During the Super Bowl, Justin Bieber did something very important: he returned to Instagram. He also appeared in a T-Mobile commercial, defined by a hashtag, that saw our sweet precious son play the semi–straight man to a slew of dancers.
Oh, the joy! The delight! A happy, dancing Baby B! Add to this today's early-morning revelation that he’d starred in a Japanese commercial alongside YouTube star Piko Taro, and the future’s never seemed so bright. For the first time in eons, Justin Bieber looks like he’s found something that brings him true happiness — and that thing is acting.
Silence your cries and hear me out. Considering that the man is nominated for a few Grammys this Sunday, it’s not like anyone’s about to discount him as a musician. Bieber can sing, he can dance, and he can play instruments. But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it needs to be the only thing you do forever.
It's been a rough couple of years for Biebs. He's been very public about how uncomfortable he is with the level of celebrity he’s reached. He’s cried onstage, thrown up and kept dancing, and found himself pitted against his fellow Canadians because of a common romantic denominator. In his short 22 years, Biebs has seen — and been through — it all.
But as we focus on his sometimes-vexing career as a pop star, it’s easy to lose sight of his comedic abilities and how quickly he can lose himself in particular characters. While being roasted on Comedy Central in 2015, Bieber played the role of a good sport, a young man casually unfazed by the fact that he was being insulted by a slew of comedians who didn’t like him. Later that year, during his first VMAs performance in five years, he openly wept while taking on the part of our prodigal son, embodying the spirit of a boy who’d screwed up but learned from his mistakes and was sorry. Most importantly, he’s quick to make fun of himself (in a relatively controlled setting). Bieber appeared in Zoolander 2 and has used his SNL appearances wisely. And now he’s in a tuxedo, encouraging us to use a hashtag while exhibiting our go-to dance moves, all while seeming incredibly happy.
As he should be! The gateway between music and movies is hardly hidden, which we already know thanks to artists turned movie stars like Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Rihanna, and (maybe) Harry Styles. Unlike life as a Top 40 sensation, an Actor’s Life™ could give Justin a quick exit in moments when he feels he needs to disappear. Actors are still followed around, analyzed, critiqued, and documented (duh), but attention tends to follow projects, awards seasons, and the phone calls of very invested publicists. Musicians, no matter which persona they’re embracing, are typically front and center. Meaning that while most actors can choose to leave the zoo to duck into normal-ish lives every once in a while, pop artists are the capybaras we keep trying to take selfies with.
This is exactly the part that Bieber hates, and he's made no secret of it. But at the same time, the boy still wants to be a star — or at least to get some attention. He recently befriended fellow Calvin Klein model Mark Wahlberg, who has gone so far as to make fun of Justin’s enthusiastic “how are my modeling photos?” texts. And who better to coach Baby B through a music-to-actor transition than a man who once fronted The Funky Bunch before going on to earn an Oscar nom?
Of course, Justin has only starred in a few commercials so far, and also only as himself. But when your star is as bright as his, your audience needs to be eased into seeing you as somebody (and something) else. Marky Mark lost himself in the role of Dirk Diggler years after “Good Vibrations,” and Harry Styles has been largely MIA as we count down the days to Dunkirk. So until Biebs fully embraces his natural comedic timing, we should celebrate the glimpses of the eventual Oscar nominee he could become. Because if you think you could keep a straight face while plugging a hashtag and dancing in a tuxedo, you’ve got another thing coming.