Mr. Record Man, Give Justin Bieber The Freedom To Grow

February 26, 2014

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When DJ Tay James dropped his latest mixtape – WeKnowTheDJ Radio Volume 4 – on Saturday, we were treated to yet another exclusive new track from Justin Bieber entitled ‘Broken’ featuring rapper Blake Kelly.

The 19-year-old’s latest track is a clear statement to the world, his breathy vocals effortlessly advise us  “I cannot be broken”. It’s one hundred percent soulful, and continues the R&B style fresh off the back of the innovative ‘Journals’ collection the singer/songwriter released over ten weeks in December 2013.  The Canadian is just hitting his R&B stride, creating a distinctive sound. Sure, R&B has been around for decades but he’s bringing  a sharper, punchier sound and his effortless charm permeates every note.

However, it appears Justin Bieber’s record label, Island, have exercised their right to ownership of all the artists’ work yet again. The track has been pulled from the mixtape and is consequently ‘off’ the internet. Contracts are contracts, but let’s face it, his work pulls in the dollars, they’re not about to let any of it slip out of their grasp.

Let’s not get too romantic about this though, we know how the industry works.  Justin is bound by the terms of his recording contract like any other major artist.  A contract he made six years ago as an eager-eyed, floppy-haired teenager brimming with enthusiasm. But, without wishing to state the obvious, the kid has grown up and with his 20th Birthday approaching in just a few days time, Justin is now making some of the best music of his career.  And, whilst the enthusiasm for making music has never dimmed for the star, the tone of the music has changed dramatically.

Justin’s defiance of the rules is part of his nature, this isn’t the first time he’s given a brand-spanking new track to his friend Tay James.  Fans will recall the track “Wait For A Minute” featuring Tyga which appeared on the WeKnowTheDJ Radio Volume 3 Mixtape back in September (and yes, the track was pulled by the record company and released ‘officially’ at a later date).  With all that being said, it’s depressing to acknowledge that every gorgeous song that comes out of his mind becomes the property of a record label as soon as he sings it.  Makes you wonder just how many songs he keeps to himself because they’re just too personal – too special.

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My biggest problem with the removal of the two tracks is this; he gave them to his friend and DJ as a gift and when I say friend, I mean a true friend in the real sense of the word. Tay has been there for Justin throughout his entire career and has no qualms about standing up for him if necessary.  When have the record label ever done that? In fact, where were they when the singer brought out the best music of his career to date? I’m talking, of course, about ‘Journals’.

When the ‘Journals’ were released over those 10 weeks in December 2013, Justin expressed frustration that the record label weren’t so forthcoming with promotion as they had been for previous albums.  Why the hesitation?  Few songwriters are capable of changing the sound of a genre, and yet, here we have someone doing just that.  He’s hungry to succeed, this has never been a quick buck-making scheme for him and R&B runs through his veins, you only have to take a look back at his early videos to see that.

Yes, ‘Journals’, and indeed this latest stand-alone track ‘Broken’, are emotionally indulgent, he’s putting it all out there from his perspective but that was the point. The album was intended as an act of therapy and isn’t all music therapy in some way, whether you’re the artist or the listener? Some artists struggle to translate their emotions into lyrics, yet Justin writes with honesty and that’s what makes the difference, this isn’t manufactured, it’s real. It cannot and should not be ‘owned’ by anyone else, it’s Justin’s life in lyrical form.

Before recruiting the help of Usher and his label and Justin’s consequential signing to Island, his manager Scooter Braun became weary of hearing the sentence “there’s no platform for him” over and over again.  But persistence prevailed and once signed his rise was meteoric, Island had struck gold. Now that he no longer fits the mold the record label designed for him, it’s time to allow the singer to take complete control and here’s why.  He is no stranger to the industry, in fact he could be considered a veteran. Two world tours completed before the age of 20 goes a long way to proving the point. He is also determined.  ‘Broken’ is just the latest example of his constant belief in his strength, it’s not an unfounded belief either, this is a young man who has faced the complications in his life head-on and is still pushing to be the best in every aspect of his craft.  He doesn’t compromise, he faces life and his music with an endearing intensity and strong-willed rebellion, he knows he’s a rarity “someone like me is hard to find” he sings on ‘Broken’.

He is a captivating artist who is gaining the respect of the R&B, rap and hip-hop community with this change of direction.  He isn’t a ‘pop brat’ gone bad, he’s a musician who is following his own path and not one single person has any right to say his vision for his future is wrong.  By not promoting ‘Journals’ the label essentially hobbled the singer.  It was hard to get the music heard outside of a select few radio stations and the fanbase at large. By gifting both ‘Wait For A Minute’ and ‘Broken’ to Tay James for use on his mixtapes, he was taking matters into his own hands and recognising the opportunity to be heard outside of his regular fanbase and test the waters.


Perhaps this was the record label’s plan all along and we’re just not privy to the inside information and props to them if this is the case! Somehow though, I’m not so sure.

For his own creative sanity, I can only hope the record label give him the freedom to become the artist HE wants to be because I trust that more than anything anyone else could imagine for his future.  He isn’t lost, he doesn’t need their guidance, he simply loves music.  They would do well to pay attention to their young trail-blazer.  He captured the turbulence of young love and translated it perfectly and now is the time to let him grow, let him shine and fully support it.

Ugly Kid Joe put it best when they sang “Mr. Record Man, do you know who I am?”.

-Lucy Jenkins.



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