Fresh off being pulled over for unsafe driving in Los Angeles less than 24 hours before the MTV Video Music Awards, Justin Bieber made his long-awaited return to the VMA stage Sunday night with a high-flying-performance of his Jack Ü collaboration “Where Are Ü Now” alongside his latest single “What Do You Mean?”
Dressed in all black – boots, pants, T-shirt and trucker hat – Bieber delivered his first VMA performance in five years backed by a stunning light display, a dozen dancers and some well-oiled choreography. However, things took off – literally – following a spoken word interlude as Bieber soon hovered over the audience as part of an aerial act that was unfortunately obscured by darkness. Perhaps appreciative to be back on the VMA stage after a half-decade away, Bieber knelt and visibly wept as “What Do You Mean?” ended.
Bieber hadn’t appeared on the Video Music Awards stage since his debut VMA performance in 2010. At that show, Bieber delivered a medley of “U Smile,” “Baby” and “Somebody to Love,” three tracks off his My World 2.0 LP. Bieber also won Best New Artist at the VMAs, becoming, at age 16, the youngest artist ever to scoop up that Moonman. Bieber would also win Best Male Video for “U Smile” at the 2011 VMAs, but the singer wouldn’t appear onstage to perform or accept another award until this year’s ceremony.
Following the release of 2012’s Believe, Bieber made more headlines for his bad boy behavior than his music, including a January 2014 arrest for DUI and drag racing. After staying musically inactive for the better part of three years, Bieber stepped back into the spotlight as the target of his own Comedy Central roast. In March, Bieber revealed that he was working on new music with Kanye West and Rick Rubin.
While Bieber hadn’t lodged a Top 10 single since 2012’s Nicki Minaj-featuring “Beauty and the Beast,” he scored a surprise comeback with “Where Are Ü Now,” a Song of the Summer candidate that paired Bieber with unlikely collaborators Jack Ü’s Diplo and Skrillex. The track was later nominated for four 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. In the week preceding the 2015 VMAs, Bieber dropped his laid-back new track “What Do You Mean?,” rumored to be the first single off his upcoming fourth studio album.