When Justin Bieber dropped his "Boyfriend" video back in May, he made one thing very clear: He's all grown up.
Yes, with its cool cars, hot clothes and even hotter women, "Boyfriend" was precisely the kind of video a newly minted 18-year-old would make, had they the means (and the relationship with Director X). It was a supercharged, supremely budgeted man's fantasy, and, much like manhood itself, there was nothing subtle about it.
And while the same can be said about his brand-new "As Long as You Love Me" clip — it's about a subtle as a hammer to the head — that's where the similarities between the two videos end. Director Anthony Mandler tones down the excess in favor of a genuine grittiness, and, in the process, makes "Boyfriend" look like child's play. If that clip was a fantasy ride, well, then "ALAYLM" is a reality trip. Adulthood isn't all fun and games, after all.
Part tragic love story, part pulpy thriller, the new vid finds Bieber flexing his acting muscles opposite Michael Madsen — that'll put hair on his chest — who plays an overprotective father/probable career criminal with a penchant for gaudy fashion (which is to say, the same kind of role he's been playing for 20 years now). Biebs has only the noblest of intentions for his daughter, but Madsen refuses to give their relationship his approval — a point he drives home when he advises JB to "hit the road."
Of course, given that this is a tragedy, Bieber doesn't listen, and, in-between some scenes of the young couple exploring the limits of their love — definitely his most adult to date — we learn that JB plans on rescuing his girlfriend from the grips of her father, via a late-night train station rendezvous. As you might expect, this doesn't sit particularly well with Madsen, who confronts Bieber and dishes out a savage beating (though at least he doesn't cut his ear off) while his daughter looks on in horror.
And while you'd think all that violence would be enough to further cement his love interest's desire to flee, sadly, she leaves Bieber standing at the train station, and at clip's end, he is heartbroken ... and alone. For the first time, Bieber doesn't get the girl, and the message seems to be clear: Being a grown-up ain't all it's cracked up to be.
In a lot of ways, "As Long as You Love Me" is probably a risk for Bieber; he dares to dirty up his image and isn't afraid to take a beating. Those scenes of violence are are particularly vivid, as are the subsequent performance shots where Bieber belts out the tune with blood dripping from his face. It's a credit to his newfound maturity that he'd trust Mandler's vision and allow the "ALAYLM" video to go to such great lengths. This is in no way a fun clip, but, then again, adulthood isn't supposed to be fun. Bieber seems to have figured that out, and, in doing so, he's only further separated himself from his tween-pop forefathers. They'd never go to the lengths or the depths he does here, mostly because they were probably afraid to grow up. It's clear Bieber isn't.