Justin Bieber has dropped the “I’ll Show You” music video, just a few hours after yesterday’s tease of the visual and a later midnight rollout of the single onto iTunes and streaming services on Sunday night.
The introspective, vulnerable electro-R&B slow-jam is the third cut from the superstar’s much anticipated Purpose album, and it finds the Biebs “real talking” his feelings about the pitfalls of growing up famous and the struggle of being expected to be a perfect role model to the public, as well as all the heart and head mess that goes with that well-documented path.
It’s also the third collaboration for Justin and EDM titan Skrillex after the pair worked with Diplo on their huge hit “Where Are U Now,” the currently chart-buoyant club-ready “Sorry,” (No. 2 on the Hot 100), and now “I’ll Show You.”
The video was filmed in Iceland by vidoeographer Rory Kramer in September during a break in Bieber’s new music promo tour. In the clip, the singer is rarely seen face-on to camera. Instead, he does wonders for Iceland’s tourist industry and the lyrics by letting the breathtaking landscape become integral to the emotion and storytelling of the video.
“My life is a movie and everyone’s watching,” the Canadian sings atop a very narrow cliff ridge set in a high gorge. “So let’s get to the good part and past all the nonsense,” in a nod to the perpetual scrutiny and lack of privacy he faces.
As the thunderous beat drops, Justin is seen standing in front of a gushing waterfall then running free-as-a-bird in a lush open space. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect / when they don’t even know that I’m hurting,” he laments.
The chorus could cover any number of past Biebs-snafus, but when the guy sings “This life’s not easy / I’m not made out of steel / Don’t forget that I’m human / Don’t forget that I’m real / You act like you know me / But you never will / But there’s one thing that I know for sure / I’ll show you,” it’s clear the 21-year-old is pleading for the world to give him basic respect of being treated like a human being.
How would that play out? Well, for one thing it would mean media outlets, some so-called feminists, and random internet users wouldn’t find it funny to pore over and pass around naked photos of Bieber that were taken without his consent or knowledge by a paparazzo while on a private vacation.
There’s lot of great use of height, breadth, and perspective in the video. This is seen during the first hook when the camera pans up and down ravines and hillsides, alongside aerials of mountains and the sea while “I’ll Show You” repeats. The effect is a visceral feeling of the turbulence and alienation Justin sings of.
One of the most revealing parts in the song, “I gotta learn things / learn them the hard way/ To see what it feels like / No matter what they say” sees Justin sitting precariously atop a cliff. This segues to shots of the singer with his face in his hands, rolling down a hill, skateboarding along a desolate road, then on top of the wreck of an airplane. So many metaphors.
As the visual comes to its end, this sensitive Justin we get to see and hear from on his own terms for 3:20 minutes, stands amid icy masses, just before stripping down to white Calvin Kleins and taking a dip in an icy lake.
Sometimes there’s a tendency with heart-on-a-sleeve songs and videos to overplay the sad for sympathy. Impressively, the Biebs and Kramer avoid that by never focusing close-up on the singer’s face. There are no puppy-dog longing looks into the camera or tears shot in 30 takes.
As a result, viewers will likely feel some empathy for a kid who entered the seductive dream factory of teen idolhood when he was 12-years-old and previously told Power 106 radio station that early fame nearly “destroyed him.”
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) November 1, 2015
To his credit, the Biebs doesn’t make it sound as if he has all the answers, even though it’s clear he has done a lot of self-work. He admits, “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure comes down like lightning.”
For many, what may linger from the art of Bieber and Skrillex’s “I’ll Show You” as a whole, are four things: First. One of the most pain-strewn lines on the track. “Don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real.” Second, the delicate defiance of the Biebs’ “I’ll Show You,” which might mean “My critics can’t keep me down” or “let me show you all what I’ve learned along the way.” Third, how intensely the beauty of Iceland elevates the song and video.
But, by far, the most important purpose or takeaway Justin Bieber showed us all is his quietly incendiary declaration of his humanity. That’s largely been forgotten by the profit-driven machine that narrates his life and sells its simplistic conclusions on to the public.
— Telegraph Magazine (@TelegraphMag) October 30, 2015
Bieber is a work in progress. And that’s O.K. Because that’s the reality for all of us. We just tend to forget that when we get habitually used to pointing fingers at an easy target. That’s the purpose of being honest and vulnerable. It allows others to relate and understand.
Purpose, the album, lands November 13.
— Rory Kramer (@RoryKramer) November 2, 2015
[Images via Universal Music Group / Def Jam / Rory Kramer]