All of the handlers and packaging can’t conceal the fact that Bieber is a confident—and competitive—young man. His father is a former MMA fighter, and Justin himself is a big fan of the cocky boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. “There’s no point in doing this if I’m not going to be the best,” Bieber says. “I give up a personal life. I give up my friends and family to pursue what I love and to make my fans happy. Why would I give up so much to be just another singer?”
It’s this attitude that suggests Bieber will have a longer run than other tween pop stars. “When I release something I want it to be the best,” he continues. “When I release my fragrance, I want it to be the number-one fragrance; I don’t want it to be the ninth-best-selling fragrance. My Christmas album went double-platinum worldwide. Christmas albums don’t do that, and that still wasn’t good enough for me.”
People just need to take a chance and listen. That’s going to be the biggest problem, to make them feel like it’s cool to like my music.
Bieber wants to win so much he’s only looking to the record books for comp. “He’s competitive with Michael Jackson,” Braun relates. “He looks at other groups in his space not like competition, but as part of the team. When he looks at who he should chase and who’s setting the bar, we only talk about Michael Jackson. We talk about Michael probably every other day.” In fact the Jackson family specifically asked Bieber to appear at the ceremony for MJ’s induction to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bieber considers it one of the biggest moments of his career. “It was crazy,” he says. “It was such an honor to be there and have his mother and daughter introduce me.” Even crazier was hearing Jackson’s daughter, Paris, tell Justin, “I think my dad would have loved to mentor you.”
The day when having a Justin Bieber song on your iPod isn’t a guilty pleasure is coming soon. “As adults we think about that transition when you started living young manhood,” says Braun. “He’ll represent that. I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be done. The one thing I tell him all the time is, ‘Don’t be in such a rush to appease the adult audience and try to be a grown-up. Just be 18—and people will relate to that.’” But as much as he encourages JayBee not to get ahead of himself, that doesn’t mean he’s scaling back his grand vision.
“It’s awesome that he’s Canadian,” Braun says before they head back to the studio. “Because I just realized Canada is a province of the U.K., so the Queen of England is the Queen. Technically, if Justin has an amazing career, he can be knighted. He can be Sir Justin.”
JayBee isn’t quite ready for knighthood, but he’s begun to embrace what Scooter’s been saying all along: that he’s not a normal kid. “I’m ready,” Justin says before heading back to the lab. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to be the greatest I can be. If I start making terrible music, I don’t expect people to like me. If I’m making great music and there’s no reason for people to dislike me, that’s when it’s going to make me upset. People just need to take a chance and listen. If they don’t want to take a chance, then I don’t know. That’s going to be the biggest problem, to make them feel like it’s cool for them to like my music.”
Justin says he wants to get more tattoos when he’s older. He pulls up his shirt to reveal a small seagull tattoo on his hip—inspired by Richard Bach’s book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. His whole family got inked with the same design when he was 16. “They all got it on their wrist, but I wanted it in a different spot,” he explains. “The book is about a seagull who wanted to be more than just a seagull. I’m trying to be more than just a regular person. I’m trying to be extravagant.” Kid stuff, right? Not so much.
WATCH JUSTIN BIEBER'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Matthew Henson. (GROOMING) Vanessa Price. (MAKEUP) Miho Suzuki. (CLOTHING) Suit by Dolce & Gabbana / Shirt by Won Hundred / Bow tie by TOPMAN / Shoes by Android Homme.