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Who or what is Justin Bieber?

November 30, 2010 Entertainment No Comments

Image: Cover art for Baby by Justin Bieber. Copyright Island Records.

Justin Bieber. JB. Biebz. You’ve watched the parody videos, you’ve seen Twitter drown in his name, you’ve read 4chan tried to send him to North Korea, but you’ve never bothered to look him up on Wikipedia and figure out who he is, or what he is all about.

Well, after years of wondering, and becoming increasingly convinced of my disconnect from the culture of kids today and their pre-teen pseudo-R&B music, I have performed about five minutes of research. I now feel qualified to enlighten you, the rest of the world, on the sensation that is Bieber. Disclaimer: I have yet to sit through one of his music videos.

Justin Bieber is hair. Look to the top of this page to marvel at the wonder that is JBiebz’s hair. I’m not exactly what you would call a “hair expert,” a “knower of hair,” or indeed, even a “comber of hair,” but I can tell you that Bieber’s hair is something precious, even unique in this world. How does he get it so straight? How does he get it so long in the front? Would he lose his powers should he ever go bald? How does he get it to curve inward like that without poking his delicate heartthrob eyes?

Justin Bieber is fever. Bieber rhymes with fever. As I under stand it, lazy headline writers and those looking to appear clever will invariably put this stunning convenience together and declare “Bieber fever” should the Bieb ever roll into town.

Justin Bieber is adolescent girl. When I was in Junior High, the girls I went to school with busily funneled their parents’ burnable income into repeat viewings of Titanic. That movie went on to gross $600 million domestically, and stood as the box office champion for twelve years. Bieber has caught on with that same, occasionally obsessive demographic.

Justin Bieber is internet fans. The internet is an important place for people the world over to gather, share information, and communicate. It has also shredded the slow crawl of popular culture into popular consciousness. Bieber’s popularity is due, in part, to the staggering power of internet spam. We live in a time in which Bieber’s fans didn’t have to wait for the TV or magazines to tell them about Bieber, they got to tell those outlets about him. And they did, and they do. A recent rumour claims Bieber-related talk accounts for 3% of Twitter’s server use.

Image: Adapted from 2010-08-261 (Large). Photo by HeatherSokol. Used under a CC-BY-SA license. Yes, you can similarly share alike!

Justin Bieber is internet. Bieber was born of the internet, the internet got him discovered, and he lives on the internet. He uses this once drab place that we geeks used to call home to communicate directly with his fans. That is to say, a very large group of people decidedly outside the neckbeard demographic are using the internet to engage in their interests on a massive scale. This likely explains the attempts at Google manipulation, the pranks, and death hoaxes. Just as I bitterly hated Titanic in my youth because it usurped the titans of my geek universe (Star Wars, Jurassic Park) at theatres, so do the nerdlingers of today hate Bieber for owning such a large mindshare of this place they once thought would always be their own.

Justin Bieber is music. I can’t say I ever followed music, especially popular music, very closely. I can tell you that when I was the Biebz’s age (he’s 16), we still had music videos on TV, and people still bought CDs. Of course, times have changed, and Bieber represents the business of the present. Bieber’s fans have replaced MTV and CDs with YouTube and iTunes, with Bieber boasting the most viewed YouTube video of all time. One constant in all this: teaming up with rappers is still a requisite career move for all mainstream artists.

Justin Bieber is puberty. We can all take comfort, and find amusement, in the fact that Mr. Bieber is getting on in years, and the great destroyer of non-threatening boys, puberty, has struck. Bieber admits his voice now cracks, and can’t hit the notes he once could.

Justin Bieber is fleeting. Thankfully, Bieber fever cannot last forever. Puberty, the fickle interests of tweenage-Twihard-other-buzzword-girls, and an entertainment industry which always demands the newest will eat away at Bieber’s popularity until he is reduced to comeback tours and embarrassing reality TV appearances like some kind of New Kid.

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