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What Do You Mean?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"What Do You Mean?"
Single by Justin Bieber
from the album Purpose
ReleasedAugust 28, 2015 (2015-08-28)
LabelDef Jam
Justin Bieber singles chronology
"Where Are Ü Now"
"What Do You Mean?"
Music video
"What Do You Mean?" on YouTube

"What Do You Mean?" is a song recorded by Canadian singer Justin Bieber for his fourth studio album Purpose (2015). The song was released on August 28, 2015, as the album's lead single by Def Jam. Written by Bieber, Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd and Mason Levy, the song was produced by MdL and co-produced by Bieber. "What Do You Mean?" is a pop and tropical house song, with its instrumentation consisting in light flourishes of panpipes, looped vocal samples, piano chords, fervent synths, bass and "slick beat" elements with the sound of a clock ticking, while Bieber uses a smooth, soulful vocal. Lyrically, "What Do You Mean?" describes not being able to figure out the opposite sex.

It was featured in several year-end lists of best songs of 2015. Commercially, the song topped the charts in several countries, including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Norway. In Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, "What Do You Mean?" was Bieber's first number-one single. The song's music video features Bieber in bed with a young woman and getting kidnapped by masked men, as well as an appearance from actor John Leguizamo.


After releasing "Where Are Ü Now" with Skrillex and Diplo for their project Jack Ü and achieving worldwide success and acclaim with it, Bieber announced "What Do You Mean?" as the first single from his then-upcoming album on July 28, 2015 on On Air With Ryan Seacrest.[1] While he was there, his manager, Scooter Braun, made Seacrest a promotional sign for the single to hold and suggested he should put the photo on his Instagram account. To further promote the song's release, Braun contacted several celebrities who started counting down the days until the release,[2] among them Mariah Carey, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Big Sean, Alanis Morissette, Meghan Trainor, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Little Mix, Chris Martin, Carly Rae Jepsen, and many others.[3] During an interview with Ryan Seacrest, he described it as "fun", "summery", and "amazing." Regarding its lyrics he commented: "Well, girls are often just flip-floppy. They say something and they mean something else. So … what do you mean? I don't really know, that's why I'm asking." Later, on August 19, 2015, Bieber direct-messaged different lyrics from the song to 49 randomly selected Twitter followers.[1] As explained by Billboard's Jason Lipshutz, "Each message included a clock animation with a different time that corresponded to the lyric's placement in the song, and Beliebers spent Wednesday collectively piecing together the upcoming single's lyrics in order."[2] On August 5, 2015, Bieber presented the song to radio professionals at an iHeartMedia event.[4]


The song was released on August 28, 2015,[5] and was serviced to contemporary hit radio on September 1, 2015.[6] On October 16, 2015, it was revealed that a remix of the song featuring Ariana Grande would be made available if fans pre-ordered the album on iTunes.[7]


"What Do You Mean?" was written by Justin Bieber, Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd and Mason Levy.[8] It was produced by MdL and co-produced by Bieber. It was initially speculated by the media that Skrillex produced "What Do You Mean?". However, a spokesperson for Bieber confirmed in an interview for Rolling Stone that the song was produced by Bieber, and MdL who had previously collaborated with the singer on his single "Boyfriend" (2012).[9] Written in the key of A major, it has an upbeat tempo of 125 beats per minute. Bieber's vocal range spans from the low-note of F3 to the high note of G5.[10] It is a pop[11] and tropical house song.[12][13][14]

During the song, Bieber uses a breathy vocal, which was considered "smooth and soulful."[8] The production contains flute instrumentation, looped vocal samples, piano chords, tropical synths,[9] bass and "slick beat" elements with the sound of a clock ticking.[4] Gil Kaufman of MTV News wrote that the track contains "a slippery flute-like trill over a spare tick-tock island groove and a super chill vibe", and is "a kind of sequel" to Skrillex and Diplo's "Where Are Ü Now", which featured Bieber.[15]

Lyrically, "What Do You Mean?" talks about looking for romantic clarity and not being able to figure out the opposite sex,[9][16] with Bieber singing in the chorus: "What do you mean / When you nod your head yes, but you wanna say no? / What do you mean / When you don't want me to move, but you tell me to go?."[9]

