When it comes to pop reinvention, Madonna may be queen, but Justin Bieber is an undeniable king. He started as the cherub-faced heartthrob of your tweenage dreams, quickly grew up into public cultural enemy number one, and somehow rebounded as someone hipsters, dance fans, pop kids, and R&B lovers could agree on.
Throughout his many phases, the one thing that’s remained constant is the music. If anything, the quality has exponentially increased. Love or hate him – and most people love him now – Bieber is a talented singer, songwriter, musician, and dancer. He’s the total package, and his choice in collaborators is more than impressive. Here we go through Billboard Dance‘s picks for the 20 best Justin Bieber songs from the start of his career to now. Enjoy.
20. David Guetta – “2U” Feat. Justin Bieber
Continuing down his road as a dance vocalist, Bieber pairs for the first time with French pop-crossover favorite David Guetta on “2U.” It’s punchy and powerful, but Bieber’s vocals add a soft, emotional element. It’s romantic to a T, which made it a great choice to hire Victoria’s Secret models to lip-sync the tune’s teaser video. The song charted in 42 countries, peaking at number 16 on the Hot 100, proving that wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve, and bringing two forces of international pop stardom together, really is a recipe for musical success.
19. Justin Bieber – “I’ll Show You”
“I’ll Show You” is definitely one of the most personal Justin Bieber songs ever recorded. It’s 100 percent his story. Everyone is watching his every move. Everyone has an opinion, but at the end of the day, no one really knows the man behind the flashing lights. Bieber struggled through his later teen years to figure out the man he truly wished to be, and on this second track from 2015’s Purpose, he finds the strength to say “go ahead, keep watching. I’ve got this now.” Fair warning: this music video will induce spontaneous trips to Iceland.
18. Justin Bieber – “Never Say Never” feat. Jaden Smith
Will Smith is one of Bieber’s ultimate mentors, so of course he and son Jaden Smith got together in the studio when young Smith’s remake of Karate Kid needed a soundtrack. “Never Say Never” still has a bit of young cheese, but it went on to be one of Bieber’s defining early career moments. It was originally written as an adult song called “Sexy Together,” but writers changed the message to reflect one of great courage and confidence, a much more important message for kids to hear, and in 2010, the great majority of Bieber’s fans were still young tweens.
17. Justin Bieber – “As Long As You Love Me” feat. Big Sean
Who’s ready for some Bieb-step? It’s like dubstep, except it’s Justin Bieber. You get it. This song tries to be a bit dark, but it’s more pink sugar than it is black coffee. It’s still one of the highlights of any Justin Bieber set. The Big Sean feature isn’t the rapper’s best work, but it gives the song a bit of added bite, and who doesn’t enjoy a few verses from Big Sean?
16. Justin Bieber – “One Less Lonely Girl”
You know why you can’t help loving this Justin Bieber song? Because Usher wrote and produced it. That and the angelic voice of 14-year-old Bieber is sweeter than honey on vanilla ice cream. While a lot of the baby Bieber tunes are overly saccharine and don’t necessarily translate into our adult lives, “One Less Lonely Girl” is one of those kiddy pop songs that transcends your tweenage puppy love.
15. Justin Bieber – “Beauty and a Beat” feat. Nicki Minaj
Remember when Justin Bieber’s “computer was stolen” and someone threatened to release the personal footage contained within? The world waited with baited breath (some of us, anyway) for the juicy details, but in the end, it was just a ploy to drum up excitement for this Bieber video. It is a good jam, though, and it represents Bieber’s first strong step onto the dance floor. It’s produced by Zedd and Max Martin, which explains that crunchy synth breakdown I love so much. It was originally written for someone else, but it was Bieber’s idea to put Minaj on the track. Well done, sir.
14. Justin Bieber – “Company”
Love in the 21st Century is hard. You want to get to know someone, but you have to keep a healthy distance. It’s the game we’ve created for ourselves, and though none of us really wants to play, them’s the rules. “Company” is a beautiful take on modern romance, a sweet invitation to come closer while maintaining the perfect veil of coy casualty, and it’s just a damn good pop song.
