Justin Bieber premiered Thursday the video for "Boyfriend," the first release from his new album, "Believe," due out this summer. The teen idol, who turned 18 in March, appears to be playing it safe amidst speculative critics who wonder how he will transition from teen to adult star.
The song's lyrics are bit more forward than his past tracks that celebrate puppy love, but the video is hardly a departure from his previous releases. Bieber appears to be following the path Justin Timberlake pursued after exiting boy band N'Sync.
Nearly 10 years ago, Timberlake released "Like I Love You" as his post teen idol debut. Like "Boyfriend," Timberlake's song opens with slick, whispery pickup lines over a catchy mid-tempo dance track.
The video treatment for Timberlake and Bieber's clips are nearly identical. Both are set in a parking lot where a party ensues. Both singers spend the duration of the video trying to win the affection of the female video lead. They both have vintage style in clothes, cars and scenery.
During a live interview with MTV, Bieber responded to comparisons to Timberlake. "He was really amazing and had amazing music," he said. "I can't say I would be upset if someone compared me to him, but I think my music is going in a completely different direction."
Bieber's "Boyfriend" video does have a few distinct qualities. He does spinouts in a few car scenes, and serenades his Selena Gomez-lookalike girlfriend with a guitar solo.
It's best that Bieber pace his transition smoothly. Though it is natural for him to want to be viewed as an adult, he needs to find a way to do so that won't alienate his core audience of tween girls. He's on the right track.
Miley Cyrus and Jesse McCartney's growing pains were more obvious and jarring. At 21, McCartney went shirtless in his video for "Leavin'," his first single from his third album, "Departure." At 17, Cyrus released her album, "Can't Be Tamed," that had a controversial scantily-clad new image to match.
Bieber may address more adult themes on the album. He has reportedly written a song about Mariah Yeater, the woman who claimed last year that Bieber fathered her child. It has not been confirmed whether the song will appear on "Believe."