During an appearance on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, Bieber was asked about the meaning behind this song's title. He replied: "Well, like, girls are often like, they're just flip-floppy… they say something and then they mean something else, you know? So it's like, I want to, like: "What do you mean?"
The song is a collaboration with Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd who has worked with the likes of Whitney Houston, Usher and Pink. He previously co-wrote most of the songs in Justin Bieber's Music Mondays series.
This was Justin Bieber's second successive single in which the song title is a four-word question. It followed his collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, "Where Are U Now
The black-and-white lyric video features skateboarders Ryan Sheckler and Chelsea Castro.
Bieber performed this song at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. At the end of the performance, he was strapped to an apparatus and lifted about 50 feet in the air, doing some aerial maneuvers before returning to the ground and breaking into tears.
The song's raunchy music video was shot by movie director Brad Furman, whose credits include The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) and Runner Runner (2013). The clip finds Bieber getting intimate with his co-star, Moldavian model and actress Xenia Deli, in a seedy motel - before getting kidnapped by some masked men. It turns out that the singer had planned it all along and he ends up partying at a skate park with his kidnappers.
The video co-stars Colombian-American actor John Leguizamo, whose resumé includes playing Chi-Chi in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor) and voicing Sid the Sloth for the film Ice Age and its sequels.
Xenia Deli told ET Online
about the video. "The story is passion love, about crazy love," she said. "We love each other, but at the same time we hate each other."
This was Justin Bieber's first #1 in the UK. Until then, the singer's best effort had been "Boyfriend
," which landed at #2, It was also Bieber's debut chart-topper in Australia. His previous best Down Under had been the #3 that "Baby
Justin Bieber became the 21st artist to debut at #1 on the Hot 100 when this bowed at the peak position. He was the first Canadian and the youngest ever solo male artist to do so.
This was the 31st Hot 100 #1 hit to pose a question. The previous one to do so was in 2010 when Rihanna, with the help of Drake, asked "What's My Name?
Bieber really wants an answer to his question. He repeats the title "What Do You Mean?" 28 times throughout the song.
This set the week-one record for Spotify when it was streamed 21 million times in just five days.
This is one of three songs on Purpose
written about Selena Gomez, who Justin Bieber dated between 2010 and 2013. The singer told Ellen DeGeneres while making an appearance on her show, that this song, a "little bit" of "Sorry
" and "Mark My Words
" are all about Selena.
Bieber told radio host Ryan Seacrest that a lot of his inspiration for his music comes from Gomez. "It was a long relationship and a relationship that created heartbreak and created happiness, and a lot of different emotions that I wanted to write about," he said.
Justin Bieber recorded a remix of this song with Ariana Grande. Fans who pre-ordered his Purpose album got a copy for free of the new duet version.
The song uses a ticking clock as one of the instrumental hooks to signify that time is running out, so the girl better make up her mind. When this topped the charts, no other Top 10 hits used a clock sound, so it also made the song instantly identifiable.
A second, flute-driven instrumental hook helps maintain an upbeat vibe in the make-up-or-break-up song. Like the ticking clock, the flute was absent among this song's Top 10 contemporaries (such as "Cheerleader
" and "Good For You
") and helped it stand out from the pack.
Bieber uses contrasts within the lyrics to show his frustration with this indecisive girl: "Don't want for us to end, where do I start?," "First you wanna go to the left then you wanna turn right," "First you're up, then you're down and then between."
This was voted by the staff of Spin as their Best Song of 2015. They said:
"The suspense of whether or not 'What Do You Mean?' would be the song to put Bieber back on top lasted maybe 15 seconds. If it's technically possible to resist those dawn-of-a-new-day piano chords as long as they're only accompanied by the metronomic timepiece, once Justin utters the title phrase for the first time and the parkour-hopping synth hits, it's all over.
The groove is instantly familiar, but not quite like anything else you've ever heard: No pop song in recent history has been this light on its feet, to the point where the most apt musical point of comparison isn't really the tropical house of Kygo and Robin Schulz, but the weightless, pleasure-center-poking scores to '90s video games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Kart 64."
This was Justin Bieber's 47th entry on the Hot 100. When it became his first ever chart-topper the Biebs broke the record previously held by Taylor Swift for the most visits before leading the tally.
The Biebs' record was smashed by Nicki Minaj. The Queens MC had 106 chart entries before her and Doja's Cat's "Say So
" climbed to #1 in May 2020.