Review of Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?"

Justin Bieber BRIT AWARDS 2016

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Written by Justin Bieber, Jason Boyd, and Mason Levy

Produced by Mason "MdL" Levy and Justin Bieber

Released on August 2015 by Def Jam Records


  • The best, most unassuming, vocal performance of Justin Bieber's career
  • Effortlessly catches one of the hottest trends in current pop music
  • A chorus that will have you instantly singing along


  • There isn't much to complain about, but lyrically the song is no more profound than most of Justin Bieber's work.


Want to know how to stage a comeback? Just ask 21-year-old Justin Bieber. It's not like he was away, but he had arguably generated the worst string of bad publicity of any pop star since the trials and tribulations of Britney Spears. There were more than a few observers who confidently predicted the demise of this former teen star. Instead, Justin Bieber proved them wrong when he returned with one of the most likable hits of his career thus far, and his very first #1 pop hit.

"What Do You Mean?" is an unassuming but very catchy pop song. It kicks off with a simple piano figure backed by what sounds like a giant ticking clock. Soon Justin Bieber's unadorned voice kicks in sounding smooth as silk. This is one of his best vocal performances. There is nowhere to hide in the arrangement, and he delivers the goods. The airy sound echoes OMI's huge summertime hit "Cheerleader."

Light, vaguely tropical, dance music is red hot right now on top 40 radio. Justin Bieber has shown he knows how to grab on to a trend and make it his own.

Lyrically, "What Do You Mean?" muses about contradictory messages in relationships. It is not deep, but the questions posed sink in and make the lyrical content memorable. Justin Bieber has admitted in interviews that he is still reeling from the public breakup with Selena Gomez, and "What Do You Mean?" clearly could have been influenced by that experience. It is likely we will hear even more about the relationship in songs on Justin Bieber's upcoming album Purpose.

Justin Bieber began his career rehabilitation earlier this year. He is the featured vocalist on the breakthrough top 10 pop hit single "Where Are U Now?" by dance music producers Skrillex and Diplo. Released in February this year, it became a slowly growing hit through much of the year before finally peaking at #8 in July. 

A string of celebrity friends helped Justin Bieber promote "What Do You Mean?" Ryan Seacrest, Mariah Carey, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, and Meghan Trainor are just a few of those who helped publicize its upcoming release through social networks. Their efforts have borne fruit as "What Do You Mean?" became the 23rd song to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It surpassed the #2 peak of "Boyfriend" to give Justin Bieber his very first #1 hit.


"What Do You Mean?" led the charge that turned the album Purpose into the biggest of Justin Bieber's career. "What Do You Mean?" became Justin Bieber's first #1 hit at both mainstream pop radio and on the Billboard Hot 100. In December 2015 it was joined in the top 5 by the songs "Sorry" and "Love Yourself" from the album. That made Justin Bieber only the third artist ever to occupy at least three spots in the top 5. It put him in the company of the Beatles and 50 Cent. The same week Justin Bieber owned 17 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 overall surpassing the previous records of the Beatles and Drake. Ultimately, "What Do You Mean?" spent a phenomenal 21 weeks in the top 10. 

"What Do You Mean?" crossed over to #1 on the dance chart and the top 10 at adult pop radio. It also reached a peak of #14 at adult contemporary radio. Justin Bieber's song was a #1 hit in many other countries around the world including the UK, Canada, Australia, and Sweden. Both Entertainment Weekly and MTV picked "What Do You Mean?" as one of the top 10 pop songs of the year.

The album Purpose debuted at #1 on the album chart with over 500,000 copies sold in its first week, Justin Bieber's best sales performance of his career. It was his sixth trip to the top of the album chart. Purpose ranked as the third bestselling album of 2015 in the US with sales totaling over 1.25 million copies. It generated two more #1 hit singles "Sorry" and "Love Yourself."