13. Justin Bieber – “Boyfriend”
I know Bieber’s reinvention campaign really kicked off with Jack Ü and the Purpose album, but for me, the turning point from teenage hearthrob to adult-ready pop star was “Boyfriend.” That darker sound, that whisper intro, it’s so sexual it almost hurts – even though he still looks like a cherub. Many comparisons have been made to Justin Timberlake’s step-out solo single “Girlfriend,” from the obvious title mirroring down to the similar parking lot pimpin’ music video treatment. This was Bieber stepping out into his “swag” trap ish, and if we listen closely, we can hear the incoming dance music production partnerships coming a mile a minute.
12. Justin Bieber – “All That Matters”
Sunday slow jam me so hard with this song. This is some slinky, bluesy, babe magic. The acoustic guitar mixes with the harsh electronic beat perfectly, creating a modern R&B sound that can bridge audiences and age gaps. The lyrics were written during a “happy time” in Bieber and Selena Gomez‘ relationship, which is kind of heartbreaking but adorable at the same time. Play this at my wedding, and then again at the honeymoon when no one is watching.
11. Justin Bieber – “Confident” feat. Chance the Rapper
This was another one of those music videos that pulled Bieber into the world of awkward adult lust. These dance moves are too cute, as is our boy. That he teamed up with Chance the Rapper only solidified my strange, building love for the Biebs, and this was before Chance had the Kanye co-sign. “Confident” is beat-heavy with a playful, wonky melody that sticks in your brain and won’t let go. Definitely some feel yourself music.
10. Justin Bieber – “Friends” Feat. BloodPop
While Bieber was certainly anything but quiet since dropping Purpose, “Friends” actually marked his first single as lead artist since it’s last single “Company” in March of 2016. it also introduced his fans to the producer BloodPop, who had previously worked without such direct credit on hits “Sorry,” “I’ll Show You,” and other Purpose tracks. This tune is energetic, playful, and very dance-oriented. It continues the Bieber narrative of wanting to keep in touch with an old flame. We wonder who that could be.
9. DJ Khaled – “I’m the One” Feat. Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Quavo, Chance The Rapper
DJ Khaled has become one of the biggest success stories of the past decade. He’s got the keys to success, and those keys all come bearing the names of the biggest stars in hip-hop and pop alike. “I’m The One” marks the first Justin Bieber song in Khaled’s catalog, which for fans of both artists rang like a crowning achievement met with a resounding “about time.” Khaled geniously paired the pop star with a bouncing, summery beat and features from three of the biggest and most playful names in the rap game. This is one for the repeat button, for sure.
8. Justin Bieber – “Baby” feat. Ludacris
Justin Bieber is actually 16 on this song, though he looks and sounds like he could be 12. At that tender teen age, he stole our hearts with a saccharine hook that actually really stands the test of time. “Baby” may have been your tweenage little sister’s favorite jam and your dad’s least favorite song of 2010, but in retrospect, it’s an effing great pop tune. His childlike voice is so earnest and clear, and the fact that Ludacris co-signs a teenage heart throb is more than enough to tell you, this kid is up to something.
7. Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean”
First of all, this music video is freaking amazing. John Leguizamo is a national treasure. Bless him for co-starring in this totally insane clip. Why does Bieber think faking an attempt to kidnap is a good date idea? As if falling into a skate park rave makes the trauma go away. That being said, Bieber’s tropical house follow up to Jack Ü breakout “Where Are Ü Now” is a fanciful, fun-loving breath of fresh pop air. He’s back in the studio with Skrillex and Diplo on this cut, which is turns out was not a solitary experience in any way imaginable. Skrillex is all over the Purpose album, and this is one of the best take-aways.
