Twelve years before Justin Bieber dropped his debut album, My World, and shook the tween universe with his side-swept bangs, there was Aaron Carter.

The younger brother of Backstreet Boy's heartthrob Nick Carter, Aaron was responsible for some of the most iconic hits of 2000, from "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and "That's How I Beat Shaq" to his overplayed cover of The Strangelove's "I Want Candy." Carter arguably "paved the way" for today's tween pop stars like Bieber to become cultural phenomenons.

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Justin Bieber's musical career and public image have become inseparable.

Earlier this year, the Canadian pop star released Changes, a shallow collection of sex-tinged R&B songs that served as the singer's first album in five years. The album was explicitly dedicated to his wife, Hailey Bieber, which was perhaps the only interesting thing about it since the duo's tumultuous relationship was already established as an inescapable part of pop culture.

The Biebers' 2019 Vogue cover story illuminated what the publication called an "All-In" romance; it was filled with bizarre anecdotes, including that the couple married quickly to break their year-long celibacy. Bieber–an openly devout Christian whose close ties to the controversial Hillsong United Church have remained problematic throughout his career–had seemingly reentered the public eye as a changed married man of God who sang exclusively about making love to his wife.

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New Releases

Justin Bieber's "Changes" Is Corny and Uninspired

Justin Bieber plays it safe, and sounds insecure as a result.

Justin Bieber is a married man now, and that's changed him, so he wants to sing about it.

That's the thesis anyway, but on the pop star's first album in five years, literally called Changes, Bieber refuses to dissect the tumultuous year of marriage he had in 2019, and instead settles for vague, tepid anecdotes about how he's "diggin" the way his wife "feels on his skin."

"Just trying to occupy my mind so that I don't go looney over you," Bieber sings, seriously on "E.T.A." "Thank you, yes, you're less than five minutes away from me. In your arms, rubbing on your face," he croons over an acoustic guitar. The 16-track mammoth is stuffed with lethargic sketches of sex and more sex, only broken up by a little bit of making out. While electro R&B fits Bieber like a glove, the production is so thinly-veiled that each track becomes indistinguishable from the next, and Bieber somehow makes emboldened love sound like poorly curated slam poetry. "Flowers open when they feel the sunlight, Moonrise, tide change, right before our eyes," He sings on "Habitual." "Aggressive but softly, you place your lips on my lips." While the sentiment is undoubtedly genuine, the result is pedestrian R&B that moves at the pace of a cardiac monitor. There are moments of fleeting vulnerability, but they are sung as brief whispers, and never lead anywhere meaningful. "Never thought I could ever be loyal to someone other than myself," Bieber sings on "All Around Me" before retreating back into his surface-level cocoon – "guess anything is possible with your help!"

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R&B has always been Bieber's cruise-control. Raised as Usher's apprentice, it has remained a sound the child-star could rely on and easily navigate in times of trouble. But his 10-part YouTube series and the relentless and inappropriate promotion of "Yummy," advertised a Bieber fully ready to re-enter the spotlight and reclaim his throne. Then why does Changes sound so safe? Why is it so diluted, and why is Bieber so scared to talk about anything other than how "yummy" his wife is?

Changes sounds less like a proclamation and more like a scared little boy tip-toeing back into a world he's afraid doesn't want him anymore. In hindsight, the vicious promotion of this album all makes sense. Bieber feels insecure about his place in the genre he used to dominate, so instead of taking a modicum of creative risk, he's released a project destined to dominate the charts solely because it's "what the kids are listening to these days." The result is a project as corny and insecure as he is.

TV

Justin Bieber Teases Hilariously Cringey YouTube Series, "Seasons"

The Biebs overcomes years of mild inconveniences, returning to the stage in his brilliant, insulting new trailer.

Are you a Justin Bieber fan? Cool! He think's you're an easily manipulated idiot.

Today, Justin released the trailer for his upcoming docuseries, Seasons, on his official YouTube account. It's intimate, emotional, inspiring, and it's also overt propaganda designed to manufacture relevance and public support for a fading pop star-turned-meme. Every aspect of the trailer wants you to see Bieber as a victim, from the cliché, sad piano underpinning the first 40 seconds to the laughably melodramatic testimonial clips from "concerned" friends and family. It's unintentionally pretty funny, but also gross.

Justin Bieber: Seasons | Official Trailer Ft. Yummy | YouTube Originals www.youtube.com

While no details are given in the video regarding the hardship Bieber has been going through, we do get dramatic shots of him moping in various locations. The classic rule of filmmaking: Show don't tell. Here we can actually see Justin grappling with his inner turmoil and heroically overcoming his trials and tribulations.

