It pains me to say this, but—wait, no it doesn’t—it delights me to say this: Justin Bieber has released the three best singles of 2015, and there’s still time for him to release more. These aren’t mere flashes in the pan that we’ll forget once Adele and Rihanna drop 25 and Anti, respectively; they’re perfect, timeless bangers that will cause my body to move in strange ways until its veins are filled with embalming fluid.
We began the Year of Justin in February, when Skrillex and Diplo—a pair I’d never like to be alone alone in a room with but am happy to support via Spotify royalties—released “Where Are Ü Now” under their dopey, umlaut-friendly stage name, Jack Ü. Though Bieber is technically a featured performer on the track, the song is entirely his—down to the unforgettable falsetto beat created by Skrillex from Justin’s own voice.
It’s the tale of a man who is unable to find the person he needs the most. In this hyper-connected age, we find ourselves wondering why Justin can’t find this person, and consider the possibilities. Perhaps, during a particularly wild trip to Bora Bora, he dropped his phone in the ocean and realized he didn’t backup his iCloud contacts. Perhaps the person he needs the most went off the grid and is living in the garage apartment of a kind woman in the Pacific Northwest who takes cash and doesn’t ask questions. Or maybe Selena just isn’t in the mood to talk right now, OK?! The point is, it’s a tragic masterpiece and I love to bop around to it while drinking alcohol.
Next came the mega-hyped first single of his fourth album, “What Do You Mean?” I remember watching Justin convince his famous friends to tweet teasers for the song in advance of its release, and woke on August 28 excited to hear him ask with my own ears. I took my browser to his YouTube page, clicked on the newest upload, and heard him repeat, “What do you mean?” over and over again to the sound of a ticking clock. I began to move my hips to the beat of this question. What do you mean? What do you mean? What do you mean? Before long, my entire body ached from the movement, but it was that very special muscle that ached most of all: my heart. All Justin wanted to know what what that person meant. Maybe that person meant, “Stay.” Maybe that person meant, “Go.” Or maybe Selena meant, “PLEASE STOP CALLING AND GO BACK TO CANADA, YOU MONSTER.” I’ll never know for sure, but I’ll keep be entranced by that unanswered question and its lovesick asker until my body collapses under the weight of a long, well-lived life and turns into a pile of ash.
And, finally, we arrive at Justin’s latest masterpiece, “Sorry.” This skeleton-shaking, reggaetón monster of an apology song cemented young Bieber as artist of the year. He released it not with a lyric video, but a dance video—thereby birthing a trend that will no doubt become a Thing for all major pop artists over the next 12 to 18 months. In this song, Justin wants nothing more than to apologize. Is he apologizing for something major like breaking someone’s heart? Something relatively minor like cracking a close friend’s iPhone screen while prancing around Bora Bora? Or is he apologizing for betraying Selena when she needed him most? As Tommy Lee Jones said in The Fugitive, “I don’t care.” Because after listening to “Sorry,” as Tommy Lee Jones said at the end of No Country For Old Men, “Then I woke up.” Yes, “Sorry” woke me up. Brought me to life. “Sorry” is the cold fusion of pop songs, a track that will keep its listeners moving in sonic ecstasy long after the sun goes cold. Hold on, I need to listen again.
Where are you now? What do you mean? Is it too late now to say sorry? With those three timeless questions, Justin Bieber has proven not only that he is back, but that he is eternal.
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Image via Calvin Klein, Screengrab.