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Justin Bieber

Bieber season is coming. You can feel it in the air, in the
whispers of the blogosphere, in each and every endlessly
favorited tweet and Instagram post. In the last gasps of
2014, a year that Justin Bieber basically took off as a
recording artist, the embattled pop star and his longtime
manager Scooter Braun began teasing his next album,
which would follow the downbeat 2013 Journals
compilation. “My break is for a reason. U will soon see 🙂
thank u for your patience,” Bieber posted on Instagram,
while Braun declared in a separate post tagging Bieber,
“2013 Was Practice. 2014 Was The Warm Up. 2015 Is
Game Time.” Rumors are already swirling that Bieber is
recording with Michael Jackson’s son, Prince
Jackson , and on Tuesday (Jan. 6), the hashtag
#JustinWereReady began trending worldwide on Twitter.
While Bieber is a little preoccupied recovering from a
foot injury and hoping to get back on his skateboard,
the Beliebers are hungry for their leader’s next musical
chapter to begin.

So what will Bieber’s next album cycle look like? It will
surely involve some contrition from the Biebs, who has
experienced a rather nightmarish two years resulting
almost entirely from his own poor choices. Yet even at
his lowest point, Bieber has proven that his musical
talent is still intact; Journals didn’t produce a hit single,
but the collection was Bieber’s most mature musical
statement to date.
With a lot of smart decisions and a little luck, Bieber can
successfully write his own comeback story and rejoin
pop’s biggest stars. Follow these suggestions, Justin
Bieber, and you’ll be back on top sooner than anyone
would have thought:

DO record some sort of apology song. One of the
major criticisms of Bieber’s second feature film, 2013’s
Justin Bieber’s Believe, was that it didn’t honestly portray
or even acknowledge the chaotic nature of Bieber’s last
world tour, downplaying his transgressions as minor
missteps instead of symptoms of a full-blown breakdown.
A PR stunt like a 3D concert film is not the best platform
to plead forgiveness, but some sort of general mea culpa
on Bieber’s next album would go a long way toward
restoring his image. Bieber needs his own version of
“Shadow Days,” John Mayer’s effectively earnest 2012
single, on which he basically declared that he’s acted
like a dick, but that’s not who he was, and those days
are behind him.

DON’T base your album around your Selena Gomez
breakup. Look, Selena Gomez seems like a very chill
girlfriend and the on-again/off-again thing must be tough,
especially while her single “The Heart Wants What It
Wants” haunts you from afar and continuously creeps up
the Pop Songs chart. But, Biebs, you already made a
song called “Heartbreaker” and let those feelings simmer
in 2013 with Journals; the tears on your guitar strings
have long since evaporated. Your next project should be
about moving on from a certain phase of your life and
embracing the future, even if it means chilling by the fire
and eating fondue with *SOB* another girl.

DO look toward Usher for guidance. Ursh has served
as a big brother for the Biebs through thick and thin: “I
can say I’m not happy with all the choices my friend has
made, but I’m supportive of him,” Usher said of Bieber in
his recent Billboard cover story. Bieber has needed
the elder superstar’s positive reinforcement from a
personal standpoint, but he also learn a thing or two
from Usher’s career trajectory. After all, Usher was only
15 years old when his self-titled debut album was
released in 1994, and over the past 20 years, the
entertainer has confidently transitioned into and
embraced adulthood with a steadiness that the Biebs
should envy. Bieber would be wise to lean on Usher with
this new project by picking his mentor’s brain, figuring
out how to arrange a killer live show and trusting a long-
running hit-maker to help him crash back into the Top
40.

