Two years back, I spent an afternoon following a not-yet-wildly-famous Justin Bieber around this very same room. Bieber said his “Christmas in Washington” debut was the first — and only! — time he’s ever been nervous before a performance. In addition to becoming one of the biggest stars in pop music over the past 24 months, he has also developed a very grown-up handshake.
You made your national television debut here two years ago. How does it feel to be back?
Bieber: It’s really amazing to be here again and for [President Obama] to want me back is really incredible... Everyone is in the Christmas spirit. You know I just released a Christmas album, so just being able to come back and play my own music rather than a cover is just really special.
People constantly ask me, ‘Is Justin Bieber going to have a career that actually lasts?’ What should I tell them?
Bieber: I’m just going to be making new music and proving to people that it’s not just a one-hit wonder. I’m here to stay... I want to make music that appeals to everybody. And slowly but surely, I feel like I’m doing that. I just had a lady come up to me at the airport the other day and say, ‘Oh, I loved your performance on “The View,”’ and all these things. And I was like, “Do you have kids?” and she was like, “No, but I’m gonna go buy five of your albums.” I was like, “Thank you!” Just having people that like me that aren’t just teenagers? That’s really special to me.
Last February in the press room at the Grammys, you shouted out Lil B. I wonder if there are any other new rappers you discovered in 2011 that you’re excited about right now.
Bieber: Uh, pffft. New rappers? No. But my boy Lil Twist is up for best new rapper on MTV. So him.
A few hours before showtime, wardrobe was asking a tuxedoed Cee Lo Green how he’d like his tie tied. “The dimple will always be classic,” he said decisively. The rapper, who got his start in the legendary Atlanta rap troupe Goodie Mob, has been incredibly visible this year. I asked him about that while fellow Goodie Mob member Big Gipp lounged in the dressing room corner.
You’ve gone from Goodie Mob, to a solo career, to “[Forget] You” to “The Voice.” What are you thinking about when you look back on 2011?
Green: It’s definitely been an adventure — a very significant year, in addition to the other 18 that I’ve been doing what I do. So it’s been very gratifying. I feel very fortunate.
I’m always dying to see what an artist like you will do next after gaining so much mainstream attention. What’s in the works right now?
Green: I’m actually doing another Goodie Mob album, so it’s kind of coming back full circle. You know, that’s Big Gipp right over there.
I know. I’m kind of geeking out right now.
Green: We have quite a bit of new material already down. And so once we take care of these prior obligations and get through the holidays, we’ll focus in January and February and March, hopefully for a summer release. That’s if we’re really good.
How many songs are finished?
Green: We’ve got 10 strong ones — 12 or 13 total. But the first ones you rarely use. They’re just to get the wheels turning.
It seems like it would be impossible to balance all of the things you have going on.
Hudson: It can be, but I love it all. Again, I just take everything one day at a time. And one project at a time. I don’t like doing everything all at once because I feel like that’s when it gets messy. I like to focus on what’s in front of me, no matter if it’s music or a film or I’m shooting a commercial.