The Art of the Collab
Since releasing his fourth studio album, Purpose, Justin Bieber has had an eerily tame media presence, seemingly too busy with his international tour to cause scandal (save for the occasional head-butting incident). Given Purpose’s laborious two-year conception, and its subsequent Billboard-topping success, this silence seems well deserved; but the 23 year-old lives in a world that raises pop stars only to replace them the next day. So one has to wonder: how has the pop sensation stayed relevant since the album’s 2015 debut?
Anyone fond of the tabloids would think he’s maintained his fame – or infamy – by producing an emoji keyboard, and dyeing – or rather re-dyeing – his hair platinum blonde. But his lack of sensational media coverage is misleading. A cursory glance at any music chart will reveal that Bieber has been taking an uncharacteristically understated (see his notorious visit to Anne Frank House) approach to the industry – collaborating with other artists in lieu of releasing his own singles.
The surplus of collaborative tracks on Purpose foreshadowed this strategy. EDM anthems such as “Where are Ü Now”, “What Do You Mean”, and “Sorry” marked the beginnings of a taste for fluttering synths and tropical house tracks that have since prompted Bieber to collaborate with a slew of other DJs; Major Lazer (“Cold Water”), DJ Snake (“Let Me Love You”), and Martin Garrix (track pending) to name a few.
The most recent singles to bear his name are “I’m the One” and “Despacito”, both of which sit at the top of the iTunes Top Songs chart. The former is the work of “Bless Up” rapper-producer DJ Khaled, not to mention his 6-month-old son, Asahd Khaled who’s listed as executive producer. The latter is a remix of a song by Latin pop artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.
Bieber allegedly approached Fonsi about adding his voice to the dance track after hearing the song at a Colombian nightclub while on tour. The proposition was a smart move on Bieber’s behalf, considering the original release was the second fastest video to reach 1 billion views on YouTube – so popular it bumped Bieber’s “Sorry” into third place!
It’s clear that Bieber isn’t the only singer aware of marketing perks that come with being a featured artist. Fellow Puerto Rican sensation, Daddy Yankee also lent his voice to Luis Fonsi’s song, stealing the show in verse two. Meanwhile, featured on Khaled’s chart-topper, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, and Lil Wayne all make appearances alongside the Biebs. DJ Khaled didn’t refrain from using these artistic alliances to his advantage. In the months following “I’m the One”’s release, Khaled teased his five million Instagram followers with photos from the music video’s set, promoting not only the “TOP SECERT” project, but his upcoming album Grateful, scheduled for release in March. As the music mogul demonstrates, star-studded collaborations not only provide new names to drop in future interviews, social media posts, and press releases, they also keep busy artists relevant between albums.
“I’m the One”
Though watching a tattooed, bleach-blonde Bieber bounce around in a hedge maze is fun, it inevitably make us wonder when exactly is it that he plans on releasing something new and wholly his own… A couple months into 2016 fans stirred, excited by a series of Instagram posts that featured fifteen-second sound bites of previously unheard melodies; but a year has passed since their sighting and nothing notable has surfaced. Perhaps the delay has something to do with Bieber’s birthday Tweet about wanting to be “a better friend, better brother, better son and better man”. The artist’s sonic and aesthetic styles have certainly transformed since his first years in the spotlight, and it’s clear he feels there are more improvements to come. This might be yet another reason for his many collaborations: diversification in addition to dissemination. Regardless of his motivations, Bieber’s contributions to the work of other artists have guaranteed that his future singles – whenever they drop – will be as idolized as the first, crooning lines of 2009’s “One Time”.
It’s my birthday and all I want is to be a better friend, better brother, better son and better man pic.twitter.com/hBau3PWYKo
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 2, 2017