SOURCE PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE, L-R): Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for Triller, Chris McKay/WireImage
Justin Bieber’s Sonic Evolution: How He Transformed From Bubblegum Pop Heartthrob To Mature, Genre-Melding Artist
In 2021, Justin Bieber unleashed perhaps his most authentic representation of his artistry, 'Justice.' Bieber's sixth album is his most GRAMMY-nominated work to date — and a celebration of his musical journey.
When Justin Bieber first came into the public eye in 2009, his mop-top hairdo, prepubescent falsetto and squeaky-clean debut single "One Time" screamed budding pop star. And considering the pandemonium that ensued shortly thereafter — aptly called "Bieber Fever" — it was evident that he was a phenom in the making.
Though he was only 15 at the time, Bieber had a pretty clear vision of what he wanted to be. "I see myself doing more R&B, sort of like Usher and Justin [Timberlake], or an old Michael Jackson," he said in one of his first interviews in 2008. But being so young, Bieber's initial releases were pigeonholed as pop, specifically catering to a tween and teenage audience.
Even so, Bieber never lost sight of his aspirations. He’s morphed his R&B influences with the commercial pop sounds that helped make him a star, culminating in his sixth studio album, Justice — which just might be his magnum opus.
Justice earned Bieber eight nominations at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, a monumental personal feat for several reasons. Not only is it his most noms in a single year, it's the first time Bieber has been up for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year at once. What's more, he earned his first-ever R&B nomination ("Peaches," his Record and Song Of The Year contender, is nominated for Best R&B Performance).
The 22-track "Triple Chucks Deluxe" edition of Justice is the version that's nominated for both Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. Like all of Bieber's projects, Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe) features a hoard of collaborators — both on vocals and behind the scenes — bringing in familiar faces like Skrillex and Benny Blanco, and new voices like the Kid Laroi and Burna Boy. No matter the number of co-writers, Bieber is listed as the lead writer on all 22 songs — a throughline among his albums since 2012's Believe.
The anthemic single "Anyone" — a passionate ode to his wife and prime muse, Hailey — earned Bieber a Best Pop Solo Performance at this year's GRAMMYs. The other two nominated Justice tracks further show the album's diversity: the pained (and super personal) piano ballad "Lonely" is up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (it features Blanco); the thrice nominated "Peaches" is a wavy collaboration with R&B stars Giveon and Daniel Caesar.
What makes Justice different, though, is that it feels like a true artist's statement. Bieber navigated the pop machine as a teen and honed his R&B-infused pop style into his late 20s. Now 28, the superstar delivered a project that makes him feel more mature — and in turn, more connected to the music — than ever before.
Bieber's first musical maturing came as soon as his voice dropped — which began with his 2011 Christmas album, Under the Mistletoe, but really took hold upon the release of "Boyfriend" in 2012. The first single from his third LP, Believe, "Boyfriend" was the proper introduction to a new-and-improved (err, grown up) Bieber, his boyish chirp transformed to a sultry croon and his flippable shag 'do traded for a coiffed short cut.
That's not to discredit any of the work Bieber had put in up until that point. His My World EP and debut album, My World 2.0, established him as a proficient songwriter and hitmaker: Bieber co-wrote every song on My World 2.0, and five of the six singles from both projects landed in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. While the singles leaned more pop (particularly the hooky, upbeat smash "Baby"), many of the album cuts played on the R&B young Bieber yearned to explore ("First Dance" on My World; "Overboard" or "Up" on My World 2.0).
While "Boyfriend" ushered in an elevated vocal tone, Believe brought a much bigger sound as a whole. The bass was turned up ("As Long As You Love Me"), the dance beats were punchier ("Take You") and the production became more complex ("Thought Of You").
The lyrics also became more intentional — love songs were no longer referring to "shawty," they were about falling in love with your best friend. And while he had released a few ballads by that point, the fan-favorite acoustic track "Be Alright" put Bieber's vocals on display arguably more than ever before, foreshadowing the vulnerability he would later showcase on Justice cuts like "Off My Face" and "Lifetime."
Eighteen months later, Bieber expanded on his R&B prowess with the 2013 compilation album Journals. The project took a step back from the star's commercial, pop-driven releases, serving up slower melodies and more provocative narratives. Now a cult favorite among Beliebers, Journals proved that he can be an R&B star as much as a pop star. Combined with the impactful sounds of Believe, Bieber hinted that he had just scratched the surface of his artistry.
He clearly laid the groundwork perfectly: Upon the release of his 2015 single, "What Do You Mean?" Bieber became bigger than he'd ever been. The bouncy trop-pop track debuted atop the Hot 100, marking a first for Bieber. Its two subsequent singles, "Sorry" and "Love Yourself," also reached the summit; the album, Purpose, went on to be certified five-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). (It was also the first Bieber album to receive an Album Of The Year nod, at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards.)
But Purpose was more than a commercial win for Bieber. The years leading up to the album's release saw Bieber make very public mistakes — including a couple of arrests — as well as a very public breakup. Presenting his most personal lyrics to date, Purpose was Bieber's chance to show the world his growth.
