In addition to having deeper creative aspirations for his career, as evidenced by his more experimental sounds on Purpose, Bieber seems to also be craving a deeper connection with his fans—as evidenced by the way he tried to talk to them the other night during his show. (One, Kanye is nothing if not the king of dynamism and, two, if he doesn't talk during a show, did that show even happen?)
But despite the Beliebers' reputation for adoring everything Justin does, it all went wrong.
Instead of cheering him even more wildly when he took a timeout from singing to address the crowd, the kids-of-all-ages in attendance started to boo. And who knows if it was 200 or 2,000 people booing inside Manchester Arena—that's got to sting.
"Obviously Manchester just can't handle it, so let's do the music," Bieber observed, not humorously at all, before changing his mind and actually walking off stage for a few minutes, taking the spotlight with him and leaving the astonished crowd all abuzz with concern that that was it.
The 22-year-old did return, said flatly, "Manc can't handle the talking, so I won't talk," and got on with it.
He addressed the awkward elephant in the room toward the end of the show, explaining, "So the only reason why I was getting upset earlier, is because I traveled across the whole world to come here...I dedicated my life to this. I dedicate my life to performing, I dedicate my life to trying to bring smiles to people's faces, and when I feel like people just aren't giving me the same respect, that just kind of...hurts me a little bit. That's all, and I appreciate you guys coming down."
Xposure / AKM-GSI
This mild outburst came on the heels of the young man "trying to engage" with the audience during his first show in Manchester last Thursday, but telling the crowd he didn't mind "cutting the bulls--t" if they would rather not hear him speak in concert.
It is a shame that Bieber was booed (boos are sad), but dude. You can't proverbially delete your Instagram account in the middle of a show because your feelings are hurt. If professional athletes got offended by boos, no game in the history of the world would have ever been finished.
But we have an idea as to who Bieber can learn from if he'd like tips on both holding a room and—perhaps even more importantly—hanging onto the courage of his convictions. And since they already know each other well...there's no one better at either one of those things than Kanye West.
"Kanye's a talker," Bieber told MTV News about West a year ago after they'd spent some time in the studio together—and just days after Kanye's Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award acceptance speech at the VMAs included a vow to run for president in 2020.
"You get him in a room and he starts talking and ranting, I just sit and I listen," Bieber said appreciatively. "He's been through a lot of stuff and he's not just talking to talk, he has something to say from his heart. I just sit and listen because he's really smart."
Exactly. Kanye's musical bona fides are undeniable, his place in the hip-hop pantheon secure. But he certainly is familiar with being misunderstood by those who don't understand him—be it what he's saying or doing, or why—so he's had to double-down on confidence.
"I'm totally weird and I'm totally honest and I'm totally inappropriate sometimes, and...for me to say I wasn't a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself," West said on Jimmy Kimmel Live when the artist came on after he and Kimmel feuded on Twitter so heatedly on Kanye's side that it bordered on parody.
Now, we don't see Bieber getting into any of these deep existential exchanges anytime soon, philosophizing about artistry, creativity, what it means to be a genius and the vagaries of authenticity in this day and age. That's Kanye's wheelhouse.
Kevin Winter/MTV1415/Getty Images For MTV
But as Bieber grows up a little, we can see him burrowing into the frustrations that come with being misunderstood, as he tries to (hopefully) separate the man he sees himself as from the sometimes-d-baggy kid who kept testing people's patience with immature behavior.
So perhaps if anyone can talk Bieber down from the prickly ledge he's been on lately—the one that doesn't want to stop to take pics with fans or do meet and greets, the one where he all of a sudden couldn't reconcile the fickle nature of social media with all the love he gets and so decided to scrap his Instagram—it's Kanye.
"I don't know what's gonna happen tonight, I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, bro. But all I can say to my artists, to my fellow artists: Just worry how you feel at the time, man," West advised the world during his VMAs acceptance speech in 2015. "Just worry about how you feel and don't never... you know what I'm saying? I'm confident. I believe in myself.
"We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We're not gonna control our kids with brands. We not gonna teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!"
Or Belieb in themselves, whichever.
Kanye may as well have been talking right to Justin (who was in attendance as well, having performed at the VMAs for the first time in five years that night). Bieber has every right to want to start a dialogue, or to change the nature of his relationship with his fans into a more mature give-and-take as both he and the Beliebers grow up—but it isn't going to be easy.
And if anyone knows about reinvention, creatively and personally, it's Kanye.
"Out of anyone in the industry who is creative, he really gets me," Bieber told NME last November about West. "His advice is always just, 'Make music that's so good people can't hate on it.'" (And that's basically what Kanye has done—he's such a master of his craft that, at the end of the day, criticism of anything else just falls by the wayside.
"I didn't wanna bore him or waste his time," Bieber added. "So I was like, 'Can I play you these songs?' and he was like, 'I wanna hear everything.' To hear him say that, it just showed that he cared." West was also rumored to be texting with Bieber back in March, when his Purpose World Tour was getting underway, advising him on how to deal with his emotions and the pressures that come with being on the road.
"Justin has a hard time listening to his tour managers and other staff, but when Kanye talks to him, he listens. Kanye calmed him down after an emotional show in L.A.," a source told Hollywood Life at the time.
"I live inside, and I've learned how to swim through backlash, or maintain through the current of a negative public opinion and create from that and come through it and spring forth to completely surprise everyone—to satisfy all believers and annihilate all doubters," Kanye told Interview magazine in 2014 after the release of his critically acclaimed Yeezus. "At this point, it's just fun."
And Bieber seems to understand that concept, though his journey is just beginning.
Talking about being kicked when he was down by an ever-judgmental public, he told NME last year, "No one knew what I was feeling. I was rebelling against something deeper, and it took me a minute to realize I'm not gonna let them win." But he knows, "if I wanna do this, there's gonna be darkness thrown at me."
He just needs to look toward the light—Kanye is most likely basking in it somewhere nearby.