When your friends who swore off pop music back in high school are humming along to "Love Yourself," you know something fundamental has shifted about Justin Bieber
. Today, as the Canadian-born prodigy turns 22 years old, the world's perception of him is a far, far cry from the Bieber Fever pandemic of 2009-2011. Back then, you were either a teenage girl swooning at the sound of his smooth, high voice; a grown-up amused by his so-called Cinderella tale, smiling every time "Baby" came on the radio; or one of those people who rolled their eyes and waited until yet another child pop star inevitably burned out, blew up, or faded away. As recently as a year ago, we suspected that day had finally come. And then, the tide turned.
This is not where we'll go on and on about Bieber's musical evolution. No, for the Bieb's birthday, we'd like to hop on our internet time machine and go back to a more innocent era. Here are a collection of quotes from the first years of Bieber's fame, when the 15-year-old was simply asked over and over again how he'd gone from YouTube star to Usher protegé, and how he got his hair to do that swish thing. Rather than suffering from a broken heart and lawsuits, he was battling mobs of girls in malls and complaining about homework.
As some music writers of the era will tell you, interviewing him was no easy task
— though he was clearly a hard-working prodigy, he was still a teenage boy prone to mood swings that made him monosyllabic when he didn't feel like speaking to the press. (Just check out how many articles about him from 2009 feature tons of quotes from manager Scooter Braun and others around him, with barely a word from the boy himself.) But the lucky reporters who did catch Bieber on a good day managed to deliver us the picture of a determined young musician devoted to his fans, his mom, girls, and having fun, while still plotting a long-lasting career.