meta-scriptJustin Bieber’s Sonic Evolution: How He Transformed From Bubblegum Pop Heartthrob To Mature, Genre-Melding Artist |
Justin Bieber Sonic Evolution Graphic
Justin Bieber

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.

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2022 - 09:53 pm

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.

The Meteoric Rise Of Olivia Rodrigo: How The "Drivers License" Singer Became Gen Z's Queen of Pop

Autumn Rowe at the 2023 GRAMMYs
Autumn Rowe at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?: Autumn Rowe Revisits Her Unexpected Album Of The Year Win With Jon Batiste

Acclaimed songwriter Autumn Rowe reveals the inspirational location where her Album Of The Year golden gramophone resides, and details the "really funny way" she first met Jon Batiste.

GRAMMYs/Apr 10, 2024 - 08:33 pm

Ever since Autumn Rowe won a GRAMMY in 2022, it's been her biggest motivation. That's why the musical multi-hyphenate keeps the award nestled in her writing room — to keep her creative juices flowing.

"It reminds me that anything is possible," she says in the latest episode of Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?

Rowe won her first-ever career GRAMMY in 2022 with an Album Of The Year award for Jon Batiste's We Are. "It was very stressful," she recalls with a laugh.

"Right before they announced Album Of The Year, the pressure started getting to me," Rowe explains. "Album Of The Year is the biggest possible award you can win. So, I'm like, 'We didn't win any of these [categories], how are we going to win the biggest award?"

The win also taught her one unforgettable, valuable lesson: "We matter. The music matters. Everything matters. We just have to create it. If there isn't space for it, we have to make space for it. Don't wait for something to open."

Rowe says she grew up "super dirt poor" and never even had the opportunity to watch the awards ceremony on television. "To be a GRAMMY winner means it is possible for everyone," she declares.

Press play on the video above to learn more about the backstory of Autumn Rowe's Album Of The Year award, and remember to check back to for more new episodes of Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?

Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY?: Christopher "Tricky" Stewart Recalls Winning Song Of The Year For Beyoncé's "Single Ladies"

Doja Cat & SZA GRAMMY Rewind Hero
(L-R) Doja Cat and SZA at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Doja Cat & SZA Tearfully Accept Their First GRAMMYs For "Kiss Me More"

Relive the moment the pair's hit "Kiss Me More" took home Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, which marked the first GRAMMY win of their careers.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 06:11 pm

As Doja Cat put it herself, the 2022 GRAMMYs were a "big deal" for her and SZA.

Doja Cat walked in with eight nominations, while SZA entered the ceremony with five. Three of those respective nods were for their 2021 smash "Kiss Me More," which ultimately helped the superstars win their first GRAMMYs.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the night SZA and Doja Cat accepted the golden gramophone for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance — a milestone moment that Doja Cat almost missed.

"Listen. I have never taken such a fast piss in my whole life," Doja Cat quipped after beelining to the stage. "Thank you to everybody — my family, my team. I wouldn't be here without you, and I wouldn't be here without my fans."

Before passing the mic to SZA, Doja also gave a message of appreciation to the "Kill Bill" singer: "You are everything to me. You are incredible. You are the epitome of talent. You're a lyricist. You're everything."

SZA began listing her praises for her mother, God, her supporters, and, of course, Doja Cat. "I love you! Thank you, Doja. I'm glad you made it back in time!" she teased.

"I like to downplay a lot of s— but this is a big deal," Doja tearfully concluded. "Thank you, everybody."

Press play on the video above to hear Doja Cat and SZA's complete acceptance speech for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

How 'SOS' Transformed SZA Into A Superstar & Solidified Her As The Vulnerability Queen

Baby Keem GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Baby Keem (left) at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Baby Keem Celebrate "Family Ties" During Best Rap Performance Win In 2022

Revisit the moment budding rapper Baby Keem won his first-ever gramophone for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards for his Kendrick Lamar collab "Family Ties."

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 05:50 pm

For Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, The Melodic Blue was a family affair. The two cousins collaborated on three tracks from Keem's 2021 debut LP, "Range Brothers," "Vent," and "Family Ties." And in 2022, the latter helped the pair celebrate a GRAMMY victory.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, turn the clock back to the night Baby Keem accepted Best Rap Performance for "Family Ties," marking the first GRAMMY win of his career.

"Wow, nothing could prepare me for this moment," Baby Keem said at the start of his speech.

He began listing praise for his "supporting system," including his family and "the women that raised me and shaped me to become the man I am."

Before heading off the stage, he acknowledged his team, who "helped shape everything we have going on behind the scenes," including Lamar. "Thank you everybody. This is a dream."

Baby Keem received four nominations in total at the 2022 GRAMMYs. He was also up for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Kanye West's Donda.

Press play on the video above to watch Baby Keem's complete acceptance speech for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

How The 2024 GRAMMYs Saw The Return Of Music Heroes & Birthed New Icons

Usher and Alicia Keys at Super Bowl 2024
(L-R) Usher and Alicia Keys during the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show.

Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


17 Love Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "I Will Always Love You," "Drunk In Love" & More

Over the GRAMMYs' 66-year history, artists from Frank Sinatra to Ed Sheeran have taken home golden gramophones for their heartfelt tunes. Take a look at some of the love songs that have won GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2024 - 09:42 pm

Editor's Note: This is an update to a story from 2017.

