The rise of Justin Bieber is a story that’s nearly become folklore: Small town boy with massive pipes becomes a viral sensation in the early days of YouTube; Justin Timberlake and Usher enter into a very public battle to become his mentor, and the Biebs becomes an international pop sensation. His breakout single, “One Time,” managed to wrangle the rising pop star from Stratford, Ontario a fiercely loyal fanbase that only continued to grow with every track he put out. Bieber’s 2009 debut EP, My World, (which I now own on vinyl), was certified platinum in the United States when he was only 15, and in 2012, he was named the third most powerful celebrity in the world by Forbes.
In 2015, Bieber released his fourth studio album, Purpose. If I thought Believe (2012) showed him growing up, Purpose showed him maturing even further. A proper “fuck you” to everyone who doubted him and thought he was a teen sensation, Purpose was a phenomenal release with several strong singles supporting it. It marked Bieber’s move towards EDM and cemented him in the musical history books as something more than just a teenage sugar pop, radio-friendly boy toy. Even though the album feels like it wasn’t released that long ago, it was, since his 2013 released-one-single-at-a-time album Journals wasn’t really talked about all that much, despite its heavy-handed features with Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, and Future.
But we want to take a step back to when Justin Bieber was young and baby-faced with the swoopy brown hair we knew so well. Immediately after his career launched, his team pushed for the colour purple to become synonymous with his brand. His album designs had hints of it, most of his merch did, even when he was wearing all-white, his costumes during tours almost always incorporated flashes of bright, vibrant purple.
However, purple still plays an element in who he is today, or in his image. A visit to his website still showcases buttons and some accents in purple, a nod back to his teenage years. In January 2016, he dyed his now-blonde hair a wispy, silvery purple. A quick Google search for “Justin Bieber and purple” brings up dozens of photos of baby Bieber wearing purple hats, shirts, hoodies, and cardigans, as well as more current images of him onstage, tattooed, and surrounded by purple stage lighting.
An old anecdote says that Justin’s favourite colour is purple because when he was born at the hospital, they didn’t have any blue blankets left, so he was wrapped in a purple one. A cute story to tell fans, and a great way to build a brand, no? Bieber was successful in associating himself with a colour so much, that tags for “justin bieber purple” are devoted to him on Tumblr. Although the purple accents in Journals‘ album art is more vibrant magenta than straight-up violet, it’s still in the same colour zone. He was smart not to quit on purple right away. Purple is still a part of who Justin Bieber. The Biebs. A sweet purple angel.
We wanted to know mystery behind the colour and decided to do a deep dive of Justin Bieber’s relationship with the colour purple throughout his career, and answer the burning question, where did it go and why?
My World 2.0 (2010)
Bieber’s first studio album, My World 2.0, featured a black-and-white cover with the Canadian singer looking soulfully at the camera. It had a purple title. Around this time, the Biebs was shown everywhere wearing a purple hoodie. I don’t know if it was intentional, but over time, it definitely became so. What’s with Bieber and the colour purple? I find it fascinating that it somehow became his signature look. I mean, to be baby Bieber for a Halloween party, all you needed was a pair of white jeans and a purple American Apparel hoodie. Got that? You’re good to go.
According to Statistic Brain, My World 2.0 has outsold any other album Bieber has put out, with 5.2 million copies sold since its 2010 release. Believe has sold 3.25 million copies, and Purpose, though a radio success, hit 3.1 million. Still not a paltry number, but less by comparison. Perhaps more purple = more money? Or is it the advent of streaming keeping people from actually purchasing music?
The cover for Bieber’s sophomore album, Believe, was yellow-toned (with gold accents on the deluxe version, which I own). However, even during the time of this release, there was always a glimpse of purple somewhere on his brand. Spotted: The cover of Never Say Never, his first concert movie, and Justin Bieber’s Believe, the second concert movie also had a purple-themed cover— as if he was trying to go back to the innocence he had back when he was younger. Remember, when Believe came out, it was quite racy from him. Going from writing about wishing he was holding his crush’s hand to singing about wiener with Nicki Minaj was a shift— and his colour choice had to reflect that.
As an album, Believe, was a sharp turn compared to what the My World(s) offered — it was sexy and grown up while My World and My World 2.0 were cute, harmless pop music records. Suddenly, Bieber was creating music to fuck or gyrate to— not music to stand against the wall at a middle school dance to. Believe was gold and yellow because it was different, and I suppose he wanted to disassociate the album with the kiddie, purple-and-white act he had become known for. Yellow, though, is purple’s complementary colour, which suggests that this colour choice for the album cover was no accident.
After Believe, Justin returned back to purple tones for Journals. Journals is a different album altogether— slower, a LOT more mature, and the first suggestion we got of Bieber’s upcoming shift to R&B, more soulful pop, EDM, and darker themes. The album focused on quality production, and offered something beyond what we thought Believe already did.
Journals featured a white cover with a border of purple illustrations that corresponded to every track on the album. Journals was released differently than the other albums: Singles were pushed out one by one every Monday until the album was complete and only digitally (before it was eventually released on vinyl in 2016). Each song had its own cover artwork in a very minimalist, symbolic design, with purple as the dominant— well, only— colour.
On Bieber’s fourth album Purpose (2015), we see almost no purple at all. The album cover is in black and white, showing a shirtless Justin, with symbols all over. It’s a huge growth for him, and the album represents change. His musical style and the producers he works with have moved into an EDM-focused zone, with more sensual lyrics and more snaring beats. His voice is deeper, of course, as it was on Believe, but he also has more to say. “Love Yourself,” obviously, being a standout, deeply emotional track that makes his previous work seem almost hollow. Before and during the release of this album, Bieber went through a major personal transformation. He made some bad choices, but he was acting like a kid. He was, in a way, getting his childhood back and, let’s be real, acting the way we all would have if we were 20 and self-made millionaires. He went through a lot, but he’s better now. Purpose allowed Bieber to shed his teenage image, and, with it, his purple skin.
In 2018, Bieber is shown more shirtless than in purple hoodies. His current merch is more black and yellow and orange than violet, playing off streetwear trends. On some merch, BIEBER spelled out in metal band-esque lettering and STAFF emblazoned in small print on the front of plain black tees. It’s minimal, but inspired.