Justin Bieber
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Justin Bieber: 10 Essential Tracks

Justin Bieber has been an inescapable part of pop culture over the last decade. From the second he exploded onto the scene thanks to a few YouTube covers landing in front of the right people, it seemed a done deal that his fame would be longstanding. After all how could it not – he was the new teen dream, and his legion of fans were (and still are) ready to do anything for him. But as the years have gone on and Bieber himself has grown up, the consensus on him and his music has changed too.

Gone are the days where Justin Bieber was considered just a tween heartthrob by those unwilling to broaden their pop horizons. Now he’s as legitimate a popstar as many mainstay veterans, offering more mature and vulnerable insights into his widely publicised life with silky vocals and a well-honed ear for the sound of the day.

His evolution has been fascinating to witness, so here are 10 essential Bieber bops from rollercoaster discography.

1.‘Baby (feat. Ludacris)’, My World 2.0 (2010)

You know every word, even if you hate it. No song that was so thoroughly saturated in the culture of the time could have endured 10 years on without such an earworm hook.

2. ‘Boyfriend’, Believe (2012)

‘Boyfriend’ was the first real precursor we had to what Justin Bieber’s career would become. It dived into into a realm of music that Bieber would be most comfortable in (hip-hop inflected pop) thanks to his under-the-breath raps and striking 808s. But vitally for crossover success it still dealt out the guitar-laced, teen-friendly acoustic pop that fans – and parents of fans – had become accustomed to.

3. ‘Beauty & A Beat (feat. Nicki Minaj)’, Believe (2012)

All these years later, and we’re still keeping an eye out for Selenerrrrr.

4. ‘Where Are Ü Now?’ (with Jack Ü), 100% Hits 2015 Volume 2 (2015)

‘Where Are Ü Now’ was a game-changer. With lyrics and vocals by Biebs and production by the Midas-like duo of Skrillex and Diplo, this song gave the world the impression that the best was yet to come (and they were right). Dropped in early 2015, ‘Where Are Ü Now’ took JB out of the teen-heartthrob lane of pop and placed him into the apex of stadium-ready stars. Justin Bieber was no longer just your little sister’s crush – he was a party, a nightclub, and a festival gargantuan.

5. ‘What Do You Mean?’, Purpose (2015)

Capitalising on the success and impact of ‘Where Are Ü Now’ was never going to be easy, but ‘What Do You Mean?’ made it seem that way. While not as immediately commanding as its predecessor, the infectious tick-tock percussion backed with delicate keys became inescapable and unforgettable. The song sets Bieber’s lyrical frustration against pulsating flute and tropical synth instrumentation, making Bieber’s pain feel almost like a paradise.

6. ‘Friends’ (with Bloodpop), Friends (2017)

By no means the most famous or most successful collaboration between Bieber and Bloodpop, ‘Friends’ is as underrated as it is banging. With valuable songwriting assistance from Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, ‘Friends’ dives headfirst into the  iteration of EDM-pop that the late 2010s was drenched in. It was less about drops that soared and more about those that snuck up on you. Bloodpop’s work in guiding pop giants can be seen in his work with acts like Lady Gaga, but his touch on ‘Friends’ helped to usher out this phase of Bieber’s career in spectacular fashion.

7. ‘I’m The One’ (with DJ Khaled, Quavo, Chance The Rapper and Lil Wayne), Grateful (2017)

As Bieber got older, his life got slower. Eventually taking five years between albums, he went through some major life changes in the public eye. As a reflection of that, his music followed the same route. Kickstarting that change was DJ Khaled’s Miami-flavoured, bouncing megahit ‘I’m The One’. The cut is a major posse track, and alongside Quavo’s woozy adlibs, Chance’s spirited bars, and a Lil Wayne closing verse, Bieber’s silky braggadocio showed that he could hold his own and then some.

8. ‘Peaches (feat. Daniel Caesar & GIVĒON)’, Justice (2021)

Bieber’s latest album, 2021’s Justice, saw the superstar truly return to superstar status. After laying low for a few years before stepping back into the game with 2020’s Changes, Justice gives us Justin Bieber as he wants to be seen – matured, relaxed, and patient – and ‘Peaches’ is the proof. It grooves slowly, ebbing and flowing over minimal production, spotlighting Bieber’s gorgeous vocals. JB’s slick display is complemented by R&B heavyweights Daniel Caesar and GIVĒON, whose delivery is both rich and smoky. When it all culminates at the track’s climax, we have one of Bieber’s best songs to date.

9. ‘STAY’ (with The Kid LAROI), The Kid LAROI’s F*ck Love (2020)

Don’t be fooled – just because JB has slowed down, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it in him to still give us the hits. Case in point: ‘STAY’ alongside Australia’s very own The Kid LAROI – was indisputably one of the biggest songs of the year. It almost feels like Bieber passing the baton on to the next generation of superstars, and he does it on top of production meant only for the biggest stages.

10. ‘Sorry’, Purpose (2015)

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that thinks this isn’t Bieber’s magnum opus. At this point in his career, he still had plenty of detractors who couldn’t see much talent behind that famously-swooping fringe and baby face. ‘Where Are Ü Now’ and ‘What Do You Mean?’ helped lay down the groundwork, but ‘Sorry’ blasted through the negativity, leaving little to doubt for those who questioned JB’s status as a superstar. It’s bright and bubbly from the beginning, with combined production from Bloodpop and Skrillex pounding at just the right intensity while Bieber confesses his guilt and performs one of his most vulnerable works to date. Couple that with some now-iconic vocal manipulation and famously Bieber-less music video, and ‘Sorry’ is an all-time pop classic as well as a huge part of the pop zeitgeist of the 2010s.

Justin Bieber has announced four Australian arena dates for late next year as part of his world tour behind his latest album Justice. If you haven’t already nabbed one on pre-sale, general public tickets go on sale this Wednesday, 24th November.

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