Justin Bieber sad in the desert Justin Bieber searching his basketball shorts for hope, unable to find it under wads of cash.

You can tell he is really sad here, because the footage is in black and white. Plus, he is in the desert, completely alone (with the exception of the massive film crew and catered food outside the shot). Just like Jesus, JB is confronting demons, like how "coffee [used to] come out better."

At one point in the video, JB's manager, Scooter Braun (the guy Taylor Swift accused of bullying her) literally says: "No one's ever grown up, in the history of humanity, like Justin Bieber."

"WHAT?!" gif

I can name a couple, Mr. Braun, and their legacies didn't age very well.

That's what pisses me off about Seasons and this ad for it. Bieber and the team behind this project are deliberately attempting to manipulate the audience to feel bad for him, as if he has resembled anything close to an underdog since age 13.

Justin Bieber looks for birds It was 8th period algebra. He was much better at AP revisionist history.

"But wait," you argue, "he isn't actually hurting anyone or manipulating anyone." WRONG! This is a PR stunt combined with a promotional campaign for an upcoming album, and its sole purpose is to get public sentiment back on his side, then take your money for that album and all subsequent merchandise and tours. Furthermore, it hurt my brain to watch.

Justin Bieber Seasons Meme


I legit loved the episode of SNL when Justin Bieber hosted. I thought he was great.

I hope I'm wrong and that Seasons is a quality docuseries with heart. Perhaps this trailer was cooked up by YouTube executives or some marketing agency and Justin Bieber is contractually obligated to push such promotional materials on his personal social media accounts. YouTube is paying $2 million per episode (10 episodes total), so I wouldn't be surprised. Or maybe he likes the video because it shows off some sweet new tattoos. To his credit, it looks very well shot. If the implicit and explicit messaging of the trailer weren't so intellectually bankrupt, insulting, and self righteous, I'd be super psyched for this Entourage reboot.

Oh and his upcoming single, "Yummy" just sounds...creepy.

MUSIC

This Haunts Me: Billie Eilish Doesn't Know What Cabbage Patch Kids Are

The "bad guy" singer is pretty out of touch with '80s pop culture, and we feel old.

Billie Eilish made Grammy history this week, becoming the youngest-ever artist to receive nominations in the top four categories.

We all know by now that the "bad guy" singer is immensely talented. The topic of her age has been thoroughly discussed (she's just shy of 18), but it's still mindblowing to see her youthfulness in new perspectives; she was born in 2001, and during her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night, host Kimmel decided to poke fun at her by quizzing her on '80s pop culture references. Spoiler alert: She did not do so well!

"Have you ever played with a Cabbage Patch Kid?" Kimmel asked Eilish, to which she responded: "Like a Sour Patch Kid? Is it a candy?"

"It was a doll," Kimmel explained to a painfully oblivious Eilish. "Your parents would go to the mall and fight other parents for these, and then they brought them home to you, and that was how they proved they loved you."

To be fair, my childhood home was filled with more vintage dolls than average, so maybe my knowledge of Cabbage Patch Kids is an anomaly among young people. But the fact that Eilish was fully unaware of such a ubiquitous toy made me feel, quite frankly, ancient.

But toys weren't the only category in which Eilish showed a lapse in familiarity. She couldn't name a Van Halen, she'd never heard of Huey Lewis (which also implies she hasn't seen Back to the Future), she'd never heard of Run-DMC, and she couldn't complete Mr. T's iconic catchphrase. One of her few redeeming victories is that she knows who Madonna is.

"You're makin' me look so dumb," Eilish told Kimmel. No, Billie, you're making me feel so old, which isn't fair because I was only born in the '90s.

But I do have to give props to Eilish for being one of the most seemingly level-headed teen pop sensations ever to cross my radar; she still lives in her childhood home, her family follows her on tour and events, and she appears to have a mature grasp on navigating her own fame, which is especially impressive considering the overpowering role social media plays in teen virality today. As far as I'm aware, Eilish is a Very Good Kid. But it's incredibly jarring to me that she's become such a critical touchstone in modern pop culture while being entirely incognizant of so many musical precedents that made her career possible. I also get self-conscious being reminded of stars who are much younger than I am but also much more talented, but I guess that's a problem for me and my therapist to discuss.

CULTURE

The 13 Worst Celebrity Tattoos

Feel better about your life choices after looking at this absolutely disastrous ink.

Celebrities are not known for their good decisions, but a few bad press cycles can usually heal with time.

On the other hand, tattoos are forever.

Tattoos are beautiful, personal methods of expression, and nobody has the right to judge whether a tattoo is "good or bad." Yet here we are. Here's a list of the most egregious, horrible, and disconcerting celebrity tattoos, so you can feel better about your life choices at the expense of someone else's.


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