6. Major Lazer – “Cold Water” feat. Justin Bieber & MØ
Bieber’s third phase career as one of the leading dance music vocalists continues to amaze. This collaboration with Major Lazer is a great follow-up to the work he did with Jack Ü, and the addition of MØ’s instantly-recognizable rasp is as bolstering as the bright horn work on the hook. It’s got a bit of that dancehall flavor Major Lazer is known for, but it’s still one of the poppiest works from the trio to date. Put this tune on when you’ve got a friend who needs a life saver and a night on the dance floor.
5. DJ Snake – “Let Me Love You” ft. Justin Bieber
Once Bieber found such success with Skrillex and Diplo, the dance producer flood gates were opened. DJ Snake had to get his own Bieber-assisted super hit, and “Let Me Love You” is one of those pop songs you hear and instantly want to hear again. It’s got that same wonky horn synth from “Lean On,” and it’s got all the dreamy falsetto a young heart can handle. It’s one of the best tunes from DJ Snake’s debut LP Encore, and it was one of the biggest moments of his recent Main Stage closing set at 2017’s Ultra Music Festival in Miami. We can’t help thinking Bieber had a huge part in the song’s success, because, well, he always does, right?
4. Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee – “Despacito” (Remix) Feat. Justin Bieber
Whether you love it or hate it, this remix of “Despacito” is one of the most popular songs of all time. It marks the first, and so-far only, time Bieber has sung in Spanish. He may infamously have since forgotten the words, but that didn’t stop fans from pushing his version to the top of the Hot 100 for 16 weeks in a row, tying it with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” for longest command in the chart’s 59 years. It’s also the first primarily Spanish-language song to top the chart since 1996’s “Macarena.” Dale!
3. Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”
I hereby nominate “Love Yourself” as being the Justin Bieber song with the best lyrics. First of all, opening your track by berating someone for using your name to get into clubs is a clutch superstar move. Also, a chorus all about how your mom likes everyone except your ex is absolutely brilliant. We’ve got to give a nod to Ed Sheeran to the songwriting assist, but we are pretty sure we here honest Bieber all over this. It’s an overly-simple tune, mostly just Bieber and an acoustic guitar with a bit of trumpet thrown in for good measure. It’s incredibly raw, when you think about it, but it plays like a celebratory pop anthem. It’s quite vulnerable for mainstream radio, and Bieber pulls it off with grace and the gusto of a man who knows exactly what he’s doing.
2. Justin Bieber – “Sorry”
The Bieb’s big reinvention LP Purpose is, at its core, all about forgiveness. We as fans needed to forgive him for that weird period where everyone decided he was the worst – or the best, depending on how you feel about young, famous tricksters. He needed to forgive himself for making an ass of himself publicly, and of course, there’s the whole romantic notion of Bieber apologizing to the women (cough Selena Gomez cough) he may have hurt along the road to maturity. “Sorry” is, in that sense, the peak of the Purpose album. Thinly veiled as an amorous apology, he’s just laying it all out over an infectious rhythm with a hook that can’t be denied. Oh Justin, when you come into the room looking like this and singing like that, we just can’t help but forgive you.
1. Jack Ü – “Where Are Ü Now” ft. Justin Bieber
I once saw Bieber’s famous manager Scooter Braun give a talk at P. Diddy’s Revolt Music Conference, and he said the moment he knew they had won the Bieber reinvention campaign was when he took the stage at Ultra Music Festival Miami with Skrillex and Diplo, and nobody boo’d. Bieber greeted the Main Stage and performed this song live with the Jack Ü crew, and it was straight glorious. The work with Jack Ü helped solidify Bieber’s new sound as an adult pop star. It’s more grown-up, but it’s still got that sheen of candy-colored fantasy. The pitched-up vocal line in the hook is instantly recognizable and was certainly a game changer in the pop and dance production world at the time. “Where Are Ü Now” is truly a milestone in the pop-dance crossover canon, and it will remain on of Bieber, Skrillex, and Diplo’s best songs for perceivably the rest of the trio’s career.