(D)evolution of a Teen Star
I haven’t really been paying attention to the actual music of Justin Bieber (never cared for him and his “brand” and never will). I really only know about his shenanigans and how everyone from CNN to BBC have been talking about his arrest for DUI and drag-racing.
As I have already expressed here on this blog, I admit to a pang of jealousy when he first came on the scene. Right around 2010, when we were already feeling things weren’t going well for David on his Jive label, the Biebs ascended and just took off into the stratosphere in ways that I felt had belonged to David.
When the Biebs was offered the opening line to the 2010 remake of “We Are the World,” it riled me to no end that he was strategically positioned to take over the pop world, while our own Voice was marginalized in the Spanish version instead (which of course he sounded lovely in it and his naturally crystal clear tonals rang out loudly over others). When Bieber had a hit song featuring a popular rapper, David was still struggling for radio play.
Before one knew it, the Biebs became a worldwide sensation, and his so-called “humble” beginnings (being “discovered” on YouTube as opposed to going the more expected route of appearing on American Idol and similar shows) made him standout as a genuine discovery. I was irked to no end b/c those early YouTube videos seemed oh-so-staged and like his marketing team had found the best guise ever to label him an “organic” talent that didn’t have to go the reality show route or the who-you-know-in-the-business route.
Marketing genius, really, but still beyond annoying because everything about him – his “cuteness,” his auto-tuned “talent,” etc. – seemed so fake. Even the Biebs’ brief foray into casting himself as a “Christian” artist was beyond trite (remember the whole Jesus tattoo era?) when contrasted with David’s deep devotion.
And that was the problem for me: His phoneyness was intolerable b/c I had David’s “realness” in the same categories to compare, and it boggled my mind how an entire music industry was trying so hard to turn lead into gold (JB) when it seemed to me that they had the real thing (David) that just needed some polishing off. Just comparing the two “teen stars,” I’ll never understand how this industry works.
So, in this two-year gap, David retreats from the biz and works on a mission, and the Biebs continues his downward spiral. And even then, something about all this “bad boy” behavior seems oh-so-fake! Desperation for attention and “street cred” and “look, I’m all grown up!” nonsense. Why do I get the feeling this too is some ridiculous marketing ploy which will all end eventually with his redemption arc? Just…Stop!
I don’t blame David for taking a respite from this toxic environment at all, but once he rejoins the world this year, I hope he demonstrates far more maturity and confidence to navigate his way around music and to keep the “realness” that has always made him shine brighter than others (to me at least). Sometimes, I think David didn’t take off in the pop music scene because he’s too “real” – real vocals, real good looks, real emotions, real convictions, real faith, real vulnerability, real performance. Sometimes “realness” doesn’t bend too well in the face of an endless marketing corporate-oiled machine.
Here’s hoping the contrasts between current pop stars and what David has to offer will be much more appreciated this time around.