Without heart-bursting, world-shifting love songs, music wouldn't be the same. There are countless classic and chart-topping hits dedicated to love, and several of them have won GRAMMYs.

We're not looking at tunes that merely deal with shades of love or dwell in heartbreak. We're talking out-and-out, no-holds-barred musical expressions of affection — the kind of love that leaves you wobbly at the knees.

No matter how you're celebrating Valentine's Day (or not), take a look at 18 odes to that feel-good, mushy-gushy love that have taken home golden gramophones over the years.

Frank Sinatra, "Strangers In The Night"

Record Of The Year / Best Vocal Performance, Male, 1967

Ol' Blue Eyes offers but a glimmer of hope for the single crowd on Valentine's Day, gently ruminating about exchanging glances with a stranger and sharing love before the night is through.

Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind"

Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

In this cover, Nelson sings to the woman in his life, lamenting over those small things he should have said and done, but never took the time. Don't find yourself in the same position this Valentine's Day.

Lionel Richie, "Truly"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

"Truly" embodies true dedication to a loved one, and it's delivered with sincerity from the king of '80s romantic pop — who gave life to the timeless love-song classics "Endless Love," "Still" and "Three Times A Lady."

Roy Orbison, "Oh, Pretty Woman"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1991

Orbison captures the essence of encountering a lovely woman for the first time, and offers helpful one-liners such as "No one could look as good as you" and "I couldn't help but see … you look as lovely as can be." Single men, take notes.

Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"

Record Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, 1994

Houston passionately delivers a message of love, remembrance and forgiveness on her version of this song, which was written by country sweetheart Dolly Parton and first nominated for a GRAMMY in 1982.

Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From Titanic)"  

Record Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1999

This omnipresent theme song from the 1997 film Titanic was propelled to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as the story of Jack and Rose (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and GRAMMY winner Kate Winslet) swept the country.

Shania Twain, "You're Still The One"

Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song, 1999

Co-written with producer and then-husband Mutt Lange, Twain speaks of beating the odds with love and perseverance in lyrics such as, "I'm so glad we made it/Look how far we've come my baby," offering a fresh coat of optimism for couples of all ages.

Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo"

Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, 2005

"There's always that one person that will always have your heart," sings Usher in this duet with Keys, taking the listener back to that special first love. The chemistry between the longtime friends makes this ode to “My Boo” even more heartfelt, and the love was still palpable even 20 years later when they performed it on the Super Bowl halftime show stage.

Bruno Mars, "Just The Way You Are"

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, 2011

Dating advice from Bruno Mars: If you think someone is beautiful, you should tell them every day. Whether or not it got Mars a date for Valentine's Day, it did get him a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona, "Fool For You" 

Best Traditional R&B Performance, 2012

It's a far cry from his previous GRAMMY-winning song, "F*** You," but "Fool For You" had us yearning for "that deep, that burning/ That amazing unconditional, inseparable love."

Justin Timberlake, "Pusher Love Girl" 

Best R&B Song, 2014

Timberlake is so high on the love drug he's "on the ceiling, baby." Timberlake co-wrote the track with James Fauntleroy, Jerome Harmon and Timbaland, and it's featured on his 2013 album The 20/20 Experience, which flew high to No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Beyoncé & Jay-Z, "Drunk In Love"

Best R&B Performance / Best R&B Song, 2015

While "Drunk In Love" wasn't the first love song that won Beyoncé and Jay-Z a GRAMMY — they won two GRAMMYs for "Crazy In Love" in 2004 — it is certainly the sexiest. This quintessential 2010s bop from one of music's most formidable couples captures why their alliance set the world's hearts aflame (and so did their steamy GRAMMYs performance of it).

Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

Song Of The Year / Best Pop Solo Performance, 2016

Along with his abundant talent, Sheeran's boy-next-door charm is what rocketed him to the top of the pop ranks. And with swooning lyrics and a waltzing melody, "Thinking Out Loud" is proof that he's a modern-day monarch of the love song.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, "Shallow"

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance / Best Song Written For Visual Media, 2019

A Star is Born's cachet has gone up and down with its various remakes, but the 2018 iteration was a smash hit. Not only is that thanks to moving performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but particularly thanks to their impassioned, belt-along duet "Shallow."

H.E.R. & Daniel Caesar, "Best Part"

Best R&B Performance, 2019

"If life is a movie/ Know you're the best part." Who among us besotted hasn't felt their emotions so widescreen, so thunderous? Clearly, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar have — and they poured that feeling into the GRAMMY-winning ballad "Best Part."

Kacey Musgraves, "Butterflies"

Best Country Solo Performance, 2019

As Musgraves' Album Of The Year-winning LP Golden Hour shows, the country-pop star can zoom in or out at will, capturing numberless truths about the human experience. With its starry-eyed lyrics and swirling production, "Butterflies" perfectly encapsulates the flutter in your stomach that love can often spark.

Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber, "10,000 Hours"

Best Country Duo/Group Performance, 2021

When country hook-meisters Dan + Shay teamed up with pop phenom Justin Bieber, their love song powers were unstoppable. With more than 1 billion Spotify streams alone, "10,000 Hours" has become far more than an ode to just their respective wives; it's an anthem for any lover.

Lovesick Or Sick Of Love: Listen To's Valentine's Day Playlist Featuring Taylor Swift, Doja Cat, Playboi Carti, Olivia Rodrigo, FKA Twigs & More