DON’T make a full-on R&B album. Bieber showed real
growth on his Journals collection, resisting the urge to
power through a shambolic period in his life with faceless
party anthems featuring, who knows, Redfoo and the
Vengaboys? It might not have performed well on radio,
but his Journals compilation serves as the sort of offbeat
pitstop that mainstream artists need every now and then
to prove to themselves that they can successfully
experiment with their sound (see also: Kanye West’s
808s & Heartbreak or Madonna’s American Life). That
being said, we need Bieber to make a pop album pronto,
or else he might not be regarded as an artist capable of
reliably delivering hits anymore. Coming off of a
prolonged hiatus, Bieber should return to the sugary
hooks and high-BPM tempos that marked Top 10 hits like
“As Long As You Love Me” and “Beauty and a Beat” —
something catchy and attention-grabbing. Back in
October 2013, Braun told Billboard that Bieber has
some “big, international dance records” in his vault that
wouldn’t have fit in with Journals. Well, it’s time to hear
those big, international dance records! Speaking of
which…

DO record another banger (or two, or three) with
Zedd. The electro-pop wave has crashed, with the days
of hyper-kinetic summer songs by Flo Rida, the Black
Eyed Peas and Kesha ceding to slightly more leisurely
tempos as heard on recent smashes like “Fancy,” “All
About That Bass” and “Happy.” One of the few EDM
artists who has been able to successfully toe the line
between fast and slow, however, is Zedd, who co-
produced “Beauty and a Beat” for Bieber before blowing
up with “Clarity,” “Stay the Night” and the Ariana
Grande collaboration “Break Free.” The latter track is
what Bieber should be aiming for with his comeback
single: zippy and immediate, with a synthesizer pileup
but enough room for the 20-year-old to flaunt his vocal
prowess.

DON’T work with Timbaland. Timbaland is more than
capable of bringing out the best in a young male artist —
look at what he’s done for Justin Timberlake’s solo
career ever since “Cry Me a River.” But that’s also the
exact reason why Biebs should steer clear of calling up
Timbaland for his new album. If Bieber leans on Timbo’s
production too hard, the comparisons between Justin and
The Other Famous Justin will flood in and capsize the
Biebs’ next project, especially if it falls short of the high-
water marks of FutureSex/Lovesounds or The 20/20
Experience. Maybe Timbaland can be the man when
Bieber is older and is ready for his own 20/20
Experience, but right now, he’s 20 and needs an
experience (see what I did there?) that won’t provoke
endless comparisons to the world’s most critically
beloved male pop star.

DO revive Carly Rae Jepsen’s career with a duet.
Here are a few unassailable pop facts:
1. Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 album Kiss (you know, the
one with “Call Me Maybe”) is crazy underrated as a
whole.
2. Carly Rae Jepsen has been pretty quiet over the past
two years, and could use a hit!
3. People still like Carly Rae Jepsen — or at least, very
few people actively dislike her — and would be onboard
with a mini-CRJ comeback.
4. The Bieber-Jepsen duet on Kiss, the flaccid “Beautiful,”
was surprisingly the weakest track on the album — the
chemistry was there, but the soft songwriting and slow
tempo didn’t do the pair any favors. So give these two
crazy Canadians another chance at capturing the magic!
Imagine a sultry, “Love Me Harder”-esque jam in which
Carly and her pal Justin wink at each other over some
ace production from Tricky Stewart & The-Dream. Let’s
make this happen and rewrite history.

DON’T hit up Lil Wayne… or Prince Jackson. There
comes a time in every man’s life where he must put
down his skateboard and face reality. The Biebs may be
landing kickflips with the ease of Bucky Lasek in Tony
Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, but he doesn’t need to emulate X
Games enthusiast/Trukfit king Lil Wayne, who showed
up on the Journals song “Backpack” to portray an alien
being carried around in the Biebs’ backpack (?) and
actually spat the line “My swag is out of this world” (?!)
while his swag was very much tethered to Earth’s
gravitational pull. Weezy has started to slow down his
career losing streak with the Drake vs. Lil Wayne tour
and singles like “Believe Me,” but another Bieber-Wayne
collaboration, by nature, has the potential to be as
witless as “Backpack,” so we’ll pass.
And while we’re at it, Biebs: Prince Jackson, and the
rumors that you’re making music with him? Maybe let
those demos stay demos, or gift them to mutual pal
Floyd Mayweather for his birthday or something. Let the
Prince of Pop settle into a musical career (if he so
chooses) before he shows up on your next album.

