Justin Bieber, Lorde and 5SOS, are among the cut on Billboard's 2014 "21 Under 21" list, which ranks the 21 hottest and most powerful young music stars in the game today.
The 20-year-old Canadian singer comes in at No.3, which represents a couple of things:
First, a slip of one rank for two years running. But also confirmation that Bieber is still very much a superstar, still relevant and has the talent and time to make the turbulence of the past year and a bit, an eventual footnote in his life and career --- if he so chooses, and the narrative allows.
Justin was pipped to the top two ranks by Lorde and 5 Seconds of Summer, which shows how durable the Justin Bieber brand is, that he can still pull off a top three after headlines that might give a Borgia pause.
Yes, despite three arrests, exploits on and off his Believe world tour, clickbait-tuned media coverage and the shameless exploitation of two videos showing a younger Bieber making racially insensitive remarks that don't represent who he is now; the Biebs' starpower - his industry stats speak for themselves - and creative gifts remain.
Billboard's "21 Under 21" notes the "All That Matters" singer has "multiple top 10 hits and arena tours under his belt and a celebrity status that keeps him - for better or worse - a household name."
Even though the majority of media outlets were quick to write off Bieber's Journals 2013 album, based on sales and low chart impact, a raft of critics praised its confessional lyrics, R&B sound and gleaming vocals.
Los Angeles Times' music critic Mikael Wood wrote,
"Bieber's singing, which is terrific throughout Journals – breathy and expressive, [is] also muscular when it needs to be, as in the chewy pop-funk tune "Roller Coaster. Yet his vocal ability has been apparent for some time to anyone who's bothered to listen."
"What distinguishes Journals is that he's using that voice to confront the awkward aging-in-public process head-on, rare among his peers beyond Taylor Swift."
Within weeks, the first single from Bieber's duets album with co-writer, Australian teen idol Cody Simpson, will either be a hit or not.
Translation: This not quite a boy but not yet a man icon has everything to play for.
Lorde's stunning "Royals" single debut and subsequent releases from her Pure Heroine album, teamed with a non-porn lite visual appeal that many of her female contemporaries rely on, takes her deserved place at the top of the "21 under 21" list. No mean feat for a 17-year-old.
The Australia-hailing 5 Seconds of Summer quintet's No.2 ranking is also no surprise after supporting on One Direction's 2013 "Take Me Home" tour, and firing off hits like "Amnesia" and "She Looks So Perfect" from their eponymous album.
Other entrants on the "21 under 21's" are - in descending sequence:
DJ/Producer Martin Garrix, girlband Fifth Harmony, Austin Mahone, innovative MC Earl Sweatshirt, Shawn Mendes, Becky G, Chief Keef, Louis Coronel, Meghan Trainor, Cody Simpson, Madeon, Bobby "Shmoney" Shmurda, Scotty McCreery, Troye Sivan, among the class of 2014.
Billboard describes that class as "perhaps the most impressive crop of under-21 stars we've ever assembled."
They're not wrong.