What the hell do I know? Years ago I dismissed Justin Bieber as a contrivance—a white pretty-boy of limited talent, with the emotional depth of a birdbath, in desperate search of hip-hop cred. (I pride myself in being non-judgmental.)
And yet…his last two hit singles (co-written by him) are more than decent songs, artfully performed, superbly produced. And the two accompanying music videos are exceptional.
If there’s a business lesson here it’s a simple one: surround your talent with greater talent.
Here’s the first video, Sorry.
Kudos to JB and his manager for getting the crème de a crème of pop songwriters, producers, and performance coaches to support him. It doesn’t always work. This time it's paying off.
Now some of these song hooks, beats, and vamps may be a product of computers in Scandinavia. (Much of teen pop is, you know, which is a dirty little secret of the trade. Sorry, Taylor. Sorry, Britney. More on that in my next post.) But a good hook is a good hook. By analogy: when Google’s AlphaGo computer program beat the world champion Go player this week you still had to marvel at the work of AlphaGo.
And these computer-driven elements still have to be developed. arranged, and performed by humans—even if the performances are also computer-enhanced.
But back to JB. Here’s the video, Love Yourself, released in January as a follow-up to Sorry. Aside from the creative dance art, pay attention to the quality of the song, the vocal, and the bare music track. Not much electronic here.
Here are three factoids—apropos of nothing—that might surprise you about JB:
1. He’s an angel investor to small tech startups.
2. He considers himself a faithful Christian.
3. He’s become the poster boy of celebrity excess in recent years, including arrests for drunk driving and assault. (A required rite of passage for any wannabe bad-ass?) He and his gang have been known to smoke so much weed on private planes that the pilots have to wear oxygen masks to maintain control.
But what shouldn’t surprise you is that he has a world-class vocal coach. This isn't the same singer you might have heard six or seven years ago.
Despite Bieber's best efforts to derail himself, this spoiled brat is slowly becoming—as songwriter, recording artist, and performer—an artistic force to be reckoned with for a long time.
Yes, you heard it here first.