It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time a decade ago when Justin Timberlake elicited the same kind of screaming mobs of young girls that Justin Bieber does now. But these two pop icons have way more in common than just the same first name and the undying devotion of the ladies.
Both have conquered the pop music universe in a massive way, sold millions of albums and helped fundamentally change what is considered appropriate material for young male singers.
“I think .. the comparison is a huge honor,” Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, told MTV News about the numerous reviews comparing Bieber’s evolution and sound to Timberlake’s. “That is an iconic artist and someone who, when I was growing up, really set the tone for stars the same way Justin Bieber is for his generation … A compliment of that nature is something that we embrace, but at the same time I think it’s the easy comparison. I like to say things no one else will say: They’re both white and both their names are Justin. That’s the thing that everyone thinks but they won’t say out loud. And I think the two of them feel that way.”
To celebrate the release this week of Bieber’s second full-length album, Believe, we thought we’d take a look at how the Justins’ careers stack up against each other.
Sales: Though he’s only released two solo albums in his 10-year career outside of ’NSYNC, Timberlake has hit it big both times, moving more than 10 million units of 2002’s Grammy-winning Justified and an equal number for 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. Bieber busted out of the box in 2009 with the EP My World, which sold 3.2 million copies in the U.S. He followed with another EP, My World 2.0, which sold another 3.1 million copies in the U.S. His Christmas disc, Under the Mistletoe moved around 1.5 million and total world sales have put him in the 15 million range. But, given that Timberlake is semi-retired from music and Believe is expected to be one of the year’s best sellers, it won’t be long before the student should overtake the master.
Advantage: Timberlake (for now)
Social Media: Timberlake may have Bieber on sales at the moment, but nobody has leveraged social media more than the kid who got discovered on YouTube. Bieber’s social media numbers are gawdy: 23.6 million Twitter followers, 44.5 million Facebook likes, more than 2.9 billion YouTube views, including nearly 750 million for the video for his breakthrough single, “Baby” and another 321 million for “Never Say Never.” By contrast, Timberlake has staked out a smaller social media presence, amassing 12 million followers on Twitter, 16.1 million likes on Facebook and nearly 240 million YouTube views of his videos.
Big-Screen Success: Bieber’s concert movie, “Never Say Never,” has taken its place as the highest-grossing concert movie of all-time with more than $73 million to date. While Bieber is expanding his movie palette with an upcoming debut dramatic role
in a Mark Wahlberg basketball movie, Timberlake has already blazed a formidable trail in acting, which has become his primary focus. Counting animated films featuring his voice and such hits as “The Social Network” ($96 million), “Bad Teacher” ($100 million) and “Yogi Bear” ($100 million), Timberlake’s films have grossed nearly $450 million to date.
Expanding the Brand: While neither Justin has gone all-in on merchandising their name like some other pop stars (50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez), both have extended their brands in interesting ways. Bieber has released two perfumes (Girlfriend and Someday), a line of nail polish, a doll and a book. Timberland has a successful clothing line (William Rast), scents for men and women (Play for Him and Play for Her) a record label (Tennman Records), a golf course in his hometown of Memphis (Mirimichi), restaurant (Southern Hospitality) and a line of tequila (901).
Precociousness: Sure, Timberlake got there first thanks to his time on the Mickey Mouse Club and in ’NSYNC, but he was an ancient 21 years old when he released his solo debut. Bieber is just 18 and is already on his fourth release, with a movie, books, several sold-out world tours under his belt and, like, Timberlake (Britney Spears), a very public romance with a fellow pop star (Selena Gomez). The comparisons will keep coming, but at the torrid pace he’s moving, Bieber is well on his way to eclipsing Timberlake by the time he’s old enough to drink. Your move, T.
How do you think the careers of Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber compare? Leave your comments below!