From the Vault: My short-lived shared blog with Justin Luke, Said Panties, in which we would riff on the same topic. This entry was all about the one and only Justin Bieber. You can find Mr. Luke’s post on same here. Mine is below.
Oh, Justin. I knew I’d meet you in my blogs eventually. I just never expected it to be quite like this…
So Justin Bieber sold out Madison Square Garden. He could probably sell out the state of Texas, if there was a sound system large enough. Tweens are frightening, frightening small versions of actual people, and they have terrible taste. This has been true since the dawn of time. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus Christ was the original Bieber, and the only reason we still know who he is is because BC 16-year-olds were, like, so majorly crushing on him and their Tiger Beat poster pull-outs survived the test of time. Jesus Fever! At least back then they didn’t know how to Tweet.
Twilight, The Jonas Brothers, Harry Potter… all things that became huge because every adolescent and their mother loved it. (And I do quite literally mean “and their mother.” What is with Moms jumping on these bandwagons? Are they trying to stay hip? I’m pretty sure there’s nothing “hip” about a middle-aged woman wearing a T-shirt depicting a shirtless werewolf-boy that could be her son, and who, if he was her son, would definitely call CPS and have her incarcerated.) Heartthrobs. Elvis, The Beatles, David Cassidy, New Kids on the Block, The Backstreet Boys, and now Justin Bieber. These artists vary in quality, but they all got their start as teenage dreamboats — at least some of them had the good sense to go away soon after.
I fully expected to see Bieber Fever strike the headlines of The New York Times someday, but more in a world-ending, pandemic, Bubonic plague sort of way. I’m surprised by the very serious tone of this article. “Instead his songs crackle with the first blush of seduction and power…?” Really? You heard a crackle? I heard a gunshot, just before journalistic integrity dropped dead. “Those are also among Mr. Bieber’s slower songs, which leave his sometimes thin voice unprotected. He fared better on rowdier numbers like ‘Bigger,’ ‘Baby’ and ‘One Time’…” Um, excuse me, just who is this article for? Eight-year-old girls don’t read The New York Times! You want to reach that audience, you Tweet “OMG! OMG! I HEART JUSTIN BIEBER! JUST PEED!” That’s the only “review” of a Justin Bieber concert you need. I suppose it’s possible he was trying to reach the mothers, in which case all he could have Tweeted: “OMG! OMG! I HEART JUSTIN BIEBER! MENOPAUSE IS HERE!”
I was also surprised to see the author of this article was male, but no judgment.
Yes, Justin Bieber is ridiculous. He’s about as awkward and goofy as I was as a teenager, except way more popular with the ladies (and friends with at least one famous rapper who has probably shot somebody). I can’t exactly dig his helmet of hair and chipmunk cheeks — if you ask me, it might as well be Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and Justin Bieber. “Juuuuuustiiiiin!!!” I can’t take him seriously. And while it is certainly true that he does indeed look like a lesbian, that’s only because so many lesbians dress like 15-year-old boys. You can’t blame Justin Bieber for that.
However, I have a defense mechanism for dealing with the Justin Biebers of this world. When I sense someone getting popular, I automatically withdraw any and all attention I have ever paid to them and hide inside a shell that protects me from superstardom. (It’s not unlike the cloak that shields me from reality TV, which I discussed yesterday.) I have a surprising gift for tuning out what I don’t want to hear, and it isn’t merely a product of getting older. It’s good taste! I was born with it. (Okay, that’s a lie — Transformers, Care Bears… I didn’t discriminate.) But by the time I was a teenager, anyway, I had pretty much sussed out whose side I was on in the epic battle between good and evil over our souls and ears.
It’s true. When I was in junior high and high school, I was pretty disinterested in the Backstreet Boys and N*Sync, and had only a passing interested in Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. I watched TRL sometimes, mostly because my sister’s love for one Nick Carter knew no bounds, but mainly I listened to 107.7 “The End.” I know this means nothing to most readers, but for grunge and rock in the late 90’s you really could do no better than this Seattle radio station.
This was roughly when the genre “alternative” was founded, back when it really seemed like there were only two choices: the teen pop phenoms or the likes of Korn, Smashing Pumpkins, and Marilyn Manson.
None of those artists were precisely my jam. I spent my formative years with Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Stone Temple Pilots, and Nirvana, plus a few more obscure bands such as Zebrahead and Dynamite Hack. And, okay, I also really liked Madonna’s Ray of Light. But that was pretty dark too… for Madonna.
It wasn’t until college that I really became aware of most current pop music, so immersed was I in my beloved alternative. And even then, I’ll admit I enjoyed pop song remixes much more than I enjoyed the original tunes. (For the uninitiated, a pop remix is basically when they take the already-repetitive lyrics of the chorus and repeat them even more, for longer.) Granted, the remixes I liked best were the more artistic ones that fully re-imagined the song and often made it darker and more meaningful, often by only using a line or two from the original song. I’ve tried looking for similar remixes in the years since, but it seems every remix I come across these days is of that first variety — if they haven’t “evacuated the dance floor” after hearing that line approximately 70 times on a ten minute loop, Mr. DJ, then they’re probably never going to.
Now my relationship with pop music is fleeting. I pick and choose what I want to hear, and generally am not subjected to what I don’t. This means I’ll check out what Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Rihanna are up to, while I ignore anything by Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, or Miley Cyrus. I have a very powerful filter circling around my head at all times; only the most radioactive of singles (“You Belong to Me,” “Party in the USA”) make it through to my ears uninvited. Thankfully, we live in a world that allows those of us who’d rather listen to pop from Robyn, Annie, Sia, La Roux, Marina and the Diamonds, and Little Boots to do so while the rest of the world has their Justin Bieber.
There are always alternatives. Every generation has had them, just like they’ve had their mainstream idols. Maybe pop icons will always be ubiquitous. Maybe they’ll even be so in our faces we want to push them in front of a train. That’s fine. I bet there are some people who wanted to push Paul and Ringo in front of a train, too. It’s called diversity. If we all liked the same music, we’d be no better than robots, and no one would ever be pushed in front of a train. How boring would that be? What kind of a world?
As for me, I have enjoyed Bieber’s “Baby” more times than I care to tell. Something about those lyrics, “Baby baby baby oh, baby baby baby no,” really just speaks to a profound part of me, I don’t know. (Plus I think it’s funny to hear Ludacris try to rap without saying “pussy.”) Then, a few months ago, I discovered an even younger teenage pop star. From Australia — jackpot! What’s my prize??
And while I realize that this is my second post in a week that will flag me as a pedophile, I am taking that chance by sharing Cody Simpson with you. Mr. Simpson may not be at the heights of Bieber stardom quite yet, but he was born the year Titanic came out, so there’s plenty of time for him to get there.
In a disturbing trend, I’m pretty sure teen idols are just getting younger. It used to be that the men were quite a few years older than their girly fans. Now it’s the case of the Incredible Shrinking Superstar. What will they think of next? When can we expect a boy band made up of zygotes singing about the bitch who broke their hearts? Womb Tunes… you heard it here first.
Now, excuse me, I’m off to go hide in my pop culture shell.
Note: My pop culture shell has weakened drastically since I started writing for the pop music blog Idolator. I’ve also gained a bit of respect for Mr. Bieber, the more I’ve followed him over the past couple of years. Not a lot — but a bit, I’d say.