DO show some skin. This is the easiest favor ever
asked of Bieber! The equation of Nick Jonas’ recent solo
breakout goes something like this: Solid Single x
Shirtless Pics = Swooning Fans. The Biebs should be sure
to pair any promotional opportunities with ample chest
shots, which he’s already provided countless times for
magazine spreads… and on Instagram… and in public.
Show some skin, young Justin, but maybe not in the
airport security line, cool?

DON’T revel in trashiness. Bieber’s next album will
likely be released after he turns 21 on March 1, but that
doesn’t mean his first music video should be a shot-by-
shot re-creation of Spring Breakers. The Hedonism Pose
may have worked for Miley Cyrus’ career reinvention,
but too many mop-bucket-pissing hijinks have damaged
the reputation of a male artist whose supposed
foundation is wholesomeness. There’s a way for Bieber
to grow up while also getting parents back on board with
his music and image, and that solution is closer to the
stylish glass-sipping of Bruno Mars, not the leopard-
print puking of LMFAO.

DO make the album rollout a prolonged event.
Public opinion of Bieber is still low enough that, if the pop
star were to “pull a Beyonce” and plop an album on
iTunes without any forewarning, he risks a lukewarm
reception that negatively impacts radio play and quietly
pushes the album into the past. Instead, Bieber’s next
project should follow the Taylor Swift blueprint for
1989: create a fan-driven event for the lead single
release, dish out juicy interviews, own the awards show
and morning-show circuits, stop by The Voice. He needs
to pummel pop fans with the fact that he’s back and still
a big deal, while energizing his Belieber base and
extracting squeals from across the globe. Want to be as
big as Taylor Swift? Start by becoming as inescapable as
her.

DON’T get furious if your album doesn’t debut big.
Back in June 2012, Believe debuted with 374,000 copies
sold in its first week, at that point the biggest initial sales
week for any album that year. The proper follow-up
album to Believe is not likely to debut that big, or even
start with half of that, when it’s released in 2015: too
much time has passed without an album or hit single for
Bieber, and album sales have deflated over the past
three years. And that’s okay! Whatever his next album
sells in its first week, Bieber shouldn’t react the same
way that Lady Gaga did when 2013’s ARTPOP started
with roughly a quarter of the sales of 2011’s Born This
Way and many derided the album as a “flop.” The reality
is, huge sales weeks are increasingly difficult to come
by, and Bieber’s goal should be to spiral multiple singles
off his album and keep the sales consistent, just as
artists like Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith
have done in recent months. No matter what that final
number is, Biebs, it doesn’t warrant a Twitter rant.

DO constantly remind everyone of your charity
work. Bieber’s next album cycle will be a combination of
music promotion and a personal redemption story, one
showing that Bieber is not such a bad guy despite the
poor choices he’s made leading up to his 21st birthday.
The easiest way for him to win back the hearts of the
non-Beliebers is to emphasize his philanthropic work,
from meeting with tsunami victims to his PETA work to
his Make-A-Wish contributions. Revisit the It Gets Better
project on the Ellen show; stress the fan outreach that
has millions of people defending Bieber online. The Biebs
needs to turn the public tide by underlining the fact that
he’s done a lot of bad, but a lot of good, too.

DON’T be a bonehead. If there’s one thing Justin Bieber
needs to do in 2015, it’s not be an idiot. Seems easy
enough, right? But for someone prone to lashing out at
paparazzi, driving recklessly, destroying his neighbors’
sanity and giving in to the temptations of South American
graffiti, this simple act of not being a moron may sound
like an impossibility! Simply stated, if Bieber can survive
2015 without the legal issues, caught-on-tape wildness
or un-swaggy outbursts that have plagued him over the
past two years, he’s going to win. No matter how well his
singles place on the Hot 100 or how many metallic wings
he dons during his arena shows, Bieber will view 2015 as
a positive if no new stains are collected onto his
reputation. You could once again be pop music’s
platinum, its silver, its gold, Bieber. Just keep yourself
clean and dance forward.

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