The same could be said for Justice — except with very different circumstances. Unlike the trouble-laden journey to Purpose, Justice was inspired by the love story that unfolded between Bieber and his wife. That narrative began with 2020's Changes, another R&B-driven project (or, as he called it, R&Bieber), but its lyrical content was largely written off by critics as surface-level and its production was considered to be lacking variety.
Perhaps seeing the difference in responses to Purpose and Changes sparked a creative lightbulb within Bieber. Whatever the inspiration, something clearly clicked.
Justice is a comprehensive showcase of Bieber's musicianship, blending all of his musical paths together: pop beginnings, R&B and hip-hop inspirations, dance/house collaborations, tender vocal stylings, vulnerable lyrics. Expanding on Changes' diaristic accounts of marriage, Bieber dives deeper both lyrically and sonically — ultimately making a greater impact.
Even Blanco, a longtime collaborator of Bieber's, admitted to Billboard that Justin is "singing the best I've ever heard." Their Justice duet, "Lonely," is arguably both Bieber's most vulnerable lyrical display and most moving vocal performance of his career, likely due to its autobiographical nature: "Everybody knows my past now/ Like my house was always made of glass/ And maybe that's the price you pay/ For the money and fame at an early age," he sings on the second verse.
But other than "Lonely," the rest of the album serves as a celebration of Bieber's journey, both musically and personally. And it's proving to have staying power: Eighteen months after the Justice era kicked off with the angelic (and Chance the Rapper-featuring) lead single, "Holy," the album is still making waves thanks to the longing synth-pop radio hit "Ghost" (which earned Bieber his 10th No. 1 at pop radio in February; as of press time, the song sits at No. 5 on the Hot 100).
Where he'll go from here is something fans — and maybe even Bieber himself — have likely been pondering. But if Justice is any indication, one thing is for sure: Justin Bieber the artist is here to stay.
Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage.com
Meet Justin Bieber With GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions
Bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience to meet Justin Bieber
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched a new auction offering bidders the opportunity to bid on an exclusive VIP concert experience with Justin Bieber. Open now through Oct. 25, the auction package features two tickets and meet-and-greet passes to an upcoming Bieber concert.
To place your bid on this exclusive experience, visit www.charitybuzz.com. All proceeds will benefit the GRAMMY Foundation.
FYI/TMI: Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy, Justin Bieber Breaks The Law
Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney among performers for Sandy benefit; Bieber gets ticketed in L.A.
(In an effort to keep you fully informed, and fully entertained, below we present today's FYI and TMI — news you need and news that's, well, sometimes needless….)
More Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy
GRAMMY winners Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, and legendary rockers Roger Waters and the Who will perform at a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 12 in New York. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims.
SoundExchange Reports 3Q Royalty Payments
Performance rights organization SoundExchange distributed $122.5 million in royalty payments during the third quarter of 2012, marking the organization's largest quarterly payout since its founding in 2000, according to Billboard.biz. SoundExchange has distributed $326.9 million in performance royalties for the year to date, bringing the organization's grand payout total to $1.2 billion since 2000.
Bieber Breaks The Law
As if Justin Bieber's recent trouble in love wasn't hard enough for the 18-year-old, the teen pop sensation has now run into some trouble with law enforcement. Bieber was ticketed by Los Angeles police on Nov. 13 after he was pulled over in his Ferrari in West Hollywood, Calif., for making an unsafe left turn. On top of that, cops found his registration was expired. Hopefully now there's one less unsafe driver on the road.
MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction Launched
GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions offers exclusive memorabilia from seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit
Following the seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit honoring Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman on May 6, GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched the MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction. Presented in partnership with Kompolt, the auction is open through May 19 and features a variety of autographed music memorabilia, including items signed backstage at the MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Gahan and Paramore.
Additional auction items include a framed issue of Rolling Stone signed by the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger; vintage memorabilia signed by Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, and Barbra Streisand; guitars autographed by Kings Of Leon, Korn, Tom Petty, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Urban; unique memorabilia signed by Jeff Beck, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Muse, Katy Perry, and Rihanna; and a 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards VIP Experience for two including rehearsal passes and hotel accommodations.
To place your bid on items featured in the auction, visit www.ebay.com/grammy. All proceeds will benefit MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.
Vicente Fernandez performs at the 2002 Latin GRAMMY Awards
Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage
Vicente Fernández Posthumously Wins GRAMMY For Best Regional Mexican Music Album | 2022 GRAMMYs
The late Mexican legend, who died in December at 81, won the GRAMMY for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) for his 2020 album, 'A Mis 80's'
Nearly four months after his death, Vicente Fernández 's legacy lives on.
The Mexican icon’s album, A Mis 80's, won Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano). The posthumous win marks Fernández 's fourth career GRAMMY.
Aida Cuevas' Antología De La Musica Ranchera, Vol. 2, Mon Laferte's Seis, Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto Por México, Vol. II and Christian Nodal's <em>Ayayay! (Súper Deluxe)</em> were the other albums nominated in the category.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2022 GRAMMYs.