Let’s face it — Justin Bieber is a journey, and the rest of us are just along for the ride.
After being scouted off YouTube, Bieber’s rise to fame has not been easy; he has been ridiculed to the point of no return and criticized so fiercely that his own name became an insult.
Thrust into the spotlight as a barely teenaged phenomenon, he was a natural target for criticism from all angles, backed by a majorly female fanbase millions strong. While many were sure he would never last, Bieber went on to defy the odds, smashing international sales records and collaborating with top artists.
As time passed, Bieber gained experience and momentum, producing his 2012 album “Believe” with a deeper voice and more favorable reviews.
Though not everyone’s favorite artist, Justin Bieber had become a household name. Once the infamous mop bucket video surfaced, however, the lengthy downhill battle began, all documented in high definition and posted online for the world to see.
By the time he announced his potential retirement from the music industry in December 2013, Bieber had become such a laughingstock that even his most dedicated fans had little defense to offer. Following his DUI arrest in Jan. 2014, it was no surprise that the world seized the opportunity to beat him down for good.
Shunned by the press, Bieber laid low for the remainder of the year, only surfacing in the media upon his various run ins with the law — until now.
This past February, Diplo and Skrillex released a surprise track, “Where Are Ü Now,” featuring vocals by Bieber. The song was an instant success, reaching platinum status in the U.S., peaking in the top 10 in eight countries, as well as top 20 in an additional four.
It was Bieber’s highest charting single in the UK since “Boyfriend,” (2012) and first top 10 since “Beauty and a Beat” (2012). The track also marked Bieber’s seventh top 10 hit, reminding the industry of his musical influence while showing off a newer, more mature sound.
It was not until the end of July that Bieber dropped the announcement of a new single, “What Do You Mean,” through social media. The track was to be Bieber’s first official release since “Believe.” Over the next month, countless high profile figures uploaded photos to Instagram and Twitter promoting the song, all leading up to the MTV VMAs, where it was announced Bieber would perform the single for the first time.
Just two days before the VMAs, “What Do You Mean” was released worldwide. The positive reaction was instantaneous, and in true Justin Bieber style, the track broke Spotify streaming records and quickly shot to the #1 iTunes spot in 90 countries. The song also garnered widespread acclaim from critics, many of whom dubbed it Bieber’s best work.
As his first live performance since 2013 neared, anticipation continued building throughout the VMAs. When the moment finally came, Bieber opened with “Where Are Ü Now,” before transitioning to “What Do You Mean,” complete with dance numbers and a short monologue.
As the performance came to a close, Bieber received a standing ovation from the crowd, the applause and screaming continuing long after the music had ended.
And then it happened.
As a full audience looked on and millions of viewers watched from home, Bieber suddenly hunched over, face twisted with distress, sobbing.
In a post-performance interview with Jimmy Fallon, Bieber claimed this influx of tears was triggered by a desire of approval from the crowd, and on a grander level, the public.
Whether the toll of a two year hiatus had finally caught up to him, or if he was simply relieved to not be booed off stage, the moment was immortalized, quickly becoming the top trending topic of every website.
Bieber’s tears were plastered across social media, his most prominent media coverage since his string of citations over the last two years, marking the beginning of the newest chapter in his career.
Between the comeback performance and subsequent breakdown, dropping the music video for “What Do You Mean” just minutes after the live performance and the impending new album, there is no telling where Bieber will go from here. Based on the past few years, there is no doubt that it will be a journey.