Justin Bieber performs onstage during Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on March 13, 2021.
Justin Bieber performs onstage during Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards on March 13, 2021. Rich Fury/KCA2021/Getty Images for Nickelodeon

Hold on, Taylor Swift: Justin Bieber Is the Biggest Pop Star in the World

Justin Bieber was about to hit the road to promote his fifth album, “Changes,” when the coronavirus canceled his tour.

The new record had been a personal project, a collection of R&B songs from a Canadian heartthrob known for bubblegum pop. But the album didn’t produce any No. 1 singles, and Bieber’s return to the stage was a commercial flop, at least by his lofty standards.

He could have sat around and moped. Instead, Bieber got back in the studio and started recording “Justice.” The album has returned Bieber to the top. In March, he was the biggest pop star in the world, as well as the most-popular musician on Spotify and Instagram.

“Justice” is a return to form for Bieber after the modest performance of “Changes,” and it’s a testament to the hyper-productivity of many musicians during the pandemic. Since the start of 2020, Bieber has released two albums, an extended play (EP) record, a documentary series for YouTube, another documentary series for Facebook (with his wife Hailey) and a 25-minute coda to the YouTube series.

Bieber credits manager Scooter Braun with rollout of “Justice,” which began with a barrage of tracks last year. The artist dropped his first single “Holy” in September,” and released another single, “Lonely,” a month later. By the time the album came out in March, five songs were in the top 20 and one single, “Peaches,” had hit No. 1.

As a way to generate excitement, artists used to only release a single or two before an album came out. You let one single dominate the radio airwaves and news cycle for a while before releasing another. With “Purpose,” Bieber’s 2015 smash, he didn’t release the third single until a month after the album came out.

But in the streaming era, the line between single and album has blurred. Drake has released 17 songs across a mixtape and an extended play over the past year, all ahead of an album dropping some time in 2021.

Such productivity is music to the ears of Spotify Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek, who has advised artists upset about their pay to release more music.

While those remarks were impolitic, they speak to a new reality in the music business. Streaming services, like social-media sites, reward consistent and constant posting. If you disappear for a couple years, you run the risk of the algorithm forgetting about you.

While it’s hard to imagine anyone forgetting the 27-year-old Bieber, his output has no doubt helped him after taking a five-year break between “Purpose” and “Changes.” Interest in “Changes” was slight enough that he had to downgrade some of his planned shows from stadiums (capacity of 50,000-plus) to arenas (capacity of closer to 20,000) because of slow ticket sales.

For Bieber, the ultimate measure of his success will come later this year when he goes back on tour.