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Remember When Justin Bieber Was Just A Cute YouTube Sensation?

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    Photo: Theo Kingma/Rex/REX USA; Illustrated by Ly Ngo.

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    Twenty-one years ago today, a star was born in Canada. His name was Justin Bieber, and he'd become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. 

    His star, however, would soon begin to falter. The former YouTube sensation, whose looks spawned an Internet meme, was growing up (and screwing up) before the public eye. His role model status was questioned by parents as rumors of drug use, the increasing number of tattoos, and all-around bonkers antics challenged the good, extremely talented, boy-wonder persona he and his team had crafted.  

    It's difficult to pinpoint exactly where Bieber began his transition from pop's golden child to its enfant terrible, but The New York Times' review of Bieber's 2012 LP Believe might be a solid place to start. There, Jon Caramanica questioned how the then 18-year-old Bieber would mature into the man he wants to be while still belonging, in a way, to the hordes of tween and teenage fans. 

    Things didn't go so well, but hey, we all make mistakes. He's tried making amends and, as always, remained faithful to his fans, the Beliebers

    Perhaps this is the year Bieber turns over a new leaf. Twenty-one means so many things, and one of them is figuring out just what the heck you're doing. Where the Biebs goes from here is unknown, but his new material is a sign he hasn't lost what made him big in the first place. So, let's take a look back at what that was. We could be seeing a more mature version of this in the near future. 

    Never say never
    , right?



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    Look at this lil' nugget singing Chris Brown. Just listen and believe. He taught himself how to sing and play the guitar and piano. His mother used to upload YouTube videos just for familial entertainment.

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    Back in the day, Bieber was just a boy with his guitar. He used to "busk" outside the Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ontario.

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    Justin Bieber's talent was evident from a young age. He made a name for himself with just a guitar, camera, and YouTube. This cover of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me River" is pretty stellar. (Turns out JT wanted to sign Bieber after hearing about him.)

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    As Bieber's fan-base increased, he would be asked to cover songs. Here's his version of Ne-Yo's "Because of You."

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    "In my case, I wasn't really worried about who's the father or not," Bieber joked to Katie Couric after revealing he was approached by Maury Povich before his current manager Scooter Braun.