Justin Bieber isn’t calling his seriously impressive comeback a comeback. In recent interviews, the 21-year-old said he didn’t leave, he just stepped away from chafing spotlight at the end of 2013 to do some “growing” and “soul-searching.”
Evidently, the Biebs’ time away worked. Despite being bullied, misgendered, and misused by many as a convenient hate-dumpster from his teenage years to now, earlier this week the superstar stormed atop Billboard’s Hot 100 with his global smash “What Do You Mean?” The feat saw Bieber make history as the youngest male artist to do it, amid record breaking Spotify streams, No. 1’s on iTunes charts, and general weave-snatching.
In addition, Bieber co-wrote and co-produced the infectious, tropical house-pop hit, which takes note of the sonics of now and moves his own sound forward. The singer told Z100 radio station host, Mo Bounce, during promo rounds in New York City, that the success of the song felt especially good because it came from his “soul,” rather than record label suits.
The newly platinum coiffed heartthrob’s new chart slayer is the first cut from his now insanely anticipated upcoming album. It’s primarily helmed by Skrillex, who, with Diplo, created such astonishing production for the “Where Are U Now?” topline Bieber co-wrote with key songwriting partner, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd.
The EDM-pop anthem quickly became known as the standout track when Jack U’s debut album dropped back in February before igniting clubland, EDM festivals, eventually generating over 260 million Spotify streams alone and peaking at No. 8 on the Hot 100 in July. It’s now back in the top 10 due to the “Mean” boost.
Beyond all that, “Where Are U Now” effectively told the world a creatively rejuvenated Justin Bieber had returned to the game and was packing a co-sign from acclaimed music tastemakers.
Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, tells Hits Daily Double, that when “Where” came together, “We felt like we’d cracked the code. Real songs, real substance, real things people could relate to — and it was very personal to Justin.”
To hear Poo Bear tell it, Bieber’s new album will be something for the ages. In a new Rolling Stone chat, he talks up the record as he Canadian’s Thriller, “not [because of] the sound of it but the impact and amount of songs that are undeniable,” and said the “inspirational” album draws on the Biebs’ past issues and how he overcome them.
Elaborating, Poo Bear explained, “We recorded a lot of songs, 103 songs, over the past couple of years… just making sure that everything is in the direction we want to stay in, which is uplifting music, real-world music. This is so the world can understand: ‘If you’re going through what I went through, this is what I did to get through my problems.'”
“Justin always wanted to be that light, that example. And we really hit it with this album,” he said, adding, “You’ll get to hear him really get intimate with things that he went through in his life in the last couple of years, so that people can understand him — kind of like with ‘Human Nature.’ Big, powerful records that everyone can listen to.”
Elsewhere, Braun says there are seven hits, possibly more, adding, “All the questions people have about him he answers, song by song, on this album.”
Honestly? That sounds like exactly the kind of record millions of kids and older need to be hear. Current media reports on Bieber’s comeback are mostly focusing on the record-breaking, 21 million-plus Spotify streams “Mean” touched off in its first five days after release, or ridiculous ante-raising about the singer expressing camera placement concerns during his recent Today Show set.
During ongoing radio interviews to promote the single, Bieber openly says his faith in God, meditation, prayer, and an inner circle of positive friends helped him find “peace.” He also talked about dealing with being the focus of mass criticism.
Speaking to Power 106 FM’s The Cruz Show, Bieber said of early fame.”It can completely destroy a human being. It almost destroyed me.”
Over at 95.5 PLJ, the singer talked about his experience in the music industry, recalling, “As a young boy, you just trust everybody… I had so many people break my heart at a young age, and that’s kind of why I went into this weird like mode of not trusting people.” [sic]
He went on to add, “I think my relationship with God has been the coolest thing… That was how I found myself… was like my relationship with God, and just knowing that there’s something that is bigger and perfect that is watching over me at all times.”
With the U.K.’s Capital Radio FM on Thursday, Bieber talked about crying at the MTV VMA’s and the relief he felt when the audience cheered him because of past experience of being booed at an award show and his time away from the stage.
“It just was such a relieving feeling,” he explained to the show’s host. “No one knows what it’s truly like to have a lot of people constantly bashing you and bringing you down, it can be tough at times.”
Bieber continued, “But to understand that there are beautiful people who aren’t doing that, and just to focus on that stuff. That’s really what keeps me [going].”
— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) September 11, 2015
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately two million U.S. adolescents attempt suicide each year due to causes including alcohol or substance abuse disorders, hopelessness, impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, relationship loss, legal woes and disciplinary problems, bullying, and more.
Throw in statistics and the reality of runaways, youth crime, drug use in youth, and teens with emotional issues, some of which Bieber has been affected by in his life, and it is a mystery why more voices are not picking up on the fact that his experience from YouTube’s first breakout star, to teen idol, casualty, then survivor, and his declared willingness to share it, means that now — more than ever — Justin Bieber can inspire young people.
Behind everything: the roast, magazine covers, pranks on Ellen, the celebrity countdown, and record label backing — crisis, if nothing else, is a great equalizer.
[Images via D. Dipasupil / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images]