Justin Bieber has had an incredible year. 2013-14 saw the superstar stumble from crisis to crisis, some of his own making, some not. But, in 2015, he apologized for previous mistakes, then dropped Purpose — a shimmering, mature, progressive album that’s widely viewed as one of the best pop records to emerge in a very long time.
To hear the singer’s manager, Scooter Braun, tell it, however, it was far from certain that Bieber would get a happy ending. Braun reveals things were so bad by the end of 2013 (Note: the singer’s Believe tour wrapped at this time), that he even feared for the young star’s life.
Speaking to the the New York Times in a recent profile that also covered Braun’s other artists, the father-of-one was asked when Bieber’s “comeback campaign” began.
“As I started to see it going in the wrong direction, I started to prepare,” the music maven replied, before adding that he “put deals in place where he [Bieber] was protected for the long run.”
The manager explains that during that turbulent time, he adapted his entertainment company (Scooter Braun Projects) “to scale, because I was not going to let him [Bieber] work.”
“After Journals, [Bieber’s 2013 digital compilation],” Braun added, “he wanted to tour, and I honestly at that time felt, if he toured, he could die.”
Strong stuff. Braun also repeated something he’s said before. Namely, that he does not take credit for Justin turning his life around.
Referring to praise others have heaped on the “the marketing and the A&R and everything we [Braun’s team and the record label Def Jam] put together,” the 33-year-old insists the process of moving on from his overly-documented troubled years was initiated by Bieber himself.
“But I want to be really clear,” Braun insists. “I was trying to do that job for a year and a half, and I failed every single day.”
He added, “It wasn’t until something happened that it clicked for him [Bieber]. He made the conscious decision as a young man: ‘I need to make a change in my own life.’ “
During the interview, Scooter claimed he waited until he saw “six months” of Bieber committing to a more positive mindset (and presumably matching actions) before he and his team started working on ideas for returning the superstar to his career.
“I looked at Robert Downey Jr. and all these people,” Scooter recalled. “When you ask for redemption, people will give it to you. But if you’re the boy who cried wolf, they’ll destroy you. Once I saw there was consistency I said, ‘O.K., now it’s time to go back in the professional life.’ “
The manager says “the click” for the Biebs “happened about 20 months ago.” Elaborating, he added, “Six months after that, you start seeing me planning a [Comedy Central] roast. And then the Calvin Klein ads come, and the roast comes …”
Despite previous interviews in which the singer said he asked for the roast as a 21st birthday present, Braun recalled the idea originated with an intern in his team, who pooh-poohed sit-downs with Katie Couric or Oprah. Braun says he started talking to the Comedy Central 24 hours later.
“I think if you want people to see that he’s for real, he should do a Comedy Central roast,” Braun says he was told by the intern. Fast forward to March, the funny but brutal roast was watched by millions. Bieber sportingly endured hours of skewering from lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, guest roaster Will Ferrell, the host, comic-actor Kevin Hart, and more.
NYT also asked Braun if he’d ever played up “Justin’s real-life lows to make the redemption narrative that much more powerful?”
After firmly denying that notion, Braun revealed Justin went through considerably tougher experiences than people realize or know about. He said the singer will talk about that dark time at some point.
“The outsiders don’t really know what was happening,” Braun said. “It was far worse than people realize. And when he is ready, he [Bieber] will tell what he was going through.”
He adds, “But it’s a hard thing to watch someone you care and genuinely love go through that. I’m really, really happy that’s over.”
Justin Bieber fans will already be aware that 2013-14 was no walk in the park for the singer.
In his November Billboard cover story, Justin said, “I wouldn’t suggest being a child star. It’s the toughest thing in the world.”
The singer talked about how his life “might seem awesome from the outside,” adding, “I’m struggling. Certain things broke my trust with people. Situations happen that taint your mind. I started going through the motions.”
He went on, “I felt like people were judging me all the time. I came out alive. I came out swinging. But I was close to letting [fame] completely destroy me.”
In an interview with Los Angeles’ Power 106 radio while promoting his Purpose lead single “What Do You Mean?” earlier this year, Justin said he got to a place in his life where fame “almost completely destroyed me.” To watch that interview, click here.
“I just want people to know I’m human,” he told NME. “I’m struggling just to get through the days. I think a lot of people are. You get lonely, you know, when you’re on the road.” He went on, “People see the glam and the amazing stuff, but they don’t know the other side. This life can rip you apart.”
The “Sorry” singer went on to admit he deals with depression “all the time” and that he feels “isolated” by fame.
“You’re in your hotel room and there are fans all around, paparazzi following you everywhere and it gets intense,” Justin said. “When you can’t go anywhere or do anything alone you get depressed. I would not wish this upon anyone.”
Anyone familiar with the introspective and emotionally baring moments on Purpose, on songs such as — “I’ll Show You,” “Life Is Worth Living,” and the title track — might hear those tracks differently now after Braun’s insights, and Bieber’s previous reveals.
The singer will head out on his Purpose World Tour next year. The already mammoth trek kicks off in Seattle, Washington, on March 9.
[Photos via Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images]