On Wednesday evening, Justin Bieber released his newest video for the song "Confident" featuring Chance the Rapper. In his short rise to ubiquity, Bieber has released over ten videos, and yet none of them are interesting in any way. "Confident" is no exception.
How is this possible? He doesn't go fantastical. He doesn't create complex or interesting stories. He doesn't wear weird clothes (since Hammer pants are his typical style of dress now, we can't call them weird). Justin Bieber's music videos strictly represent a romantic faux-reality of his life. They always involve him and a nondescript woman that he is pining for. Over the years they have evolved only to include more dancing as his skills have "improved."
As a contrast, at least a few of Justin Timberlake's videos have been historically significant, from the inventive boy band work he did with N'SYNC like "It's Gonna Be Me" to his solo offerings like "Cry My A River." It's unclear whether Timberlake has surrounded himself with smarter people or that Bieber's people admit that his videos don't matter because people will swoon over Justin no matter what. Either way, the Biebs has a format and he's sticking to it. A few examples:
Check out Bieber's first video for the incredibly catchy song "One Time." It only seemed creative at the time because he was the new kid on the block. A precocious and barely sexual preteen, Justin paid homage to his mentor Usher by throwing a tame, alcohol-free party in his home. During the video, he focuses on one girl. Remember this: it is a classic music video trope that Justin will run with.
For his sophomore single, Bieber released "One Less Lonely Girl." The premise of this art film is that he stalks a girl he sees at the laundromat and convinces her to go out with him by returning her scarf. Interesting twist: the wooing occurs via a scavenger hunt of signs that say things like "I'll give you flowers" leading her to Justin and the scarf.
For "Baby" featuring Ludacris, Justin was still deep in his teen heartthrob phase, so the video is located at a bowling alley, where he tries to serenade a girl he's lost by being a dick or something. It works.
"Never Let You Go" shows Justin creeping on a girl as she walks around a darkened aquarium alone at what looks suspiciously like the location of the Olsen twins movie Holiday in the Sun.
"Mistletoe": Justin goes Christmas shopping with his shorty.
Then we have "Boyfriend," the video that was clearly supposed to mark the tween pop star's transition from boy to man and show an older, wiser Justin. That is, if one indicates they are older and wiser by doing donuts in a parking lot in a fancy car and totally ripping off N'SYNC's "Girlfriend" video. Does Nelly know about this?
"As Long As You Love Me" is the first of Bieber's videos that attempts to have some sort of complex story arc. Justin is in love with Michael Madsen's daughter, but Michael Madsen doesn't like that, so Justin and his love try to run away together anyway. When Michael Madsen finds out, he beats Bieber up because, "I know she needs to be with a man, not a boy, which is what you are." Fun fact: Michael Madsen was in the Michael Jackson video "You Rock My World."
In "All That Matters To Me," Bieber serenades a girl who sexily dances around him. A motorcycle is there. Snoozzzze. She's blonde this time though!
In his most recent offering "Confident," Bieber follows the same blonde into an incredibly fake-looking bodega that might be a drug front, as all the best bodegas are. They proceed to have a conversation about what Takis are, which he uses to hit on her ("I would like to...talk-i to you on the phone"). She gets onto her motorcycle again. Eventually they kiss because he has successfully wooed her and then she finally agrees to give him her phone number.
Maybe Justin's videos are so boring because the golden age of music videos is over. (Although Rihanna and Beyoncé seem to be able to produce interesting clips?) Or maybe they're boring because because his work is so autobiographical. After all, his latest album is called Journals. And to be fair to Justin, if most of my journals were turned into music videos, they would show beautiful footage of a girl waking up to spend 10 hours in front of the computer, interspersed with brief interludes of her eating grilled cheese sandwiches and having tense fights with her roommate's cat. But considering Bieber's life has actually been pretty exciting for the last several months, he has a lot of inspiration to choose from for his next video. It could be about a house egging that goes horribly wrong, until the star-crossed lovers involved try to escape segways but get arrested because they're too busy having a torrid text message conversation to notice the cops. Eventually, everyone ends up in Panama.
Anyway, that's just one idea.