Blame it on my maternal instincts, but I’m pretty sure my son Justin Bieber could use a break.
He’s calling for quiet time at his sold-out arena shows. He’s put the kibosh on selfies and compared himself to a literal zoo animal. And most recently, he took time from his U.K. tour to play hockey and drop in on a random club night. (Which are totally normal activities for a “normal” 22-year-old young man, but not quite for one of the world’s biggest pop stars?)
And I get it. If my own workaholicism and/or memorization of the Hamilton soundtrack has taught me anything, a break is a lot easier suggested than actually executed. But the music industry has often been an exception to this universal rule of life. In fact, music boasts a rich history of hiatuses leading to creative comebacks, whether said breaks are rooted in nature or in finding oneself or in disappearing completely.
So with that in mind, here are a few suggestions for my precious boy. Because as much as I love hearing Baby Biebs’s voice, I love ensuring the future of his mental and emotional health even more.
Live off the land
In the early 1970s, at the height of her early popularity, Joni Mitchell picked up and left California for British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, where she found a quiet place to “go away and hide.” The work she did after that — albums like 1974’s Court and Spark and 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns — represented a major creative and personal breakthrough. Since then, Mitchell has remained a notoriously private person, making art on her own terms and maintaining a healthy distance from the music industry whether she's back in L.A. or hiding out in B.C.
It’s easy to imagine this path appealing to Justin, another sensitive Canadian whose love of nature has been heavily documented via his Instagram (R.I.P.) and during tours of his home. He’s repeatedly stressed how much he enjoys being alone, and Joni’s example shows that it’s possible to do just that while still keeping a foot in the game. She’s not the only one, either: John Mayer moved to Montana when he wanted to check out for a while, and Bon Iver launched his entire career by writing For Emma, Forever Ago during a winter spent alone in a freezing-cold Wisconsin cabin, which proves that sometimes the best way to tap into your creative self is making sure you don't have to deal with anybody else’s shit.
There’s power in absence. We’ve learned this from artists as different as Bob Dylan (who went on a transformative hiatus after a motorcycle accident in 1966), Britney Spears (who used the late 2000s to prioritize her mental health), and Adele (who waited four years between albums to focus on starting a family). In the wake of those absences, careers have thrived: Adele’s 25 broke sales records upon its 2015 release, Britney Spears is in the midst of a successful Vegas residency, and Bob Dylan just won a Nobel Prize.
Ultimately, taking a step back can be a way to reclaim your position at center stage. Because while those who might miss Bieber will scramble to create a narrative, he’ll have nothing but time to rebrand, restructure, and recreate, officially preparing himself for a proper comeback. (Whenever that may be — no pressure.) Maybe he'll even win a Nobel in 50 years?
The thing about Justin Bieber is that he loves the Lord. He talks about God, he prays often and regularly, and he dedicated a full song to the aforementioned activity and then put it on two different albums. Bless.
His religious zest could be the perfect avenue for an industry reprieve. Back in 1996, a worn-out Leonard Cohen moved to a monastery to devote his life to Buddhism, and shortly after 1988’s Tougher Than Leather, Run-D.M.C.’s Joseph Simmons became increasingly involved in his church and was eventually ordained as a minister (that’s Reverend Run to you). Baby Biebs: Think about it. Since spirituality is something that obviously brings him joy and lives far away from the celebrity world he’s entrenched in, a stay in some kind of monastery-type deal could be just what he needs.
Dabble in another business venture
Or not! At this point, Justin Bieber is an empire unto himself. He doesn’t need to make music to survive; he isn’t struggling or in need of proving himself creatively, and the apology tour is long over. So what better time for him to shift focus to something completely removed from the world he’s getting sick of? Moby, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake all own and/or have founded restaurants, and while none of the aforementioned are counting down cash registers or hiring and firing servers, Justin Bieber, well, could.
I mean, we’ve all seen Wahlburgers. (At least, I have.) So we know that it’s possible for celebrities to tap into a new industry and pour their energy into something that doesn’t necessitate meeting, greeting, or telling fans to shush. Or maybe I’m just desperate for more Canadian content, since it takes way too long to get a table at Fring’s. Either way, Biebs, the next move is yours.