Along with his epic new live performances and slew of recent music videos (both dance-focused and acoustic), one welcome outcome of Justin Bieber’s comeback is that the Belieber fanbase is growing tenfold. Killer new singles like “What Do You Mean” and “Sorry” are not only launching Bieber into chart-topping territory and “serious” music discussion, but they’re also helping convert plenty of fans who have a newfound appreciation for the 21-year-old.
But according to Bieber himself, that shift in his popularity was only inevitable — and he has an impressively accurate example to back it up.
During an interview with BBC Radio 1 on Tuesday morning (Oct. 27), host Nick Grimshaw pointed out that Bieber’s single “What Do You Mean” seemed to change a lot of people’s opinions about him. JB agreed, crediting his widespread appeal to the fact that he’s now more in control of his creative process. To illustrate that point, he likened his transition to that of Justin Timberlake’s solo career, notably JT’s 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds.
“Look at Justin Timberlake. You know, he was in NSYNC and of course they had an amazing sound but it was also, it was young. It was for teenagers,” Bieber explained. “And I feel when he transitioned and started making ‘Sexy Back’ and stuff, he really found something that was unique to what he was feeling and what he wanted to do. So I think it takes time as an artist to develop your style and develop what you like and what you don’t like.”
This isn’t the first time Bieber’s pointed to Timberlake as a musical role model of sorts. Back in 2012, around the time he released “Boyfriend,” he told MTV News that he’s long admired the former boy bander, even if he thinks the comparisons between them aren’t quite spot-on.
“He was young, and he did it and he was really amazing and had such amazing music,” Bieber said when asked if Timberlake had influenced his music. “I can’t say I would be upset when someone compares me to him — I just feel like my music is going a completely different route. But definitely, hat goes off to him.”
And in 2011, Bieber again pointed to Timberlake’s 2006 seminal album as a major source of inspiration for Believe.
“I’m trying to create a new sound that people aren’t really used to hearing, so it might sound weird at first, but it’s going to be like when Justin Timberlake did FutureSex/LoveSounds: It was a new sound… acoustic guitar over hard drums,” he explained to MTV News.
Along with discussing the way Timberlake’s career “mirrors” his own (get it?!), Bieber also talked to BBC Radio 1 about how he chose the name for his upcoming album, Purpose, saying he wants it to make people feel “inspired.”
“You know, I named the album Purpose. And the reason why I named it Purpose was because for a while there I feel like I lost my purpose,” Bieber said. “And I feel like I found my purpose again. So just maybe that message to say, no matter how far you feel like you’re away from yourself or you feel like you don’t have your purpose or you don’t know what your purpose is or you feel like you lost your purpose, there’s always room to find that purpose again.”
And you know what? That invitation to unearth your purpose is open to old and new Beliebers alike — all are welcome.