There is only one person on this planet who knows what it’s like to be Justin Bieber, and that’s…Justin Bieber. But, after watching the music video for “Lonely,” Biebs’ new collaboration with Benny Blanco, the world might have a better understanding of Justin’s journey. In the visual, 14-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay takes on the role of Justin in his teen idol days, complete with the JB drip: white pants, white denim jacket, purple hoodie, brown Bieber swoop.
#Lonely is out now w @itsbennyblanco. To be honest the song is hard for me to listen to considering how tough it was to get through some of these chapters. I believe it is powerful to express vulnerability and that’s why I believe this song is so powerful https://t.co/bRrnvYuy9E pic.twitter.com/ZuyiOkbfah
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) October 16, 2020
Despite the fun wink to Justin’s early days as a pop star, the video and song itself was anything but lighthearted. The visuals start off with Jacob (acting as the young Justin) looking in the mirror of a dressing room before solemnly walking onto the stage of a vast but empty concert hall. The camera eventually pans out to the real-life, now adult Bieber sitting in the audience with a sad expression on his face.
The emotions on-screen were real, because Justin admitted the the song “is hard for [him] to listen to” given “how tough it was to get through some of these chapters,” which he wrote on Twitter following the song and music video’s release. He also raved over Jacob’s performance, calling the young actor “so talented” and writing that “it was emotional to see him play me from the outside looking in.” This is no surprise, given that Jacob won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Performer for his critically-acclaimed role in the Room in 2016.
“What if you had it all but nobody to call? / Maybe then you’d know me / ‘Cause I’ve had everything / But no one’s listening /And that’s just fucking lonely,” Justin sings in the pre-chorus, effectively making every Belieber cry. “Lonely” comes less than a month after “Holy,” Justin’s new music since dropping Changes in February (excluding “Stuck With U,” his collab with Ariana Grande that gave Justin, 26, his sixth US number-one single). Justin previously worked with Benny, 32, on “Love Yourself,” a song written by Benny, Ed Sheeran, and Justin and released on Biebs’ 2015 album, Purpose.
Justin announced “Lonely” on Oct. 12 with an Instagram post that, had you not looked twice, could have been a photo taken from Bieber’s own life. In the artwork, Jacob sits alone in a backstage area. The Room actor is dressed just like Justin, circa 2010, wearing the same outfit pictured above that was the “Baby” singer’s signature. It was a stark reminder that 26-year-old Justin has been in the public spotlight for over a decade.
“You get lonely, you know, when you’re on the road,” a then 19-year-old Justin said to NME in 2015. “People see the glam and the amazing stuff, but they don’t know the other side. This life can rip you apart. I watched the Amy Winehouse documentary [Amy] on the plane and I had tears in my eyes because I could see what the media was doing to her, how they were treating her. People thought it was funny to poke her when she was at rock bottom, to keep pushing her down until she had no more of herself. And that’s what they were trying to do to me.”
Two years later, Justin touched upon the struggles of fame in an interview with Billboard. “It might seem awesome from the outside, but I’m struggling,” he said in 2017. “Certain things broke my trust with people. Situations happen that taint your mind. I started going through the motions. I felt like people were judging me all the time. I came out alive. I came out swinging. But I was close to letting [fame] completely destroy me.”
“You see I have a lot of money, clothes, cars, accolades, achievements, awards, and I was still unfilled,” Justin said in a 2019 Instagram post, one where shared the impact of growing up as one of the most famous people on the planet. “As my talent progressed, and I became ultra-successful, it happened within a strand of two years. My whole world was flipped on its head. I went from a 13-year-old boy from a small town to being praised left and right by the world with millions saying how much they loved me and how great I was…you hear things enough as a young boy and you actually star believing it…I was 18 with no skills in the real world, with millions of dollars and access to whatever I wanted…by 20, I made every bad decision you could have thought of, and went from one of the most and adored people in the world to the most ridiculed, judged and hated person in the world!”
“I became resentful,” he continued, “disrespectful to women, and angry. I became distant to everyone who loved me, and I was hiding behind a shell of a person that I had become….It’s taken me years to bounce back from all of these terrible decisions, fix broken relationships, and change relationship habits.”