Remember when, like you, every one of your favorite child stars were ‘discovering themselves’? The year was 2013, Miley Cyrus was twerking on Robin Thicke, Selena Gomez was shedding her good girl image for Spring Breakers, and Justin Bieber, well, he was at his wildest.
Bieber was in the grips of Journals, his breakout R&B pivot that he unfortunately never saw through (instead opting for electro-pop when he returned with his next full-length offering, the genius—albeit overly-apologetic—Purpose). Journals was the perfect follow-up to Bieber’s insta-classic Believe, the album that saw Bieber secure features from hip hop heavyweights Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, and Drake and some of the most memorable pop hits of our generations (read: “As Long As You Love Me” and “Boyfriend”). The moment had finally arrived, Bieber had transcended his small-town YouTube sensation image and emerged an indisputable superstar.
Journals, which dropped just days before Christmas in 2013, never really reached its potential for chart domination. Of the singer’s five number one and 14 Top 10 singles, the album doesn’t even feature. This might be the product of Bieber’s minimal press engagement regarding the project, or the fact he never toured it. Manager Scooter Braun held Bieber back from full-fledged promotion for fear he would self-destruct.
“I was not going to let him work,” Braun told The New York Times, “[After “Journals,” Mr. Bieber’s 2013 digital compilation,] he wanted to tour, and I honestly at that time felt, if he toured, he could die.”
And there’s little wonder why, in 2013 Justin Bieber was the over-indulged heartthrob we loved to hate, with battery allegations, drag races, monkey abandonment, public urination, arrests and an announcement he was “retiring” from music.
But there was one moment in Bieber’s good-boy-turned-bad phase that should never be forgotten. The megastar was still touring Believe when on this day, six years ago, Bieber went one step further than removing his shoes at security’s instruction, and decided to de-robe altogether upon arriving at Poland’s Lodz Airport. The then 19-year-old, fully-coiffed and barely-tattooed Bieber allegedly entered the building shirtless despite the below-freezing temperature (14F). According to Reuters, he was indeed initially wearing a shirt, but opted to remove it in preparation to leave the car.
CRAZY SHOW!! Thank u POLAND!
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 25, 2013
“He wasn’t told to take off his clothes. He had no metal objects on him,” a spokeswoman told Reuters at the time. “He’s quite skinny so I assume he was probably freezing.”
It’s a concept now seared in the cultural conscious: a half-nude Bieber making his way through the X-ray machine in the Polish spring. Vanity Fair even tried to decipher his reasoning. In the years since the incident, Bieber has roasted himself (hi, Pete Davidson!), released a world-dominating album, married a model, and launched a clothing label. We might never know why, on March 25, 2013, he did something so senseless, but we will never forget it.
And we’re still waiting on that Journals tour.