Critical reception

USA Today's Carly Mallenbaum, who heard the song in early August, described it as a "catchy dance track for the club".[4] Similarly, a writer for The Daily Beast said, "['What Do You Mean?' is] pretty damn catchy; a slow-burner that, like that collab, swells into a Bieber banger".[17] Gil Kaufman of MTV News also called it a "banger", explaining, "the track is classic JB: seductive, earnest, pleading and just the right amount of sexy".[15] Idolator's Mike Wass praised the song's "instantly memorable chorus", and added, "Vocally, [Bieber] has never sounded better".[18] Digital Spy's Amy Davidson named it "the perfect pop track as well as a skewed love song for millennials."[16] Andrew Unterberger of Spin opined the song was "really quite delightful".[19] Sean Fitz-Gerald of New York magazine was also positive, noting that it "sounds like what would happen if you took Steve Aoki's alarm clock to a tropical beach resort. (In other words, electro-catchy as hell.)"[20] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard gave the song a four-out-of-five-stars rating and commented that it was "positioned as [Bieber's] huge comeback bid", adding: "[The song] synthesizes the positive components of 'Where Are U Now' and presents something warmer and friendlier, but no less nuanced or impressive".[21] NME's reviewer named it "the perfect pop confection: light as air and catchy as hell, allowing us to glimpse the vulnerability behind the megastar façade as Biebs grappled endearingly with the mysteries of womankind."[22]

Andy Kellman of AllMusic selected the song as one of the album's highlights, citing the song and "Sorry" as tracks that "showed him making a deeper connection with his material and that, yes, he was progressing from performer to artist."[13] In a similar mode, Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly cited both songs and "Where Are Ü Now" for being "stripped down for maximum aerodynamics, the vocals mentholated and sweetened with a brushstroke of bass here, a snake-charmer synth line there."[23] Brad Nelson of Pitchfork praised the song and "Sorry" for being "vivid tropical house tracks that sound like sunlight drifting down through palm fronds. Bieber's voice often resembles a breath contorted inexpressively through notes; here, he lets it weightlessly fall through textures. They are his best performances to date, allowing him to flex a rhythmic playfulness without communicating an iota of legible emotion."[12] Sheldon Pearce of Complex called it "the album's spiritual centerpiece,"[24] while Janine Schaults of Consequence of Sound selected it as one of the album's essential tracks.[25] Josh Duboff of Vanity Fair considered it "breezy and low-key, like "Where Are Ü Now?" with 35 percent less propulsion." He also found it to be "vaguely reminiscent of OMI's omnipresent 'Cheerleader'," and that "Bieber sounds more relaxed and confident than perhaps ever before on the track."[26] Nick Messitte of Forbes agreed with the "Cheerleader" comparison, noting that it has "the intersection of the mellow and the danceable, the four-on-the-floor with the smooth."[27]

Consequence of Sound wrote in a positive review "Skrillex serves as producer of this slow burner, providing loops of tropical-flavored house beats to complement Bieber's delicate croons."[28]

Year-end lists

Critic/publication List Rank Ref.
Entertainment Weekly The 40 Best Songs of 2015 2 [29]
MTV Best Songs of 2015 9 [30]
NME NME's Tracks of the Year 2015 3 [22]
Spin The 101 Best Songs of 2015 1 [31]
Time Out The 100 Best Songs of 2015 41 [32]
Village Voice Pazz & Jop 29 [33]

Commercial performance

North America

With "What Do You Mean?", Bieber surpassed Baauer to become the youngest male artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[34]
With "What Do You Mean?", Bieber surpassed Baauer to become the youngest male artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[34]

