March 1, 2013 at 10:19 AM ET
Justin Bieber is 19 years old, and he still can't shake that teen-idol image upon which he built his empire. Sure, in the past year, he's debuted a more sophisticated sound. He's also flaunted his rebellious side (and his abs). But he's still not a respected adult artist, like the person he's most closely modeled his career on: Justin Timberlake.
At 32, the former 'N Sync singer has fully divorced himself from his boy-band past and become a music superstar. How can the "Girlfriend" singer compete? Let's look at three of the moments that defined Justin Timberlake, and figure out how Bieber can fit them into his 10-year plan.
1. "D*ck in a Box" (2006)
Nothing can broaden a celeb's appeal like a great SNL performance. This mega-viral music video proved that Timberlake was willing to go there, even if "there" was completely obscene and ridiculous. Not coincidentally, Bieber has already hosted Saturday Night Live twice himself. (And pretty well, too.) If he's smart, the Biebs will keep hanging around 30 Rock until he's a permanent fixture.
2. "Rock Your Body" (2003)
"Cry Me a River" was a huge hit, but this dance-pop classic was Timberlake's first real break from his 'N Sync sound. Plus, it was unapologetically sexy ("gonna have you naked by the end of this song"). At the moment, we'd be very uncomfortable with Bieber singing about getting ladies naked. But by the time he's of legal drinking age, Bieber should aspire to have such a slinky chart-topper.
3. The Social Network (2010)
Timberlake was smart about his acting career: Instead of jumping into a potentially embarrassing star vehicle, he took smaller roles and worked on actually getting good. A minor role in the successful drama The Social Network was the thing that finally won Hollywood's respect. Bieber hasn't made the leap to acting yet, but when he does, he should follow the Timberlake playbook and start small.
Lucky for Bieber, he has a head start: Timberlake didn't strike out on a solo career until he was 21. There's still plenty of time for J.B. to figure out his own moves—and if he wants to emulate Timberlake, can you blame him?
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.