Justin Bieber: Self-reinvention & the ‘Banger era’

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Justin Bieber Success Story

Justin Bieber by Sebastian Vital

The superstar we know today as Justin Bieber came from humble beginnings. His mother, Pattie Mallette had him at 17 and was a single mother who worked several office jobs to raise her son.

Her relationship with Justin’s father, Jeremy, was sporadic although she now considers him a good friend and admires how much of a good father he is to her son. She managed her son’s early career and was in a good place to do so as she too embarked on a performer’s career at an early age.

Fast forward past several viral YouTube videos and a bidding war between Usher and Justin Timberlake for Bieber’s signature, Justin finally signed to RBGM, Raymond Braun’s record label that he co-formed with Usher.

This was the start of the rest of Bieber’s life. We’re not only going to discuss Bieber’s first wave of success, but also focus on the phase of self-reinvention that followed…

Early career: Love & Hate

Justin Bieber Success Story

Justin Bieber at Easter Egg roll by Daniel Ogren

Bieber’s first wave of singles came out between 2009 and 2010 and included tracks such as ‘One Time’, ‘One Less Lonely Girl’, ‘Baby’ and ‘Eenie Meenie’. He rapidly shot to international stardom, racking up some incredibly impressive numbers.

Though it is difficult to criticise such a successful artist, it is fair to say that Bieber’s initial songs were created to be a certain kind of ‘sickly sweet’ that targeted a very specific demographic.

Bieber’s poppy songs and clean looks quickly amassed him a global following of young girls that were teetering on the edge of scarily obsessive.

Extreme displays of emotion were unfortunately also displayed at the other end of the spectrum as over-the-top hatred was directed towards the young musician.

Bieber-bashing was memeified, Facebook groups exist called ‘I hate Justin Bieber’ with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Many point to the instantaneousness of his success as the reason for this backlash, and whilst this definitely plays a part, there have been many reality T.V show winners who enjoy the same overnight stardom without receiving the harsh treatment that Bieber gets.

There must be more to it, perhaps the all-too-obvious and ‘overdone’ targeting of a teen fan-base for his music was one of the main factors. That’s why it’s interesting to learn that Bieber’s reinvention was largely a musical change…

Reinvention: Bring on the ‘Banger era’

Easily the greatest credit to Bieber’s career so far is that his eenie meenie teenie-bopper, as well as a series of arrests, are somehow all but forgotten! He now sits on the pantheon of pop-gods and household names and rightly so; his voice is perfectly formed, dextrously controlled and innovatively produced.

In our last success story piece on The Chain Smokers and how they navigate their ‘bro label’, we discussed the importance of being able to address your public image. But Bieber did more than address his reputation, he utterly reinvented himself.

His voice dropped and settled, less shrill and now more buttery. He lost his post-emo bowl-cut super-bangs and replaced them with a range of much more current styles.

Then, the real magic happened when he collaborated with current artists, producers and songwriters such as Major Lazer, Skrillex, David Guetta just to name a few. Bieber’s material became more relevant than ever.

The song writing was just as well-realised but was done so in a way that never felt forced. Many of his latest songs tastefully blend influences from house and electronica genres with the flowing, tuneful melodies that come from pop music.

Hits such as ‘Cold Water’, ‘What do you mean’, ‘2U’ and ‘I’m the one’ mark a new phase in Bieber’s career; people found themselves asking the question – since when did JB start releasing all these bangers!? Its clever marketing.

Each of the collaborations draws on a similar but slightly different fan-base. Each artist worked with has a slightly different flavour to offer the song. And let’s not forget the song that was stuck in everyone’s head for the entirety of summer 2017 – ‘Despacito’.

Bieber’s collaboration on the Despacito remix helped it become the first primarily Spanish-language song to reach the Billboard Hot 100 since the “Macarena” in 1996!

Why did Justin Bieber’s self-reinvention work so well?

The writing of the ‘Bangers’ mentioned above allowed each of them to be resituated in the current realm of pop as opposed to being associated with one name (Justin Bieber).

The branding exercise was diluted in terms of how it related to Bieber: diluted in a sense that more well-known names are involved in the writing process, but bolstered in terms of how it met with fans of pop music in general.

Add to that Bieber’s 5-star delivery and any early-career reservations melt away. You could also consider the fans of Bieber’s music that were young enough to appreciate it in its early stage would then grow into the later iterations of his work.

This demographic would be counted as fans for life because they have grown with their favourite artist’s development.

But they are only a small demographic compared to Bieber’s new and expanded fanbase – it’s obvious that Bieber has capitalised on his earlier audience, but never relied on them.

From Bieber’s unprecedented success, you should certainly learn that your song-writing can define your musical career. But more importantly, you should begin to understand that song-writing in general is becoming more communal.

The collaborations that you can make are no longer limited to your city, your country, or even your genre!

There is a growing number of music writers and producers that work together but have never met. The internet and affordable music recording software make these possibilities real and to get ahead in an increasingly competitive industry, it can only serve you well to bear this in mind.

And of course, remember that if you ever fall into a category or reputation that you no longer feel you fit into, it is never impossible to reinvent yourself entirely.

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