Justin Bieber: 'I'm not just a teen sensation'

By Scott Kara

Justin Bieber talks to Scott Kara about life as the most screamed-at man in the world and how his new album might be the one to take him beyond teenybopperdom.

Justin Bieber says he is becoming more involved in the creative side of music-making. Photo / Supplied
Justin Bieber says he is becoming more involved in the creative side of music-making. Photo / Supplied

Justin Bieber loves the sound of screaming girls. He never gets sick of it, because, says pop music's biggest male star on the phone from London, "they are the reason I'm in this position".

"The screams are amazing," he adds with a laugh.

In the past two weeks or so, while on a promotional tour for the release of his third studio album, Believe, which is out in New Zealand tomorrow, there have been many screams and scenes of breathless pandemonium. There were the 300 hysterical teenagers who stormed a London TV studio last week where he was recording for comedian Alan Carr's chat show, and in Oslo around 25,000 fans - mostly girls - turned up outside his hotel.

He caused widespread heart flutters and mass screaming when he was last in New Zealand in 2010 for a fleeting promo trip - and he returns here for a similar trip on July 19.

"The intensity of my fans kind of dictates my career," reasons Bieber, "and when I show up to different places and have all these fans show up - at the venue or even at my hotel - those are stories that I am always going to remember and I think that it's just really incredible."

Bieber is a powerful world force - and you get the feeling he knows it. He's polite and obliging, but the 18-year-old also has a staunchness - you might even call it an attitude, or cockiness perhaps - as if Uncle Kanye has rubbed off on him a little.

Then again, maybe it's just a hardened edge that comes with being in the public eye constantly. Not that Bieber shies away from his admirers; he tells the world his every move - well, almost - via Twitter.

One thing's for sure, life at the moment is busy but good for Bieber.

"Life is great. I've been able to do a lot, and especially the travel in this latest trip, I got to go to so many places I've never been before - and especially being 18, I appreciate it a whole lot more."

You can see why the young Canadian is chuffed because, despite the odd scandal - like accusations he fathered a lovechild with fan Mariah Yeater, an episode he recounts on new song Maria - his popularity has not waned since being discovered in 2008 by his now-manager Scooter Braun, who was impressed by Bieber's amateur videos on YouTube.

He has gone on to sell 15 million albums. His breakthrough song Baby is the most viewed video on YouTube with 740 million views, he has 21 million Twitter followers (second only to Lady Gaga), his 3D biopic Justin Bieber: Never Say Never was released last year, and his Someday fragrance (a perfume rather than a cologne) has been a hit with his female fans. Though he only has eyes for steady girlfriend Selena Gomez, the American actress and singer.

And he's business-savvy too, investing millions in a number of tech-based companies including online music streaming and social networking giant Spotify, which recently came to New Zealand.

But making music is his first love and with Believe - his third studio album in three years following his debut My World 2.0 (which was preceded by seven-track EP My World in 2009) and 2011's Under the Mistletoe - he's out to prove he's not a flash-in-the-pan pop star phenomenon. He's also keen to grow his fan base beyond the teenage girls who have grown up as Bielebers.

"I want people to know that I make good music and I'm not just some fabricated artist and teen sensation. I worked hard to get here and I definitely feel like I'm translating to be a long-term artist.

"I'm growing as an artist. I'm growing up as a person and my fans are growing up with me and the things that I'm talking about now I feel like older people are going to be able to relate to them, too. And the music in general is more mature, and I just feel like this album is the best one yet. And on this album I'm showing the fans my voice is changing."

But never fear ladies, it's not like Bieber's voice has dropped to unfathomable depths. Though it's fair to say it's not as sweet and squeaky as it was on songs like Baby and pop ballad U Smile.

"I guess it's just the tone. My vocal range is still at the same place that it was, but the different tone of my voice has more texture and I feel like I have a lot more control over it now."

The new album is more diverse than his previous records, and moves from banging dancefloor opener All Around the World (featuring rapper Ludacris who also guested on Baby) to jaunty love song Die In Your Arms.

Recording the album, which includes guest appearances from fruity pop mistress Nicki Minaj and fellow Canadian R&B singer Drake, was a long, eight-month process compared to the week it took to record My World 2.0.

Another big difference from previous releases was Bieber being more involved in the creative side of the music-making because in the past, "I didn't really know what I was doing," he admits.

"I helped out as much as I could," he remembers with a laugh, "but on this album I felt like I knew more about how to make a song, how to write a song, and for the songs to basically share what I was feeling, because at the end of the day these are my words that I'm singing."

In the past Bieber has been perceived as a cute, baby-faced pop superstar who mostly gets his songs written for him, but the lad is multi-talented.

He sings, dances, and plays many instruments including piano and drums, and back when Braun discovered him it wasn't just his teen heart-throb potential and natural confidence ("It's something that I've always had") that grabbed him.

"He saw that I was talented," says Bieber matter-of-factly - and once Braun got hold of the then 12-year-old, there was no looking back.

Bieber has a quickfire history of his rise to the top that goes something like this: "[Braun] got me some connections. We moved to Atlanta. From there we went to different record labels and at first they said, 'no'. And then we had Usher and Justin Timberlake fight over me. I signed with Usher and now a couple of years later I'm putting out my third album and I feel like I'm just in a really good place.

"I'm happy where my music is at, yes sir. To me music is something that I can express myself with. I sing about what I'm feeling, what I'm going through and it's just something that helps let that emotion out."

And before he goes he also asks TimeOut to pass on a message: "Don't forget to tell all my New Zealand fans that I love them."

It would be churlish to point out they probably know that. Still, the news should help local Beliebers get their screaming muscles warmed up for next month's visit when there may be some news about him bringing his Believe tour here next year.

Who: Justin Bieber's new album: Believe, out tomorrow.
Past albums: My World 2.0 (2010); Under the Mistletoe (2011)
In New Zealand: On July 19 to promote Believe

Check out Justin Bieber's new single Boyfriend here:

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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