In the United States, "What Do You Mean?" debuted at number 28 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart dated September 12, after three days of release, with a radio audience of 20 million.[35] On the chart dated October 24, after earning "Greatest Gainer" honors for two consecutive weeks, it rose from 3 to 1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, becoming Bieber's first number-one song on the Pop Songs chart.[36] The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 issued for September 17, 2015, replacing The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" at the top of the chart for one week.[34][37] It marked Bieber's first number-one single and seventh top 10 hit in the United States, and was also the 23rd song to begin at number one in the Hot 100's 57-year history.[34] Additionally, the single's debut made Bieber the youngest male artist to enter atop of the chart, and the youngest artist since Fantasia's "I Believe" (2004).[34] The track also debuted at number one the Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart, selling 337,000 copies in the week ending September 3, 2015—marking Bieber's second number one single on the chart, following "Boyfriend" which sold 521,000 in its debut week.[34] In its second week, "What Do You Mean?" stayed at the top of the Hot Digital Songs chart with sales of 159,000 copies, however, it descended to number three on the Hot 100, with a decrease of 30% in overall activity,[38] but rebounded to the runner-up spot the following week and stayed as the best-selling song with 128,000 downloads.[39]

On the chart dated December 5, 2015, after the release of Purpose, the song ascended from 6 to 5 on the Hot 100. That week, Bieber's "Sorry" and "Love Yourself" (a track from Purpose, which debuted on the chart, after selling 140,000 downloads) were at number two and four, respectively, which made the singer be only the third artist to have three singles inside the chart's top five (the others being The Beatles in 1964 and 50 Cent in 2005). Additionally, the same week, Bieber had 17 songs on the Hot 100 simultaneously, breaking the record previously held by The Beatles and Drake.[40] On the chart dated 6 February 2016, the song spent a 21st consecutive week inside the Hot 100's top ten, tying with Nicki Minaj's "Starships" and Maroon 5's "Sugar" for the most weeks a song has logged in the Hot 100's top 10 from its debut.[41] The record was surpassed later by Bieber's "Love Yourself", which spent 23 consecutive weeks in the top ten since its debut.[42] As of February 2016, "What Do You Mean?" has sold over 1,600,000 copies in the United States.[43]

In Bieber's native Canada, "What Do You Mean?" debuted at number one on the Canadian Hot 100,[44] with sales of 48,000 copies, becoming the biggest first-week sales total of 2015 at the time and the highest since Eminem released "The Monster" (2013). It also broke the streaming record in Canada, with 3.1 million streams in its first week.[45] Both records were later surpassed by Adele's "Hello", which sold 140,000 copies and was streamed 4.79 million times in its first week.[46] "What Do You Mean?" marked Bieber's second number-one single in the country, following 2012's "Boyfriend".[47] After six consecutive weeks at number one in Canada, it was briefly knocked off the top spot by another Canadian singer, The Weeknd, with his single "The Hills", but returned for a seventh week at number one, being replaced by Adele's "Hello" the following week.[48][49][50]

Europe and Oceania

In the United Kingdom, "What Do You Mean?" debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart for the week ending September 10, 2015, with a combined sales total of 84,000 units. It surpassed his previous best sales week of 55,000, which "Boyfriend" had sold in April 2012, and marked Bieber's first chart-topping song in Britain. The track broke the highest first-week streams record in the country with 3.2 million streams, surpassing the stream tally of 2.03 million set by One Direction's "Drag Me Down".[51] In its second week, the song descended to number two, however, it broke the country's all-time streaming record, with 3.87 million streams in seven days, later surpassed by Adele's "Hello" (which streamed 7.32 million times in November 2015, almost doubling the record).[52][53] After three weeks since its release, the song remained as the most streamed track in the country and returned to the number one spot for another two weeks.[54][55] On October 2, the song was knocked off the top spot by Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall", but a week later, it returned to the number one spot for another two weeks. This means that it has spent five non-consecutive weeks at number one in the UK Singles Chart.[56] Bieber became only the fourth person to have the same single reach number one on the UK Singles Chart on three separate occasions. The other songs to top the chart three separate times are Frankie Laine's "I Believe", Guy Mitchell's "Singing the Blues" and Pharrell Williams' "Happy".[57][58] 'What Do You Mean?' was the ninth best-selling single of 2015 in the UK with combined sales of 988,000 copies.[59]

