The Bieb branches out

Justin Bieber’s role in a new ‘country’ song creates an identity crisis for die-hard country music fans


Photo from Warner Music Nashville

Dan + Shay’s new song, ‘10,000 Hours,’ featuring Justin Bieber, was released on Oct. 4.

Emily DiSalvo, News Editor

Is Justin Bieber turning country or is country music turning into Justin Bieber?

Worlds collide in Dan + Shay’s new song, “10,000 Hours” with Bieber, who previously saved his talents for pop singing and breaking hearts.

As a long-time country music fan, I’ve never had a Bieber song on my playlist, but I know who he is. He’s always seemed like an immature kid, too famous for his own right — the kind of guy who tattoos a girl’s name on his arm before it ever gets serious. 

He has been off my radar since middle school when all the girls had to like Bieber. It was a time when admitting you liked the 30-something-year-old Blake Shelton more than the youthful, handsome pop sensation, might mean you’d be sitting alone at lunch. 

Now, though, Bieber is MARRIED, successful and singing a song with one of my favorite bands … a band that originally identified with country music. 

This is an identity crisis for me. By liking the song, am I validating that Bieber isn’t the overrated playboy I thought he was? Or am I just supporting Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, even as they take their music in a different direction? Is it even country music?

I feel like such a fake, but regardless of who sings it and what genre it falls into, I do love this song.

The song starts out with an intimate, sing-songy list of questions sung by Mooney from Dan + Shay. When I first listened to the song, knowing Bieber played a role, I did a double take when I heard the opening lines because Shay’s voice easily could have been Bieber’s. His voice was soft and sweet, higher and more suave than I had ever heard him sing before.

When Shay breaks into the chorus, he returns to his old self, allowing his typical rasp to sneak back in as he sings, “I’d spend 10,000 hours and 10,000 more, oh if that’s what it takes to learn that sweet heart of yours.” The chorus is backed up by Smyers who never gets a main role in any of the Dan + Shay songs, but always chimes in during the chorus. In this case, Justin freaking Bieber has more solo lines than  he does, which probably doesn’t help his self-esteem. 

After the first chorus, Bieber gets his first solo moment in a “country” song. He continues the theme from the beginning: “Do you miss the road that you grew up on? Did you get your middle name from your grandma? When you think about your forever now, do you think of me?” His style is so similar to Shay’s at the beginning that I’m wondering who had to adjust. There is no way that Bieber can be frighteningly similar to these vocalists I have long admired … right?

Wrong. Dan + Shay + Justin are all talented vocalists, and their voices coincided beautifully in this song.

It is time for me to admit that this song is not country music, or at least the traditional country music that I grew up on. This does not make it any less of a song. 

The definition of country music has changed and expanded over the last decade to include songs featuring pop artists like Taylor Swift with Sugarland and Pink with Kenny Chesney. It has taken on a pop feel in many cases, but country music as a genre is not dead. 

Country music fans — “10,000 Hours” is a good song. You don’t have to boycott it because the Bieb sings a few whispery lines. In fact, I suggest you listen to it for just that reason. While it’s more of a wedding song than a dirt road anthem, it’s good music. There is still country music out there to satisfy your truck-loving, back-road impulses, but I guarantee that music won’t have Bieber in it … yet.