Why 23-Year-Old Justin Bieber Needs a Break

Singer abruptly pulled the plug on 14 remaining dates of his Purpose World Tour

By Natalie Finn Jul 25, 2017 12:00 PMTags

It isn't too surprising to hear that Justin Bieber is tired. He's had an exhausting eight years.

You might think that a 23-year-old should have enough left in the tank for just 14 more shows on his Purpose World Tour, stretched over three months. But if he feels as though he wouldn't be able to bring it night after night, he did the right thing by calling it a day and closing up shop early.

Actually, that was a most mature decision, preferring not to disappoint fans with what could be a lackluster show and opting to refund the money instead. The tour to date has grossed almost $200 million.

The news, however, triggered a flood of speculation about what was behind the seemingly sudden move—though, in reality, Bieber is overdue for a break.

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Aside from the rigors of touring, which he's been doing for six out of the last eight years, Bieber's relationship with fame hasn't been nearly as simple as maybe it should have been for a fresh-faced kid with obvious talent who managed to make the jump from tween dream to more manly fare without missing a beat.

2014 petition to have him deported notwithstanding, Bieber's marketability as an artist has never waned and in fact has only been on the rise since he first burst onto the scene in 2009. Yet he hasn't ascended to such great heights without a fight, his most fearsome opponent usually being himself.


For awhile he almost seemed to be making stupid decisions on purpose, speeding around his suburban gated community in flashy sports cars, egging a neighbor's home and getting into fights. In March 2013 he got into it with paparazzi in London, threatening to "beat the f--k" out of one, a day after getting winded and collapsing on stage at O2 Arena. Argentinian authorities wanted him to answer to an accusation that he assaulted a paparazzo in November 2013. In December 2013 he allegedly got in an altercation with a limo driver in Toronto. In January 2014 he was arrested for DUI in Miami and police said he admitted to drinking a beer, smoking weed and taking prescription meds before getting behind the wheel.

The egging episode led to a civil lawsuit and Bieber pleading no contest to vandalism. He pleaded to lesser charges in the Miami case but was then busted on suspicion of assault and dangerous driving near his native Stratford, Ontario in Canada in September 2014, after the ATV he was driving crashed into a minivan and he tussled with someone in the van. Meanwhile, Toronto authorities dropped the assault charge from his alleged fight with the limo driver, but then Argentinian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in November 2014 after he refused to return to the country.

He was detained several times at U.S. airports when flying in from out of the country, due to his numerous brushes with the law, including in February 2014 when the pot smoke emanating from the cabin was reportedly so thick the pilots had to wear oxygen masks.

It appeared the young star had reached peak brat.

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Also during this turbulent couple of years he was given, and then infamously had to give up, his monkey OG Mally (confiscated from the Biebs in Germany in 2013, he was safe in a Copenhagen zoo as of last year). He was raked over the coals for writing that he hoped Anne Frank would have been a Belieber when he signed the guest book at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. He toured China's Great Wall perched on the shoulders of his bodyguards. He had to apologize after Instagramming a photo of Toyko's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals. A girl in Brazil took video of him sleeping and it ended up on YouTube. Orlando Bloom took a swing at him in Ibiza and became an overnight hero.

All of this occurred before Justin Bieber's 21st birthday.

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Since then he has mainly wiped his legal slate clean (the egg-related suit is still being hashed out, but he pleaded guilty to simple assault and careless driving in June 2015 for the ATV incident in Stratford, Argentina revoked the warrant in July 2015, and he settled an assault lawsuit filed by an L.A. paparazzo last year).

But that felt like a long stretch of screwing up.

As a way of signaling that he was aware of his issues and was ready to repent, he arranged for his own trial by fire in March 2015 with The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber, during which he took his lumps like a champ.

Life didn't immediately turn drama-free overnight, but Bieber did retreat to the studio to focus on his craft, releasing the hit singles "What Do You Mean?" "Sorry" and "Love Yourself" ahead of dropping Purpose in mid-November 2015. He broke down in tears on stage at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, in what would have been a more memorable display if that night hadn't coincided with the coronation of Taylor Swift's squad, Kanye West saying he was planning to run for president and Nicki Minaj asking Miley Cyrus, "What's good?"

Bieber re-commanded the headlines in October 2015, when paparazzi snapped him buck-naked while on vacation in Bora Bora. (Not particularly put off, he took a naked swim in Hawaii last August, too.)

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Musically, Bieber had more than redeemed himself—though music was never his issue. He performed at the Grammys in 2016 and won one for the first time, for Best Dance Recording for "Where Are Ü Now."

And since March 2016, minus some time off in December and January, he's been on tour.

Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Redferns

In addition to hearing screaming just about anywhere he goes, let alone when he's onstage, the "Let Me Love You" singer's use of social media to maintain a tight bond with the Beliebers became its own 24/7 side gig—one that has been rewarding, in the form of his fans' corresponding loyalty, and constrictive, in that a lot of his fans also approach him with a sense of ownership.

Bieber once estimated that he'd probably posed for hundreds of thousands of selfies over the course of his career—a number that presumably contributed to him informing people via Instagram in May 2016 that he was "done taking pictures."

