I have been the worst Bieber hater since he hit the stage. I have always said he’s the embodiment of shallow, narcissistic rehash of cliché. A waste of space where real talent could reside.
So, the other day I hear this song play on my daughter’s radio. I like it, I look it up on my local internet video site, and who should it be crooning to me from the screen but, Bieber?!!! 0.0 What do I do now? Immediately rely on the fact that I’m sure he didn’t write the song! I looked it up and he didn’t. Phew! What a relief. I knew my previous judgments were correct, “sight unseen” though they were.
As if my elitism regarding the necessity of both of those skills to get respect is even remotely reasonable. Aside from the fact this kid knows 4 instruments, think about it: the roadie doesn’t perform; he sets up and tears down-without him there would be no show, but we don’t ask him to do makeup and hair either, because there’s only so much a person can handle at once. The illustrator doesn’t typically write the story either, but surely their art helps it come alive to adoring eyes.
“And why should I expect so much from this kid anyway? I really shouldn’t, and I never have, that would be giving him more credit than is due.” It’s at this point that I sat back on my heels and said to myself “Self… let’s actually reconsider this guy.” That’s right, I said it. Then I realize that “reconsider” was incorrect, as I had never considered him fully in the first place.
So here I am, trying to comprehend a world in which the Bieb has value (my skin crawls thinking about it). And I look at the video, with these people watching, listening, swaying, enthralled with every note he sings. He IS just like them. Immature, or insecure, desperate or confused, they’re looking for a way to cope with this world without crumbling or toughening up too much. They’re looking for someone to say yeah, you feel like everybody else cuz we all feel the same way about a lot of stuff, and that’s not just a fad, it’s being human.
“These are sheeple; easily manipulated and unconcerned with authenticity or originality” one could say. But why must everything be orginal? Why can’t it be the same old trite love song, because we all want to fall in love, have fallen in love, need to know what falling in love looks like? Why can’t we revel in the glory of our average-ness, our every-day normal-ness, our just like each other-ness? What’s wrong with flocking to someone who sings about things that inspire or resonate with us, even if those things have been said before, even if he’s good looking, even if it’s mass produced?
And you should see how well he performs. He brings out the very best he has to offer in such a selfless way. All over his body you could see that he knows how much this means to people out there everywhere. He knows that they have saved up their money, waited for weeks or longer, made every arrangement to be there to see him do his thing. He can tell that they hang on his every sound and how huge is that pressure? How enormously overwhelming is it to be him? To know that someone is counting on him to be just like they imagined, which is always higher than any human being could possibly live up to.
I don’t blame him for acting out or screwing up anymore. It’s gotta be the most surreal, unfathomably wacky life to grow up in his shoes, to try to figure out yourself and the world in front of everyone. Some of us never figure that shit out. Almost every adult has embarassing moments from our youth that we’d rather went untold. Bieber’s mistakes are recorded in multiple formats, shot from unflattering angles, watched over and over. Worse yet, he probably can’t trust anyone at this point or at least shouldn’t, considering how greedy people get when they look at him. He’s gotta notice the dollar signs in people’s eyes. How sad to have to be nice to those people and be cool when they judge you or disrespect you while they’re trying to screw you for money or influence.
Speaking of his money and influence, I have certainly come to admit that there is no amount of money, drugs, fame, or sex that can make up happiness, though it would be nice to think thoughts of “yeah but he’s rich and famous…”. I know the truth is that it’s damned hard to be happy or, frankly, even a remotely normal person when you’re surrounded by rabid fans, haters, gold diggers, handlers and paparazzi. “He signed up for it” they could say, but I know the truth. No kid can sign up for it at 13 knowing what the fuck it’s really like.
But it’s way more than all that, because it doesn’t matter if I can prove that he’s worth a shit anyway. I sit here, and I think “Holy shit. Who the fuck am I?” I mean, really. Where the fuck does anyone get off judging anybody, let alone this kid who went to work in a cutthroat industry before high school (and still graduated with a 4.0 gpa)- a time in our lives when many of the rest of us were still trying to get out of doing daily chores at home.
Surely he sells lots of records, but I’ll not mistake him for being disingenuous anymore. We are the ones who are shallow to judge him for being young, attractive, popular, and talented. And his followers; they are genuine, they are sincere, and we should ackowledge that they are sharing a human connection with him and each other that is as heartfelt and real as any café open mic night, any local jam band, any basement full of friends.