How Justin Bieber Turned His Bad-Boy Reputation Around in Time for His 22nd Birthday

"I'm at a moment of change. This is a new day," the singer promised during his Comedy Central roast last year

By McKenna Aiello Mar 01, 2016 1:00 PMTags
Justin BieberVenturelli/WireImage

When Justin Bieber decides enough is enough, he doesn't mess around.

The Grammy-winning pop star celebrates his 22nd birthday today, the milestone seemingly coinciding with the recent culmination of a long-running apology tour intended to liberate him from a reputation tarnished by messy legal woes and a tumultuous personal life played out in the public eye. Bieber's late teens and early (or earlier) twenties put him in danger of becoming that infamous Hollywood cliché, as the bright-eyed child star with genuine talent weathered a year-and-a-half-long spiral that included a DUI arrest, vandalism allegations and an open-ended breakup with Selena Gomez

But not long after the "Baby" singer turned 21, he was well on his way to cementing a comeback. Just two weeks after an expertly orchestrated birthday celebration in Las Vegas, Bieber looked to lay his bad-boy reputation to rest with a star-studded Comedy Central roast that poked merciless fun at his various mistakes.

"I look forward to being someone you're proud of... You have my word—I will not end up broken, pathetic, bitter or sitting on someone else's roast. I'm at a moment of change. This is a new day," he told the audience. Since then, Justin has (for the most part) honored his promise. The rest of 2015 and start of 2016 brought a number of triumphs for team Bieber, both on the music charts and in the tabloids. 

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First of all, to leave Justin's name off the list of 2015 musical triumphs would be a mistake. "Where Are Ü Now" was one of summer's biggest jams, laying the groundwork for the historic straight-to-No. 1 debut of "What Do You Mean?" and a subsequent critically acclaimed album.

Aptly titled Purpose, his platinum-selling fourth studio album reflected Justin's maturation, and his fans—only mildly discouraged by an idol that let them down—ate it right up. Bieber asked, "Is it too late now to say, 'Sorry?'" and Beliebers answered with a resounding, "No."

Moreover, his tearful breakdown at the end of his 2015 MTV Video Music Awards performance, was an "authentic" reaction to the audience's "overwhelming" response, he later told Jimmy Fallon.

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Bieber's Tonight Show admission was far from the only time he spoke candidly about the impact that changing his lifestyle has had on him. Practically every interview he has sat down for in recent months is packed with mentions of the lessons he's learned.

"I hope people felt the sincerity in my apologies," he told Hero Magazine last April. "There are a lot of things that have happened in the last couple years that I'm not very proud of, and I feel a responsibility to my fans and to the public who believe in me to make it right. I hope everyone believed it—because it was honest."

"I want to veer away from the self-centered attitude," Bieber echoed to Billboard in November. "I'm just focused on the people who have been there since the start, on people who are taking the journey now. I want them to feel like we're doing this together."

While his regrets may have started to sound familiar, it's only because he means it. It's crucial to understand that not many young stars could have gone to the extreme lengths Justin has just for a second chance at redemption.


But despite taking genuine steps towards righting his wrongs, Bieber's reinvention hasn't been completely seamless. 

Over the course of 24 hours, the 22-year-old successfully managed to have two public meltdowns—storming offstage and later cutting a televised performance short. Bieber quickly blamed the setback on a "rough week," adding, "I don't always handle things the right way but I'm human and I'm working on getting better at responding not reacting."

Justin was able to put his pledge to remain cool under pressure into action as October brought a number of leaked vacation pics that left little to the imagination (as in, the Internet saw Bieber's completely naked bod). Whereas the "old" Bieber might have erupted, Justin 2.0 took the privacy breach with surprising stride.

During a round of "Carpool Karaoke," Bieber explained to James Corden that although the photos felt "really invasive," he thinks, "It's funny to joke about it now, because what else can you do?"

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The last few months of the Biebs' 21st year have only brought continued success. The 2016 Grammys gave Justin a platform to deliver a solid performance of "Love Yourself," which he dutifully tore into alongside EDM collaborators Diplo and Skrillex; the trio also shared the win for Best Dance Recording for "Where Are Ü Now."

Early February brought yet another press opportunity for Justin, this time a revealing interview with GQ in which he asserted he wouldn't have been able to clean up his act without the help of God. 

"I feel like that's why I have a relationship with Him, because I need it. I suck by myself. Like, when I'm by myself and I feel like I have nothing to lean on? Terrible. Terrible person," he said.

As it stands, Justin acknowledges that he's still got a long way to go toward becoming the man he wants to be. Looking at what he's gone through in such a short time, it's impossible not to commend the reformed celeb for refusing to succumb to the temptations that could have further messed with his future.

Here's hoping the singer's upcoming year is similarly full of high points, as the lows retreat further into the past. Happy 22nd birthday, Justin!