The tabloids have recently been having a field day with the Canadian singer, but what you should be paying attention to is his ever-evolving new music.
Written by Claire Lobenfeld (@clairevlo)
Back in September, before Justin Bieber started his weekly series #MusicMonday, his collaboration with Tyga, "Wait A Minute," materialized from the leak ether. One of the first glimpses into Bieber's post-Believe output, the song was slick and grown. It was also quite unlike the mess he'd been previously unleashing—like drug-related run-ins with the Swedish police, delivering a "martial arts-style kick" to a paparazzo, and his, ultimately confiscated, pet monkey. More recently, while he's been adding multiple scandal-making notches into his swaggy belt, he's also quickly finessing the suave model put into place by 2012's "Boyfriend" and crafting tunes more primed for Trey Songz than the "other Justin."
He's been releasing consistently wow-worthy material on #MusicMonday. There's "Hold Tight," a woozy ode to an enamoring paramour, replete with a yearning "lips won't let me go" hook. He implements an Autotune-tinged falsetto on guitar-inflected heartbreak anthem "Bad Day," reminding the listener his prepubescent voice has long-matured. But the standout, so far, is "Recovery," which boasts a sample of Craig David's "Fill Me In."
Bieber has the full aural artillery to shed his Pop Princedom to duke it out in the R&B ring. But when you're a multiplatinum megastar acting an astronomical fool (word to the Anne Frank House guestbook), the tabloids are going to cover you before the critics do.
Gleaning influence from an R&B bona fide like David instead of a line-straddler like Timberlake is an important distinction for Bieber to make at this point in his career. He's had the proper puzzle pieces for that type of crossover in place for years—mentorship from Usher, a Terius Nash-penned #1 hit, co-signs from Ludacris and Drake—and now he has the full aural artillery to shed his Pop Princedom to duke it out in the R&B ring. But when you're a multiplatinum megastar acting an astronomical fool (word to the Anne Frank House guestbook), the tabloids are going to cover you before the critics do. And those headlines don't cease when you add a Brazil brothel bust, illegally tagging up Rio De Janiero, and a video a random woman shot of you sleeping into the mix.
It's a confusing time to consider Justin Bieber. The music he's making is decidedly outside the confines of his currently-in-place demographic but those lines will continue to blur. Schadenfreude also plays big here, particularly when it comes to a celebrity a large swath of the non-tween public finds cloying. So, do we focus on what might be a penchant for prostitutes and ignore the burners he's releasing, knighting him someone to revile? Or, do we let him Rob Lowe and not care because there's merit to the music? We can look to Rihanna for the answer.
Before the release of last year's Unapologetic, Rihanna was running wild, rolling blunts on top of her security's head at Coachella and rekindling her romance with Chris Brown three years after its appalling end. Then the Selfie Queen dropped her most unassailable LP to-date and went on an almost never-ending world tour. Rarely was she given a pass for revealing her natural bad gyal. But she delivered an album with more mojo than ever and for the first time in her career she topped the Billboard 200 her first week out. Those distinctions do not necessitate leniency for Justin's transgressions, but help to pad the case that if he's actually evolving as an artist in his chosen genre, then both the antics and the craft are worthy of equal pageviews.