After a few scandal-plagued years, Justin Bieber bounced back in 2015 in a big way. And while you don’t need to be a Belieber to notice the resurgence in his popularity — it’s pretty obvious to anyone who ever uses social media, watches TV or listens to the radio — Bieber’s manager alleges that his fall from grace was much worse than anyone realized. In an interview with the New York Times last week, Scooter Braun said he feared for Bieber’s life in 2013, when the beleaguered star wanted to go on tour:

“As I started to see it going in the wrong direction, I started to prepare. I put deals in place where he was protected for the long run. And I started to prepare my company to scale, because I was not going to let him work. [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.”

(Romper reached out to Bieber’s camp for comment, but did not immediately hear back.)

But now, with his most recent album, Purpose, selling more than one million copies (only 1 of 3 albums to do so in 2015) after debuting at number one, according to Entertainment Weekly, it’s clear that Bieber has reestablished himself at the top of the charts. What most people don’t realize though, Braun tells the New York Times, is that the road to reinvention was long, and one that wouldn’t have worked if it weren’t for Bieber himself making the choice to commit:

“I know people have seen the marketing and the A&R and everything we put together, and they’re like, “Wow, great job!” But I want to be really clear: I was trying to do that job for a year and a half, and I failed every single day. It wasn’t until something happened that it clicked for him. He made the conscious decision as a young man: ‘I need to make a change in my own life.’”

While the return of Justin Bieber already seemed impressive — did anyone really see him bouncing back from his multiple arrests and puzzling, peeing-in-a-bucket antics? — hearing how far he had to come to get there makes it all the more laudable. But his comeback was impressive for other reasons too:

1. He Came Back With An Amazing Album


Justin Bieber may have taken his time with new music, but his patience definitely paid off. His Skrillex/Diplo collaboration, “Where Are U Now,” was an impressive first offering hinting at what was still to come: specifically the solo track “What Do You Mean, which went straight to number one. He released two more singles after that — ”Sorry” and “I’ll Show You” — and finally, his album, Purpose, which debuted at number one, making it his sixth chart-topping album. Not bad.

2. He's Won Over A Whole New Audience


It wasn’t long ago that being a Justin Bieber fan meant you belonged to a very specific demographic, but that’s changing, thanks to his new album. Not only has his new music been hugely popular among his already-established fan base, but Purpose also signalled a new direction for Bieber musically, showing off a more mature sound with broader appeal. That’s let him tap into a new audience that wasn’t there before — and that is no small feat, even for artists who aren’t trying to revive their entire careers.

3. He's Shown Mega Humility


Bieber could have just bet on the strength of his new music to support his return, but he didn’t, choosing to swallow his pride and apologize for his antics to help show that his comeback effort is sincere. He’s been candid in interviews, including a week-long stint on Ellen, where he totally owned up to his missteps, and has recently focused on using his music to do some good, putting on a benefit concert in Toronto earlier this month to raise money for a food bank and outreach center in his hometown of Stratford — one that he personally received help from when he was a child. He also urged fans in the UK to help an NHS charity single reach number one at Christmas instead of his own — and they came through: the NHS Choir topped the charts.

4. He's Laughed At Himself

It’s not easy to let yourself become the butt of a joke, but Bieber took it in stride during his Comedy Central roast in March, an important step in his image rehab. He’s also showed his fun, relatable side other times throughout the year, most recently in a hilarious episode of “Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden (seriously, try not to love him by the end of this).

5. His 2016 Tour Is Already A Big Deal


But just in case there was any question that Justin Bieber is totally back, you just have to take a look at the sales from his upcoming 2016 tour. Unsurprisingly, tickets for most dates sold out almost immediately — even at major venues like the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden — and are now selling online for hundreds of dollars. If 2015 was a big year for The Biebs, it looks like 2016 might just be even bigger.

Justin Bieber may have won over a whole new crop of Beliebers this year, but you don’t have to be a fan to admire his comeback. It can’t be easy to grow up in the public eye the way Bieber has, and it definitely can’t be easy to attempt a return to the top after so much negative publicity. But so far it looks like he’s done just that — and he definitely deseves a lot of credit.

Images: Jason Merritt/Getty; Giphy (4)