I'd like to start by saying that Justin Bieber isn't bad. I listened to "What Do You Mean?" four times in a row the other day. No kidding, four times.
Being unoriginal doesn't make you untalented or a bad artist; let's just get that straight. But for all those documenting the Bieb's rise to stardom and his seeming plateau at punk-ass-kid fame until a warranted apology following his roast on Comedy Central, you'd know that all his music is based off whatever is popular during the time. I know, the stabs are flooding in: "But Vince, that's what pop music IS!" True. I'm not denying that. What I'm trying to point out is the difference between growing and simply conforming. What about the pop stars who have managed to stay true to themselves while still branching out stylistically? Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and Adele--just to name a few in case you were having trouble. Justin Bieber is an industry pawn. That doesn't mean he hasn't continued to produce mega hits. But I'm just saying that if the next musical craze was to make farting noises like on that episode of South Park, well then, the Biebs would be the male Steamy Nicks.
So I'm gonna break it down from where it all began and then go from there. From the "cute singing kid" Biebs, to the "edm/forced club pop" racing fast cars Justin, to the final "I'm gonna get real deep and sexy, and try to mimic Miguel" Bieber that flows throughout the airwaves like the Hudson.
"One Time" was the first single we got from him back in '09. How sweet it was. He was found on YouTube and was an attendee of a Catholic school. Then, we still gave him the benefit of the doubt of it being cute to use autotune and okay for a 13-year-old to use the phrase "shawty" in his music. 2008-2009 was the time for the singer in pop. The Billboard charts had Taylor Swift and Colbie Callait. Jesse McCartney still existed, and Pink was still relevant and also on the chart. This was the perfect time and place for Bieber to explode onto the scene with his sugary pop, and hair-in-eyes teen haircut. There was a pinch of spice, and at the time, a whole lot of everything nice. Fast forward one year, and things have heated up. "I Need Somebody" and "Baby" are sweeping the charts like their crumbs. Yet still, Bieber's pop is granulated and in a little packet ready to be served to the masses.
Two years later, we get Believe (Sidenote: While writing this, "Boyfriend" is playing and I'm singing the words. I'm not a total hater). The Billboard charts look a little different now: Rihanna, Drake, David Guetta, LMFAO. And Bieber is a bit new himself. Suddenly, he's whispering seductively, and take away the lyrics from "As Long As You Love Me," and it sounds like it could be played at a rave with a bunch of drooling pill heads. Just in time for the EDM scene, J.B. doesn't disappoint and stays right on queue with everything current. On the song "Take You," there are plenty of "wub-wubs" in the back to confuse the backing music again with something that kids with multi-colored bracelets would fawn over and drink obscene amounts of vodka too before passing out. But the Biebs is elusive; it's hard to see through his over-produced voice, and new "sexy" self that he's merely blending in (P.S. "Right Here" might be my favorite song off that album).
2014/2015 holds Journals and a handful of singles. Delectable at that, but again let's reference the charts. Billboard for 2014: Jeremih, John Legend, Chris Brown. And if we could get a glimpse at 2015, I'm sure we'd see Miguel all over it, more Jeremih and how could we forget Drake x Future. What does Bieber do? He slips right between those, by Robitussen-ing his beats, and trying to express more sexuality with elongated notes and words of lust. We also can't forget our big-boy Bieber was caught spending time at a brothel. Here we see a bit of a spike back to early Usher days, yet flurries of 32nd or like, 64th notes on the hi-hat create the "trap" essence, and suddenly Justin Bieber sounds like something you can ride and smoke to (throw on "Recovery" and pass something around, see how it works out). Bieber staples himself to whatever genre is popular. I know, you don't need to repeat yourself, "Vince. THAT'S WHAT POP IS!" But let's dig a bit here. Is that really what pop is? The better Justin (sorry, but true) Timberlake's "Senorita" doesn't sound any more or less than JT's 2014, "Strawberry Bubblegum." Sure, there's new elements, and crafty add-ons that dabble in a more hip-hop/current genre, but it's got a signature JT feel to it.
If you like what's on the radio, then Bieber will do it for you. He's good. He produces hit after chart-placing hit. But where's the artistry in that? I could make songs right now that would fit what's currently popular, but where would the me be in that? It'd be at home, still sleeping.