The problem with Justin Bieber
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Departures at Orly Airport in Paris with nothing much to do. The people next to me, a man and woman around the age of 30, were having what seemed like a very interesting conversation. I say ‘seemed’ like because they were speaking in Dutch, and I couldn’t understand a word of it. Nonetheless, the tones of their voices and their body language made me want to know what they were talking about. I sat there trying to guess the topic, or catch one or two familiar words. Were they talking about a film they’d seen? Or their trip to Paris? Or the Easyjet colour scheme? And then I heard two words loud and clear, two words which are the same in every language: Justin Bieber. What a let-down! Why is Justin Bieber everywhere?
A quick bit of research reveals some frightening facts about the young popstar. Listing all of his achievements right now would take up too much time and space – suffice to say that Bieber started out as a young boy posting videos of himself singing on YouTube, and he now has over 20 million followers on Twitter. If Wikipedia can be believed, he is also considered the 3rd most powerful celebrity in the world. This is hopefully an exaggeration, but no one can argue with the fact that his name pops up everywhere. And as yet I haven’t found anyone who can explain to me why this has happened.
A lot of people explain Bieber’s popularity by saying ‘it’s just young girls.’ My first response to that would be: where did he find 20 million young girls? And my second response would be – if it really is just this one group of people that forms his fan base: what has happened to the young girls of planet earth?! Has somebody brainwashed them all? Please can we go and rescue them.
When I was a teenager (in the not-so-distant past), I’m pretty sure girls had better taste. We used to watch The OC for Seth Cohen, not for Ryan. We liked Seth because he was the ‘less-obviously-good-looking-one’, because he was funny, quirky, and generally a little bit weird. When it came to music, we started out with bands like The Streets. I remember going to see them play when I was about 14 or 15 and thinking they were fantastic. And if you google Mike Skinner from The Streets, you’ll see he wasn’t famous because he looked like Justin Bieber. He was, and is, famous because he had some really interesting things to say. He certainly said more than ‘baby, baby, baby.’ I followed lots of musicians as a youngish teenager – Oasis, Razorlight, even a bit of Eminem. Admittedly there was the odd Westlife song I liked, too, but nothing like Bieber. My friends and I were into music that was interesting, musicians who could play instruments and who were cool!
And there it is, the biggest problem of all: Justin Bieber is not cool. I have watched as much as I could bear to on Youtube, and all I saw was a frighteningly young looking boy singing unimaginative songs about not very much. Why does he look so plastic? Where is his personality?
Justin Bieber has been watching me type this. I have a copy of Mizz magazine (a British magazine for young teenage girls which I use for teaching) on my desk. Bieber’s big, shiny face is looking at me from the back cover. He’s trying to sell me his latest perfume. It’s called ‘Someday.’ Someday, Justin Bieber, I hope you’ll go away.