The Evolution of Justin Bieber - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

The Evolution of Justin Bieber

From ‘One Time’ to ‘Boyfriend,’ YouTube phenom to pop superstar

justin bieber

Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

In the three years since his Beatles-esque hairdo first graced our computer screens, Justin Bieber has done quite a bit of growing up. The progression is more apparent than ever when you consider the whimsical puppy-love plotlines of his early videos ("One Less Lonely Girl" centers around a charming treasure hunt with a smiling Bieber at the end) alongside the more mature and sexual vibes of his most recent one ("Boyfriend" puts on display the wooing of his oldest woman to date). In this video gallery, watch J.B. transform from an excitable, innocent kid into a bonafide adult with plenty of swag.

By Alexandra Jaffe and Joe Pinsker

Play video

Drumming at age nine

Even at the tender age of nine, Bieber was displaying not just plenty of charisma, but an eagerness to flaunt it on camera, be it by crooning or slaying his drum kit.

Play video

Singing Chris Brown’s ‘With You’ (2008)

One of the first hints at Bieber's potential for stardom was this video of a young J.B. belting out a cover of Chris Brown's "With You." This video may have taken place in an under-decorated room with little else but a couch, but the star power – which would soon fill mega-arenas with much more seating room – is clearly there.

Play video

‘One Time’ (2009)

The video for Justin Bieber's first single opens in the same way as his career: with help from Usher. In it, a boyish Bieber "holds the house down" while Usher's away, and throws a silly-string rager that leads to an encounter with the first of Bieber's many music video love interests.

Play video

‘One Less Lonely Girl’ (2009)

A reflection of Bieber's youth, this clip chronicles an innocent and playful treasure hunt he's set up for a cute girl he saw at a Laundromat. He pulls out all the stops with clues that include flowers, chocolate and even puppies, but she eventually gets her prize: the Biebs, of course.

Play video

‘Baby’ (2010)

In "Baby," Bieber's bowling party with Drake and Ludacris quickly turns to a girls vs. boys dance-off, complete with waxed-floor breakdancing. Here, the object of Bieber's affection initially spurns his advances, but, in a development that remains consistent with the rest of his video oeuvre, he ultimately gets the girl.

Play video

‘Never Let You Go’ (2010)

Alternating between the dark depths of a seemingly abandoned aquarium and an ethereal scene on a beach, "Never Let You Go" is one of Bieber’s more abstract visuals. Why has he chosen this occasion to take his love interest on a date in an aquarium catacomb? Who knows – but once again, he strikes a chord in his delivery of youthful romance.

Play video

‘Eenie Meenie’ (2010)

The video for this Sean Kingston collaboration follows a girl who is romantically playing both Kingston and Bieber at the same time. The game is up for her when the two guys meet up and realize what's going on.

Play video

‘Never Say Never’ (2010)

"Never Say Never" finds J.B. chilling in Beijing with Jaden Smith, as the two duet over a montage of scenes from Smith's The Karate Kid remake. Their hangout session culminates in movie Jaden taking down an intimidating karate opponent and real Jaden spitting a rap verse in the studio.

Play video

‘Somebody to Love (Remix)’ (2010)

Less plot-driven than his previous videos, "Somebody to Love" focuses on dramatic lighting and impressive choreography, showing off some of Bieber's most nimble dance moves yet.

Play video

‘Love Me’ (2010)

The video for "Love Me" splices clips from Bieber on tour with footage of him taking pictures with fans, signing autographs, and horsing around during rehearsal. It's a victory lap of sorts, drawing attention to the fanbase that he's cultivated.

Play video

‘U Smile’ (2010)

After appeasing a gaggle of Beliebers with photos and autographs at the beginning of "U Smile," J.B. singles out one girl, asking her to join him at the theater later that night. For their romantic rendezvous, he shows the lucky lady around an empty concert venue. On a mildly unrelated note, "U Smile" is also the song that spawned the hit remix "Justin Bieber 800% Slower," which actually doubles quite nicely as ambient electronic music.

Play video

‘Pray’ (2010)

Bieber takes a break from dancing and romancing in this moving clip for "Pray," which puts a focus on social plights around the world. The video includes footage of a post-earthquake Haiti, a post-Katrina New Orleans, American military soldiers and Bieber himself visiting sick children.

Play video

‘Next to You’ (2011)

With a premise that weds girl-chasing with exploding cars, collapsing buildings, and thunderstorms, the video for Chris Brown's "Next to You" is nothing if not bizarre. But all that's irrelevant, as it marked Bieber's first appearance after a six-month video drought, and features such developments as his first onscreen kiss and a more mature hairdo.

Play video

‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ (2011)

J.B. made a number of videos tied to his holiday album (which includes guest spots from Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey), but the steampunk-inspired video for "Santa Claus" is easily the best. It takes place in Santa's workshop, where all the toys come to life with killer dance moves, and offers a rare glimpse at Bieber's drum skills to boot. Despite the childish setting and the quick cuts to the animated film Arthur Christmas, Bieber exudes maturity with a noticeably lower voice and spiked new haircut.

Play video

‘That Should Be Me’ (2011)

One of Bieber's rare videos lacking a romantic storyline, this takes a behind-the-scenes perspective of him performing with country group Rascal Flatts, who collaborated on the song. Leaving behind the glitz and big stunts, Bieber sticks to refreshing simplicity with this one. 

Play video

‘Boyfriend’ (2012)

The message that "Boyfriend:" sends is simple: Bieber's grown up. He's traded in a mopheaded haircut for hair gel, and pre-teen crushes for full-on adult romance. As he romps around a parking lot and caresses his girl, he showcases swagger – sorry, swaggy – and confidence that's a far cry from his boyish house parties and bowling jamborees of yore.

In This Article: Justin Bieber

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.