Inside Justin Bieber's Transformative Year: "Despacito," Selena Gomez and Beliebing in Himself

A look back at the singer's big year in honor of this 24th birthday

By Elyse Dupre Mar 01, 2018 12:00 PMTags
Justin Bieber, 24th Birthday FeatureMelissa Herwitt / E! Illustration

Another year older, another year wiser—that's the hope for Justin Bieber.

Mar. 1 marks Bieber's birthday, and this year represents his 24th trip around the sun—and what a trip it's been.

Since his 23rd birthday, Bieber has released a chart-topping hit, reunited with his love Selena Gomez and learned what it really means to love yourself. While his journey hasn't been easy—and there have been plenty of mistakes along the way—Bieber has learned valuable life lessons.

So in honor of the singer's 24th birthday, here's a look back at Bieber's transformative year.

One Less Lonely Girl

2017 didn't start on the best note for Bieber.

About two weeks into the new year, the media caught Bieber's ex Gomez kissing The Weekend. News about the budding relationship spread. And even though Bieber and Gomez broke up in 2014, it looked like he wasn't over his ex.

Bieber dissed The Weekend's music—saying "that sh-t's wack"—and threw shade at the "Starboy" singer in an Instagram video. But as much as tried to put on a cocky front, Bieber couldn't hide his true feelings. On Valentine's Day, the "Baby" singer shared a video in which he said, "All I ever wanted was a Valentine. Now I don't even have a Valentine."

David Livingston/Getty Images, Steve Granitz/Venturelli/WireImage

Love Yourself 

With Gomez in a new relationship, Bieber could take time to really focus on himself—both physically and professionally. The artist got some new tattoos, including one of a bald eagle and one of a lion, and threw himself into his music. He also continued to perform worldwide on his Purpose tour. Then, in April, he released what would become the record-breaking remix "Despacito."

The song was on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 straight weeks—tying with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day" reign. According to Billboard, it also became the most streamed song of all time and has the most YouTube views of any video on the platform.

Bieber was on the right path, and he recognized his growth. In April, he shared a picture from his 2014 DUI arrest to prove just how far he'd come.

"I love this because it reminds me I'm not exactly where I want to be but thank God I'm not where I used to be!!" he wrote next to a side-by-side photo of his mugshot and current face. "The best is yet to come. Do you believe it?" 


By loving himself, Bieber could, in turn, pass his love on to others. For instance, after the Manchester Attack at Ariana Grande's concert, Bieber joined forces with Grande and other artists to put on the One Love Manchester benefit concert—an event that raised nearly $3.5 million for the survivors and the victims' families. 

Even Gomez couldn't ignore the change in Bieber. During a June interview with SiriusXM's The Morning Mash Up, Gomez applauded all of the One Love Manchester performers and complimented her ex. 

"It was beautiful," she said, per ELLE. "I thought everyone did such a beautiful job. It was so gorgeous. I love how [Ariana] ended it. I thought Justin did great. It was really beautiful." 

He also continued to pay it forward by surprising patients at Children's Hospital of Orange County, and he shared thoughts about his faith with his fans.

Still, something wasn't right with Bieber. After performing in 150 shows across six continents, he was burnt out. So, in July, Bieber cancelled the last 14 shows of his Purpose tour.

About a week later, Bieber spoke out about the cancelled performances via a lengthy Instagram post. The singer expressed how grateful he was for the tour, his fans and their journey together. He also opened up about some of his struggles and how he'd learned from his mistakes.

"Learning and growing hasn't always been easy but knowing I'm not alone has kept me going," Bieber wrote in part of the post "I have let my insecurities get the best of me at times, I let my broken relationships dictate the way I acted towards people and the way I treated them! I let bitterness, jealousy and fear run my life!!! I am extremely blessed to have people in the past few years help me build my character back up[,] reminding me of who I am and who I want to be!!! Reminding me my past decisions and past relationships don't dictate my future decisions and future relationships.  I'm VERY aware I'm never gonna be perfect, and I'm gonna keep making mistakes. I wanna be a man that learns from them and grows from them!!"

Kevin Mazur/One Love Manchester/Getty Images for One Love Manchester


However, one of the biggest changes in Bieber's life came later that fall. In September, Gomez revealed she had undergone a kidney transplant earlier that summer. By October, Bieber was spotted visiting Gomez's home and hanging out with her during recovery. 

Despite Jelena fans' hope for a reunion, the two seemed to be just friends. In fact, a source told E! News The Weekend was "well aware that Justin and Selena were hanging out" and trusted his girlfriend.

All that seemed to change when news of Gomez and The Weekend's split broke. Rumors of a possible romance between Bieber and Gomez started spreading. The two were then photographed spending a lot of quality time together. They enjoyed intimate dinners, attended church services and even rode bikes. Gomez continued to cause speculation after she left Bieber's hockey game wearing his jersey.

However, the true sign of their reunion came in mid November when the two shared a kiss at Bieber's amateur hockey game in Los Angeles. Ever since then, the couple has been going strong. They've vacationed together, worked out together and even celebrated Valentine's Day and the wedding of Bieber's father together.

Never Say Never

Granted, this year wasn't just about redemption for Bieber. He also had his fair share of setbacks, like when he accidentally hit a paparazzo with his car, got in a feud with Marilyn Manson and snapped at a fan for trying to take a selfie.

However, if he continues to follow his heart and his art, he'll likely stay on the right path.

Could this be his best year yet? Never say never.

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