"It has gotten to the point that people won't even say hi to me or recognize me as a human. I feel like a zoo animal, and I wanna be able to to keep my sanity," he wrote. "I realize people will be disappointed, but I don't owe anybody a picture. And people who say, 'But I bought ur album,' know that you got my album and you got what you paid for… AN ALBUM! It doesn't say in fine print whenever you see me you also get a photo."

Words that now, especially when considering his still-tender age, almost bring us to tears. Sure, Bieber theoretically has some obligation to his fans to interact in some form, considering he like most pop super-stars is nothing without them; but all this time he's still just been a kid, with not too many years, if any, separating him from the most avid Beliebers.

Something else the Beliebers made sure to stay on top of over the last few years was the state of his relationship, or lack thereof, with Selena Gomez. For awhile after their initial breakup in 2012, they continued to hang out off and on—a relatable spate of behavior that certainly took its toll on her, and seemingly did the same to him (though he has dated a lot in the meantime).  

And plenty of folks, presumably some Jelena shippers among the bunch, took it so far as to criticize his relationship with Sofia Richie when he dated her last summer.

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Their decidedly unsupportive comments prompted Bieber to delete his Instagram account and stay off the platform for months. He spent the fall of 2016 primarily in Europe on tour, where attempts at talking to his audience about his feelings were met with boos at a couple of shows in England, causing him to briefly leave the stage.

"I appreciate the support, I appreciate the kind things...but the screaming during these breaks has got to stop, please and thank you," Bieber tried to engage in Manchester. When they started booing, he added, "I don't think that's necessary. I want to be able to say something, when you guys are screaming it's hard to..."

They didn't really let him finish. But he tried again, after singing "Purpose."

Mat Hayward/Getty Images

"I'm not quite sure why you guys came tonight. Hopefully it was to enjoy my company as well as invite me enjoying your company. I feel like I want to connect, you know?" he told the crowd, which despite the boos also never stopped hooting with delight, either.

"My point of the 'no screaming' thing is when I'm looking you in the eyes, you can actually know that we're having a moment, having a connection, right? So it's not me trying to be an a--hole, it's simply me wanting to have a moment. Manchester, you guys are awesome. I appreciate you. But then there has to be all these, I just...I'm just going to quit talking, alright? I'm just not going to talk the rest of the night. We're just going to do the music...because obviously Manchester can't handle it. So we're just going to do the music."

Before ending the show with "Baby," he tried to explain himself again.

"The only reason why I was getting upset was because I traveled across the whole world to come here," the young man said. "I don't just have a quick flight, come in and out, I dedicated my life to this. I dedicated my life to performing. I dedicated my life to try to bring smiles to these faces and I feel like people are just not giving me the same respect back is all, it hurts a little bit. So that's why. I appreciate you guys coming out."

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With that sort of reception, who needs people who aren't your fans?

His touring schedule wasn't quite as jam-packed in 2017, but he had been on the road off and on since February before announcing today that his July 2 show in London's Hyde Park was it for the Purpose World Tour. He's also currently featured on the No. 1 single in the U.S., Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," which has been atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks—and he was on the No. 1 single before that, DJ Khaled's "I'm the One." 

TMZ caught up with him in Santa Monica on Monday afternoon after the news broke and Bieber, clad in sweatpants, T-shirt and a baseball cap, assured the reporter, "everything's fine."

"I've been on tour for two years," he added by way of explanation. Asked if he was looking forward to getting some down time, he said, "Yeah, just resting, getting some relaxation. We're gonna ride some bikes." To the fans, "I love you guys, I think you guys are awesome. Sorry for anybody who feels disappointed or betrayed, it's not [what's in] my heart or anything, and have a blessed day."

Not exactly an Adele-caliber show of sentiment like the one she displayed when she was forced to cancel the final two shows of her tour due to vocal issues, but at this point it's entirely understandable if Bieber got home from England earlier this month and lost sight of his purpose.

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"Betrayed" is a strong word, however, one that he probably didn't entirely use haphazardly. May the Beliebers understand that he is, in fact, just as human a being as they are and that, just because they all more or less grew up together, he can't exist only for them.

In June, a concertgoer threw a water bottle at him in Stockholm when he refused to sing "Despacito." Then, just days ago, after a fan inquired why he had no local shows coming up, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture stated that the "controversial young foreign singer" wasn't welcome in China

"In order to maintain order in the Chinese market and purify the Chinese performance environment, it is not suitable to bring in badly behaved entertainers," the statement continued. "We hope that as Justin Bieber matures, he can continue to improve his own words and actions, and truly become a singer beloved by the public."

As for the rest of the world, though some people sounded pretty miffed to be missing out, most of the reactions on social media to the cancellations absolved Bieber of any wrongdoing, with fans voicing concern about his health and understanding that he needed rest. Crying memes abounded.

"@justinbieber we will love you forever!" tweeted one loyal fan. "I love you the same way that I loved you in 2009, we stay together #purposetour."

So, while Bieber may need a little time off to fall back in love with his public and performing, he can rest easy knowing that this sort of love is usually loud enough to drown out any boos.