Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” music video is a carbon copy of Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You”
I know this has been on every college graduate’s mind: studying Justin’s Biber’s evolving image in pop culture, I’m sure that everyone cares! I know I’m a little older than his base demographic, but I can’t help it. My age is catching up to me, I’m dating myself!
I now have a couple friends in NYC that are actual reporters for HuffPo and Billboard, so I hardly feel qualified to give as opinionated and detailed a review as I’m about to go off on, but hey— this is my blog, I live and breathe pop culture/music videos—I love studying the choices in clothes, art direction, dancers, and other elements that make up an artist’s image. It’s such tricky business, especially when an artist is changing directions. But I’m going to go for it because on a much smaller scale— it’s my job!
After watching JB’s new music video (which I’ve been greatly anticipating with the enthusiasm of a 14-year-old girl) I can’t help but notice how it’s a carbon copy of Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” from 2002. I know the kid is supposed to be Usher’s protegee, but Justins will be Justins.
1) Pop to Hip Hop: Both broke into the music industry as blonde-haired, blue-eyed sensitive soul singers, crooming lyrics like “God must have spent a little more time on you” and “Baby, baby, baby…thought you’d always be mine.” But as the industry changed, male pop singers just couldn’t survive. It seemed to me that if they couldn’t adapt, they’d get phased out, and the only thing to do was become an Usher, or join an alternative rock band.
Bieber looks like he’s had it a little easier (logically, 14-year-old girls seem more receptive to 14-year-old boys singing sentimental ballads), but it’s not easy to play that angle as one gets older. Nick Lachey, JC Chasez, Nick Carter no longer have a careers for that reason. Unfortunately for guys, singing is just not as cool if you don’t have an instrument or Pharrell as your hype man (or in Bieber’s case Ludacris…because Luda will hype anyone). And thus both made careful and calculated efforts to ease out of Max Martin pop and into blue-eyed R&B.
2) Debut hip hop videos in parking lots: The crucial video for JT’s solo career was “Like I Love You.” You can tell how meticulous his team was with the choices they made. They’ve got JT in a parking lot which reads “urban” and “hip hop.” But wait— it’s a parking lot outside 7-Eleven, which means it’s ok for a white boy who previously sang ballads in a five-piece boy band to dance in. Similarly, Bieber just released “Boyfriend” in an urban, sunny parking lot. They’re just some rich kids who hang on the roof of their neighborhood mall, ok? Yeah, when Bieber’s voice was a couple octaves higher, he used to croon love songs with white kids in a bowling alley, but now that he’s made friends with the cast of “Do the Right Thing,” he sits on the hood of his car with a vaguely ethnic girl writhing around in his lap.
3) Ethnic girls: Can’t sing to white girls during this transition, now can we?
4) The beginnings of the two videos: You know what’s sexy? A pitch black background and a Justin’s face in close up while he whispers sweet nothings to you like, “If I was your boyfriend…” and “There’s just something about you…”
5) Acoustic guitars: It’s almost easy listening, if this PHAT BEAT wasn’t behind it!
6) Black sidekicks on his flanks: “He’s cool man, he’s cool. He’s got two black guys doing a choreographed dance on his wings, so that’s clearly a vouch.”
7) Sexy, Tough, leather jackets: They look great! You totally fit in, guys.
8) After some seductive purring, how about some sensitive lyrics? We’re not quite ready for those “hoe, bend over to the front and touch your toes” lyrics, which have been a time-honored and upstanding tradition in top 40 hip hop. Maybe if the Biebs truly wanted to grow up and be taken seriously as sex symbol, he shouldn’t have been so committed to singing about being someone’s boyfriend. But we have to remember: baby steps. Unlike Miley Cyrus who busted out of the gate with a jarring and uncomfortable departure of her old image in, “Can’t Be Tamed.” The Biebs is smart to take it slowly.
So while Clipse spits lines like “funny how a few words turned into sex” on “Like I Love You,” (the veterans of top 40 hip hop don’t care about love and commitment!) Timberlake is still vacillating between being N’sync or Justified, so he tries to transition his song/career from a raunchy Clipse verse to, “I just love your…brain.”
JT got a lot less sentimental with “I got sexy ladies all over the flo’” soon enough, and if JB keeps playing his cards right, I predict he’ll make the transition from child star to grown up pop star very smoothly. “Boyfriend” works because he’s using all the elements bigger Justin did to make the transition ten years ago (parking lot, sexy talk, acoustic guitars, phat beatz, leather jackets, ethnic friends, lyrics proclaiming love and devotion…for now) and lucky for Baby Justin, his base demographic doesn’t remember “Like I Love You.” How weird is that?
hahahaah. Well played, Liann.