The New Justin Bieber Wants You To Forget The Old Justin Bieber

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We’re in the middle of a Bieberissance, whether you want it or not.

It all began with an abortion joke, as these things often do. Justin Bieber was torn apart at his Comedy Central Roast; Martha Stewart said he wouldn’t last a week in prison, Nastaha Leggero called sometimes-girlfriend Selena Gomez “literally the least lucky Selena in all of entertainment history” for having to f*ck him, and Ludacris earned a gold star for, “You’re not tough, Justin. I’m here to let you know, man. I know you’ve been on Ellen 14 times. You act so much like a pussy on the show, Ellen tried to eat you.” It was a carefully calculated move from Bieber’s management, a chance for them to show the world Justin has a sense of humor about himself.

The redemption tour was in full swing. He crashed a high-school prom, joined the cast of Zoolander 2, sang Boyz II Men in a car with James Corden and at the W Hotel during Jazz Night, showed off his lip-sync skills, and something something Ryan Seacrest.

Oh yeah, and he made some actual music. “What Do You Mean,” the (controversial) first single from his upcoming album, debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Bieber’s first song to do so. It’s… not bad, or at least a lot less punchable than some of his older songs. There’s an actual groove, and it sounds both universal and personal, which, considering all the bad press he’s received (deservedly so), is the mix he should be aiming for. You can sing “What Do You Mean” with your friends in the daylight, or by yourself at night. That’s a tricky balance.

Since the single debuted, Bieber has announced a week-long residency on The Tonight Show, played drums for a small-time band in rural Indiana, and cried at the MTV Video Music Awards, because he’s a REAL ARTIST now. Take a look at the banner image. The picture on the left, where he’s smiling with his creepy, barely there mustache, was taken in 2013; not two years later, he’s steel-faced and serious, with a hairstyle that would make Duran Duran proud.

It’s the difference between this, and this.

Justin Timberlake is the career path Bieber wants to follow, and should. Pop stars, especially ones who became monumentally famous at a young age, have to grow up at some point (while still remaining relatable and charming). That’s what JT accomplished by going from NSYNC to Justified. So, gone are the “knuckle heads,” Bieber’s the man he (and his PR team) want him to become. We’re seeing that manufactured maturity happening right now, this week; he’s crafting his image for the media, rather than the other way around. It may not be honest (it’s honestly transparent), but at least we’re beyond “Justin Bieber Peeing In Jail.” For now.