether lyrical or melodic) and ad libs are introduced. Such variations are typically used to add drama or intensity, and in love songs, they have traditionally been used to increase a feeling of yearning and poignancy (see any Roxette outro). The inclusion of a club/hookup colloquialism (“getcha back on me”) at a moment of such poignancy stands out and feels really fresh and interesting.
It’s not just the production that’s interesting: the video, which Justin teased on his Instagram prior to “Sorry”‘s release (he also posted a clip of an acoustic rendition featuring Skrillex on guitar), features a group of colorfully-clad female dancers who shade their eyes with differently-hued sunglasses as they pop, twerk, and otherwise contort their bodies to the Skrillex-made beat. The group, headed by New Zealander Parris Goebel, is based in South Auckland and call themselves ReQuest, and it remains to be seen whether ReQuest will feature in all the music parts from the 35-minute film Bieber is reportedly releasing alongside his album Purpose, as reported by the Daily Mail.
Lines like “I’ll go, I’ll go and you go and you’ll go out and spill the truth” have fueled the speculation that the song is about Selena Gomez — she and Justin have, after all, taken turns spilling details about each other to an ever-curious press, as reported by Hollywood Life.
Such is the certainty of some fans that “Sorry” is about Selena Gomez that they have gone ahead and annotated these Genius lyrics, providing a sort of Cliff’s Notes for anyone who missed the Justin/Selena press coverage from the last few years (click on any line in the lyrics to see the interpretations).
Skrillex and Justin have been celebrating the release of their well-received track, and Justin even posted a couple of clips on his Instagram showing him and his crew letting loose: the guys drink beers, throw back cups of Skittles, grind long-stemmed tulips between their teeth, and ruin pale upholstery by planting their sneakers on it, while “Sorry” plays in the background.
Justin and Skrillex also took the opportunity to celebrate their love of the IO Hawk.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Justin Bieber release without a brush with death and/or injury (how he managed to film this trampoline Instagram promo without breaking his foot remains a mystery).
Are you enjoying “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber? Tell us in the comments.
[Image by Getty Images / Frazer Harrison]