clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez's messy relationship, explained

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber attend a Lakers game in 2012
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber attend a Lakers game in 2012
Noel Vasquez/ Getty

Fans obsess over the idea of secret celebrity couples. If a couple chooses to keep its relationship out of the public eye in any way, fans worry they have broken up, had a fight, or gotten a divorce.

Whole websites exist just to track which celebrities have dated each other. We track Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendez. We worry about Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

For instance, the relationship between child stars Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez is constantly tracked because it is always on the brink of disaster, and it's one of the most gossiped about celebrity pairings of the moment. Who is Justin Bieber? Who is Selena Gomez? Why does anyone care?!

Calm down, we'll get there.

1) First things first, are Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez dating?

Selena Gomez has a good PR team and is notoriously vague about her relationships, so it's impossible to say for sure. Our professional opinion: It seems like they aren't.

Rumors have been swirling for the past week that the two pop stars are back together after two years of on-again,-off-again dating. Bieber shaved his mustache last week, and the two attended a Bible study together. They also went on a movie date. But on Thursday, Selena Gomez released a new song and video that seems like a direct dig at Bieber:

2) Wait. Can we backtrack? Who is Justin Bieber?

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber poses with fans (Angela Weiss/Getty)

Justin Bieber is a singer, a songwriter, and a massive international pop-star. He's a Canadian who was discovered by Scooter Braun, a famous music manager, thanks to his work on YouTube. Under Braun's direction, Bieber paired up with Usher and signed his first record deal. He was 13.

Bieber released his first EP, My World, two years later. It went platinum. The phrase "Bieber Fever" was coined and quickly swept the nation — at least for teens.  My World 2.0, Bieber's first full length album, hit the top spot on the Billboard charts. Its lead single, "Baby," became Bieber's signature hit, rocketing him to stardom.

The tour for the album became so popular that it was turned into a concert documentary titled Never Say Never. Never Say Never has a 64 percent critics rating on Rotten TomatoesBieber, however, was not popular with everyone. The YouTube video for "Baby" has 4 million dislikes.

Bieber released another album, Believe, in 2012, which also debuted at no. 1, before he ran into issues, specifically drugs and being arrested. His second documentary, Believe, bombed at the box office. Though Bieber is still incredibly popular on Twitter and Instagram, he hasn't produced a number one hit in two years, which as a young pop star is a good way to start losing fans.

3) Who is Selena Gomez?

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez performs with her band. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

Selena Gomez, like Bieber, was also a child star. She began her career on Barney and Friends and worked her way up through numerous Disney shows as a child before playing the lead role on Wizards of Waverly Place. While on the show, Gomez released her first studio album with her band, Selena Gomez & the Scene. The album peaked at ninth on the Billboard chart.

Gomez released two more albums with The Scene: A Year Without Rain and When the Sun Goes Down. She continued to act during the production of these two albums and appeared most famously in Spring Breakers with James Franco. Her first solo album, Stars Dance, was released in July of 2013 and produced by the Cataracts. She is rumored to be working on her second studio album.

4) What songs are these two even famous for?

Justin Bieber has had many Top 40 hits including "As Long as You Love Me" and "Baby." His most recent smash hit is "Boyfriend."

Selena Gomez has not had anywhere near the commercial success of Bieber. Her biggest hit, "Come and Get It," peaked at no. 6 on the Billboard charts.

5) When did they start dating?

Bieber and Gomez became friends because they were both young and famous. Rumors, of course, began to fly that they were more than friends, but Selena Gomez told Ellen Degeneres in 2010 that there was no way she was dating Justin Bieber. "He's like my little brother!" she said.

That fall, though, rumors continued to swirl. The two were spotted in the Caribbean kissing on a yacht. There were photos, but Gomez was also rumored to be dating both Taylor Lautner and Nick Jonas at the time. She was 18, and Bieber was 16 when they officially announced their relationship at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

6) What happened to their relationship?

The two split officially in January 2013.

"I don't know what's going on in my life," an obviously confused Bieber told Page 6. "To even assess that it doesn't make sense ‘cause I have not made any comment."

Their breakup didn't seem to stick. In April 2013, Bieber posted a photo of the two looking very cuddly to his Instagram with the caption: "You've been makin music too long babe come cuddle." Thus began a series of back-and-forth on-again-off-again comments for the two pop stars.  They've broken up and gotten back together so often that headlines about their relationship have started to include the word "yawn."

Throughout the changing relationship statuses, Gomez has stayed more private than Bieber. She released Stars Dance and posted a lot of happy Instagram photos with captions like, "Taking my power back." In early 2014, Gomez voluntarily checked herself into rehab for a few weeks for reasons that her representative told People were "not for substance abuse."

What interesting about the Bieber/ Gomez relationship is that he seems much more interested in attaching himself to her than she seems interested in attaching herself to him. He continues to post photos when they are together with mushy captions. Meanwhile, he's gotten himself arrested in Miami on charges of DUI, barred from Miami nightclubs, and punched at by Orlando Bloom in Ibiza. (Yes, punched at.)

7) Why do people care so much about whether they are dating?

Why do people care so much about baby pandas? We cannot know these things.

People care about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez's relationship for the same reasons they care about whether or not Beyoncé and Jay-Z are in a political marriage: they are invested. Fans of Bieber and Gomez watched them grow up, and to some degree, their caring cannot be helped.

And now that you know everything, you, too, can care. Isn't it a wonderful feeling?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.