In Australia, "What Do You Mean" debuted atop the ARIA Singles Chart on September 5, becoming Bieber's first number-one single on the chart.[60] The song spent four consecutive weeks on top of the chart, becoming the second-longest running chart-topping track for 2015 and gaining a platinum certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association.[61][62] On October 3, Bieber was knocked off the top by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "Downtown".[63] "What Do You Mean" also debuted at the top of the charts in both New Zealand and Ireland, becoming his first number-one single in both countries. It spent seven consecutive weeks at number one in Ireland, and eight consecutive weeks at number one in New Zealand.[64][65]

Music video

A lyric video for "What Do You Mean?", directed by Laban and featuring skateboarders Ryan Sheckler and Chelsea Castro, was released on August 28, 2015.[15] The music video, directed by Brad Furman and starring John Leguizamo and Xenia Deli, premiered on August 30, 2015 following the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.[66] As of January 2019, the video has amassed over 1.9 billion views on YouTube, making it the 33rd most viewed video on the site.[67]


The video starts off with a man (played by Leguizamo) waiting at a stop sign in front of a motel in the rain. A dark hooded figure (revealed to be Bieber) walks to the man. It is realized that Bieber is in debt to him, and then gives him money and is promised to do one job: protect a girl, who is his love interest, as Bieber then walks away. As the song begins, it cuts to a neon-lighted hotel room, where the girl that was mentioned earlier is. Bieber knocks on the door, is let in, and they end up making love. As Bieber sings the second verse of the song, a group of masked men burst in. They tie, then kidnap the two. It then cuts to the pair tied up in an abandoned warehouse. They eventually use a lighter to burn the rope and escape. When the masked men discover they've escaped they chase after them. They open a door, only to find themselves peering at the road below. With the men nearing, Bieber jumps out, then the girl. They land safely on an inflatable mat. We then see Leguizamo, who reveals himself as the leader of the masked men, as he's greeted by Bieber. They're now in an underground skating party, as Bieber sings the rest of the song. The video ends with Bieber standing alone in the dark, in the skatepark.[68] The video featured muscle worship as the girl licks Bieber's chest.

Purpose: The Movement version

A second music video was released on November 14, 2015, part of a series of short films commemorating the release of the album, entitled "Purpose: The Movement".[69] The short music video, like the video for "Sorry", features the dancers from ReQuest Dance Crew and The Royal Family dance crew, and was also directed and choreographed by Parris Goebel.[70]

Live performances

Bieber performed "What Do You Mean?" live for the first time at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards on August 30, 2015.[71] He performed the track on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, accompanied by The Roots and featuring a guest verse from Black Thought.[72] Bieber also performed "What Do You Mean?" on The Today Show along with 5 other songs from his album Purpose: "Sorry", "Love Yourself", "The Feeling", "No Pressure" and "Company" (which was performed for the first time).[73] The song was performed on the telecast Think It Up! which was broadcast on September 11.[74][75] On September 29, Bieber performed the song on season 7 of X Factor Australia.[76] "What Do You Mean?" was performed at the 2015 MTV Europe Music Awards on October 25.[77] Moreover, the song was also included on the set list for the Purpose World Tour.[78]

Track listing

Digital download[79]
1."What Do You Mean?"3:26



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[151] 5× Platinum 350,000^
Belgium (BEA)[152] 2× Platinum 60,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[153] 6× Platinum 480,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[154] 3× Platinum 180,000^
France (SNEP)[155] Platinum 135,000*
Germany (BVMI)[156] Platinum 400,000^
Italy (FIMI)[157] 6× Platinum 300,000double-dagger
Japan (RIAJ)[158] Platinum 250,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[159] 4× Platinum+Gold 270,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[160] 4× Platinum 60,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[161] 2× Platinum 20,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[162] Diamond 100,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[163] 3× Platinum 120,000^
Sweden (GLF)[164] 7× Platinum 280,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[165] 3× Platinum 1,800,000[166]
United States (RIAA)[167] 6× Platinum 6,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Various August 28, 2015 Digital download Def Jam [168]
United States September 1, 2015 Contemporary hit radio [6]
Italy September 4, 2015
Germany October 9, 2015 CD single

See also


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External links

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