Back in January, a shot of Justin Bieber with super-bearded, super-producer Rick Rubin put the world on notice that the singer isn’t playing when it comes to his in-progress, new album. That message was reinforced this month when Bieber told USA Today he has also enlisted Kanye West as a co-producer.
Now, it’s not just Beliebers who are excited about the superstar’s upcoming album. Media and music industry anticipation for what comes out of the Bieber–Rubin–West triumvirate is at an all-time high. Because everyone knows this is Justin Bieber’s most important album — both musically and economically.
Does Bieber have something to say worth hearing? Will the public and free downloading-loving fans buy his new music? Can the much-maligned singer re-ascend to the force he was back in his 2009-2012 heyday? Does he even want to? These are the questions. The answer will come when his album drops.
Bieber’s re-emergence kicked off with a Calvin Klein campaign in January, appearances on Ellen, heartfelt apologies, magazine covers and interviews, his Comedy Central roast, which exploded on social media — and more recently — a headlining summer booking at the UK’s Fusion Festival, and guest performances with Ariana Grande, and Jack Ü at the Ultra Music Festival.
On Thursday, it was announced that Bieber will join the lineup at KIIS FM’s Wango Tango on May 9, which Kanye is headlining. During the On Air With Ryan Seacrest interview that followed, Bieber talked about his new album, former girlfriend Selena Gomez, changes he has made in his life, and more.
Of West, who remixed Bieber’s 2010 hit “Runaway Love” and whose 2013 Yeezus album was co-produced by Rubin (with others), the singer was asked what the rapper-designer brings to the creative table.
“I’ve been in the studio with him for the past month or so,” Bieber revealed. “I think that he just pushes you. He definitely wants it to be my way and my direction and he doesn’t want to steal what I want… That’s why artists love to go to him, because he pulls something out of you that other people don’t.”
“I’m not in a rush,” was the heartthrob’s reply to a query about his album release date. The reasons seemed clear when he added, “I just want to create the best piece of art that I can create. Something that’s really near and dear to my heart.”
Bieber then explains, “I know that there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been going through over the last few years. I just really want to bleed it on this record.”
He continued, “I want people to know that I’m not playing around. I’m not doing a record that is cookie cutter, or doing something that I think people want to hear.”
“I want to do something that I know that I can feel and people are going to feel it through my music,” he stressed, adding, “I’m pretty silent about what I’ve been going through and just growing up in this life is hard, so I want to translate that.”
After affirming his new album will feature “snippets” of EDM due to the continuing success of his fire collaboration with Jack Ü’s Skrillex and Diplo on “Where Are Ü Now,” Bieber said most of his album will “be really musical” with “real instrumentation.”
Asked whether he would be responding musically to Selena Gomez’s lovelorn “The Heart What Wants It Wants,” the singer reeled off a slew of “No’s,” but did admit the starlet is his muse.
“I think a lot of my inspiration comes from her [Selena Gomez],” said Bieber. “It was a long relationship and a relationship that created heartbreak, and created happiness, and a lot of different emotions that I wanted to write about, so there’s a lot of that on this album.”
For some artists, it’s pressure that provides the fuel to create something monumental. For Bieber, with everything to prove and a “new walk,” something urgent appears to motivate the singer. “I just really want to bleed it on this record,” and “I wanted them to understand that I am a real human being” — are the hopes of an artist and of someone who wants to understand himself, and be understood.
Now, finally, lucidly speaking up about the warping effects of fame, corroded limits — and the rest, on a 12-year-old growing up inside the seductive, dream factory of teen idolhood, an older and perhaps wiser Justin Bieber is gearing up to deliver the album of his life. One that very likely won’t merit the pop zombie reviews some hurled at 2012’s Believe.
[Images via Getty Images/Instagram]