Elliott David How you doing?
Justin Bieber Doing tired, man.
ED You’ve only been in town for a couple of days?
JB Just yesterday. I got in the night before.
ED That’s rough.
JB It’s rough, but that’s what we do.
ED How often do you go back to Canada?
JB Hardly ever. I’m going to go back and see my family during Thanksgiving. But other than that, I don’t really go back.
ED I read once that you try to take off one to two days a week. Does that still happen?
JB I try to take one now. When I’m releasing an album, I don’t really get time off because I’ve got to work to promote the album. But other than that, I try to take one to two days off a week, yeah.
ED And then what do you do?
JB I just hang out with my friends, go to the movies. In L.A., I go to Jaden [Smith]’s all the time.
ED Taylor Lautner once told me he doesn’t really go out much due to the rabid fandom, how it snowballs from one person recognizing him and quickly escalates to a really bad situation. You say you’re going out, but are you ever concerned you’re going to get bombarded or, basically, attacked?
JB Not really. I don’t really feel that. I just kind of do whatever.
ED That sounds healthy, albeit dangerous. Let’s rewind to how you got to this place. You went from obscurity to selling out Madison Square Garden in, what, two years?
JB Yeah. I went to watch Taylor Swift perform at the Garden with [longtime manager] Scooter [Braun], and everyone was waving their arms back and forth—she was getting everyone to do it. I said, I want to be here and make everyone wave their arms back and forth. And Scooter was like, someday. And two years later I sold it out in twenty-two minutes [making him the youngest performer ever to sell out the venue].
ED So you set that goal and then you hit it, and now you can’t really get any more successful. Under the Mistletoe is about to come out, and let’s say it becomes number one [which it debuted as on the Billboard 200, days after this interview; it’s Bieber’s third number-one record after My World 2.0 and Never Say Never: The Remixes]. And your next record will be coming out soon, and let’s say that’s number one. Is this the new goal? What happens in the next three years?
JB There are different goals. Like overseas, in London, I played at the O2 arena. I hope to set the record for the most sold-out performances in a single tour.
ED But what does that mean to you? Just a goal to have?
JB My goal at the end of the day—right now—I want to be successful and be great at what I do. But eventually, I want to become the best at what I do. I want to be the best. In the world. I want to be better than anybody that’s ever done it. And in order to do that, I need to strive to be the best, be good to people and treat people with respect, and work as hard as I can. Because for me, I work so hard and this consumes my life, and it’s not worth it if I’m not the best.
ED So who’s the best now?
JB Right now? I mean, I consider Michael Jackson the best. If I could be at his level… But I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m not saying it’s going to happen within the next three years. But hopefully by the time I’m 30, people will remember me. I think people will remember me at this point, but I don’t want people to just think of me as a teen sensation. Because I could probably just sell out, and then in two years not put out another album, and just become Justin Bieber the teen superstar. But I don’t want to be that. I want to transition, and become the greatest.
ED That’s something I want to ask you about: transitions. You’re going to be 18 in March. It’s a big benchmark from childhood to adulthood. Do you feel like you have to play the role of a kid still?
JB Here’s the thing: I think that I don’t need to try to do anything. There are people who try to grow up too fast—they’re 18, so they’re like, I’m not a kid anymore. People need to know I’m not a kid anymore. But at the end of the day, I’m not completely grown-up. I’m still learning. I’m going to grow up how I grow up. I’m not going to try to conform to what people want me to be or go out there and start partying, have people see me with alcohol. I want to do it at my own pace. But I’m never going to make myself so the kids and the parents don’t respect me. There’re some artists that [parents won’t] let their kids go and see because they think they’re a bad influence. I want to be able to do what Michael did—he always sang clean lyrics—and it was always that little kids loved Michael and grandparents loved Michael. I don’t want to start singing about things like sex, drugs, and swearing. I’m into love, and maybe I’ll get more into making love when I’m older. But I want to be someone who is respected by everybody. Because right now, the young people are who make society. Young people determine what’s cool. Young people determine what’s going to be in style. So I always stick with the young people, that’s what I say.
ED You know, Michael kind of went crazy. A lot of people go crazy. Is that something you think or worry about?
JB Michael had a really bad childhood. I was blessed with a great childhood. My mom loved me. My dad loved me. I’m now a teenager and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything in my life. I’ve gotten to experience everything I possibly could. I don’t look back and think, Ugh, I wish I would have been able to do that. Maybe [Michael] missed out on a lot, so he tried to [re-live] his childhood when he was older. But I’ve got such good people around me, I’m not worried.
ED You’re talking about keeping clean and making music for everybody, but a lot of the artists you look up to, like Lil Wayne, Kanye—a lot of what those guys rap about is drugs, sex, and money. So what is it that you like so much about them? Is it the music? The rhymes?
JB I can’t say I look up to them, but I definitely like what they do. I think that they’re amazing. But are they on Michael’s level? I don’t think they’re on Michael’s level.
ED Tell that to Kanye.
JB Well, Kanye is on a different level. I mean, Kanye is probably my favorite producer. He’s a musical genius. But, he’s not on Michael’s level. I think that in order to be on Michael’s level you have to reach as many people as Michael reached, and Kanye doesn’t reach as many people. No one really does.
ED So right now predominantly girls listen to your music. How are you going to reach out to a wider audience?
JB It’s all about making good music, and people hate me before they even listen to my music. I know a lot of people say they hate Justin Bieber who haven’t even listened to any of my music. They just hate me because they hate the idea of me. I’m young, I’m handsome—I don’t mean to sound conceited—but they think that I just got here because [of that], because I’m good-looking and girls like me, but the music isn’t there. Here’s the thing: my first album, I was 13 turning 14 when I recorded it, and I put it out when I was 14 or 15. It was my first time recording, and it turned out really well. We put it out, my fans loved it, but I was still really young. Then the second album came out, and I’d geared it mostly toward the fans. And I feel like the more I put out, people will realize it’s really good music, and they’re going to come. I’m not worried about the guy fans because they’re going to come. If they listen to the music and they like it, it doesn’t matter if they go and act like they don’t like me. They’re going to go home and listen to it.