Years hence, women who are now teens or younger will remember his name. Were you one of his 22 million fans on Facebook, or were you one of the anti-Justin Bieber people, writing hateful things about him on Twitter, or did you just ignore another baby-faced pop star and get on with your life?
Recently, pop star magazines, identical to the Tiger Beat Stars my older friend handed down to me after she took the Jan and Dean pictures (cool, Californian, important) have found their way into our house. Their pages are torn out and taped to the walls of the older daughter’s room. She is one of the Justin Bieber fans.
When news of the older daughter’s crush first broke, the younger daughter, who will reflexively grasp the opposing view, haughtily informed us that Justin Bieber has a swagger coach.
Last weekend, I did something I never thought I would do, but as the film tells us, Never Say Never. I went to the Justin Bieber movie. I took three girls, aged 13, 12, 11.
I had not been sure what to expect, except that I was fairly sure that it would be unbearably awful, but actually it was kind of interesting.
I had assumed Justin Bieber was the breakaway solo act of some manufactured boy band, but in fact he was some kid from Canada who had a really obvious talent for music and a desire to perform. The home video of him as a small child playing a full drum set is impressive. Say what you may about his music, but he was a prodigy. More amateur video of him belting out songs at local talent competitions show that he has a powerful voice. He or his mom or a friend of hers posted videos on You Tube, which went viral, and a guy at a record label saw them and tracked him down.
Here’s where it got more interesting. Scooter, the guy at the record label, was young and not in a position to offer him a big contract, the company didn’t want to invest, they wanted to wait, but what teenager wants to wait? Scooter set out to prove the viability of his discovered talent and prove himself. The movie documents how Scooter uses alternative methods and social media to work toward a concert at Madison Square Garden which, if I remember correctly from the movie, sold out in under two hours.
Bieber plays the guitar and sings live on radio stations all around the country, he plays high schools and any place where he can get booked. It was like watching a movie from the 30s, where the trains are pulling in and out of stations in the middle of the night and the newspaper blurbs grow into headlines and spin in and out of focus as the act gains attention.
Even if the movie itself is a publicity stunt the story demonstrates and documents a huge shift in the way things work, a new, more populist route to fame, one that was probably obvious to Scooter, Bieber and fans—if you do it, share it; if you like it, say so. The underdogs are having their day and the top cats are writing their own obituaries—even if, right now, those cats are smirking because they got Scooter to do all the leg work. The format of the story is old, David and Goliathish, but the slingshot is new.
Millions of hysterical girls worldwide follow him on Twitter and flashmob malls. The media takes notice. Connections are played. Scooter networks. Big names are attracted and pulled in, so that there is a blending of fame and friending as Justin Bieber appears at a Miley Cirus concert, Usher at his, the up-and-coming talent giving a bit of edge and currency to the known and established figures.
What I liked about this story is that the hysterical screaming girl fans really do matter. Without them he wasn’t viral. The girls voted with their likes, shares, follows and their physical presence. Gigi Ibrahim tweeting the Egyptian uprising is a more worthy example of the power of social media. For career exploration and development, see Tavi Gevinson (Style Rookie) blogging her way into the fashion world, but teenage girls need popstars, too, I guess. Better for them to have a say in who they will be.
And I say I guess because the friend we took to the movie said she would like him better if he weren’t so popular. That sense of having discovered him was probably incredibly heady for the first thousand or so girls but then it turns into a bit of a pyramid scheme. The other girls jump on the bandwagon but, like, you’re not one of his real fans. Bitch, I was all over his videos last year. Although if the movie is anything to go by, the fans don’t use that kind of language. There’s no fighting. There are enough hearts to go all around.
The movie shows only one scary fan, who knows, and says under a 10,000-yard stare, that she will be his wife.
And I say I guess because I personally find the whole screaming fan thing a bit hard to believe. It is not my form of madness. And couldn’t these girls have better taste in music? But it’s not just the music, it’s the package, the studded heart on his sleeve, wearing purple, the way he tweets about his sore throat, the way they connect.
You? Went to a concert? What’s Kiss?
How do you explain Kiss to someone who has never seen a picture? I didn’t even like the music that much at the time, but I liked that they were a band with a particular identity. The makeup was cool. The weirdness of them was appealing. I like cats.
My parents bought the tickets for my birthday for me and two or three friends. We were 11 and so my father or my parents must have been there with us, but maybe a row behind? As a consolation for having to be there I can only hope that he found it an interesting cultural phenomena, these made-up men jumping around in leather suits, Gene Simmons fire-breathing, and that gave him something to ponder as he suffered the noise.
For me, being there was about entering a larger arena of life—it was going from my friend’s room and looking at photos to being in a room with thousands of other people experiencing this excitement about being part of something. It was a birthday party that took us into the world, not unlike my younger daughter’s recent party, held at the local ice rink.
What were the two most interesting things at that party?
The Zamboni and/or its driver. They would actually scream when it went by. And a 12-year-old boy in a hockey uniform. All of this was set to a pop music soundtrack in a darkened room with a disco ball.
That is a Justin Bieber song, I said to my husband, showing off my new cultural knowledge, as the girls glide or stagger by, finding their feet, the hands of their friends, or something that no one has thought of yet.