Justin Bieber: Teen Idol 2.0 or Just Another Annoying Trending Topic?
I've been feeling a bit of cranky old lady lately when logging into Twitter and I'm blaming the Bieb.
Because that little chipmunk of a teen idol Justin Bieber has been trending for months. Get off my Twitter, Justin Bieber. And all of your fans posting their results from "I just took the What Body Part Would Justin Pierce for You" quizzes. How do you manage to trend in Twitter incessantly when I didn't know what you are until I Googled you, and when half your fans mix up the vowels in your name? You are everywhere.
A lot of people are baffled by how the Internet managed to turn into one long Leave it to Bieber show, while at the same time if you don't share your home with a young girl you might not know who or what a Bieber actually is.
I'll tell you what a Justin Bieber is. Bieber is a successful product of the bubble gum pop machine, version 2.0. He's a dreamy-looking 16-year old singer backed by teen-frenzy expert Usher and bolstered by an incredibly savvy social media strategy. You can read more about him in the Dummies' Guide to Justin Bieber at Pop Eater, or you can just check out the resulting Mentos + Coke explosion of teen idolatry in the age of social media: a 24-7 tidal wave of Bieber Fever.
Bieber Fever is bubbling at an especially high boil this week. He just released a new album called My World 2.0, so the Bieber machine is blowing super elastic bubbles right and left. Rolling Stone expects the album to top Billboard 200 next week. Diary of Justin Bieber will air Sunday on MTV--including up-close-and-personal tutorials on how to brush your teeth and blow dry your hair the Bieber way. His hair---SQUEEE!
Videos that will live forever in You Tube replay make sense, but inexplicably, Bieber is also coincidentally on the news page of many papers this week. Bieber's manager Scott "Scooter" Braun pleaded not guilty to charges of reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance and endangering the welfare of a child stemming from a months-old incident, as reported this week in the Huffington Post:
Braun's arrest stemmed from a planned appearance in November by Bieber at Roosevelt Field Mall in a New York suburb. Authorities claim Braun didn't send out a tweet fast enough to let the raucous crowd of 3,000 know Bieber wouldn't be making an appearance.
Failure to Tweet? Is this for real? Here is some PR artwork for you to consider: so the week of his album release, Bieber puts out a statement of support for Scooter, and is seen sporting a "Free Scooter" shirt. Not Free Tibet or even Free Shamu, but Free the manager Scooter -- who, as myth has it, plucked Justin from the obscurity of self-posted (um, perhaps) You Tube cover songs, plunked him into a bidding war between Usher and that other Justin, Justin Timberlake?
Justin Bieber, you can wear a Free Scooter t-shirt if that makes you feel like a grown-up rebel with a cause, son, but you are still a mop-head working a crazy mainstream and social media campaign for temporary world dominance. A mop-head who is nothing new.
Offering a swoonable-but-not-sexually-threatening choir boy, or a whole band of them, to young music fans is a tried and true moneymaker. Justin may think he's 2.0, but he joins the fine old school lineage of Frankie Avalon, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, Nick Carter...not to mention the dreamiest Davy Jones, who delivered big on Marcia Brady's braggadacio promise as have him perform at her school, and therefore lives on in 2.0, too. Davy Jones!!!!!
Justin kissing a teddy bear might feel fresh to his fans because the bear is being given away on blogs and talked about on Twitter and Facebook instead of mass published on cheap paper stock, but Tiger Beat online is still Tiger Beat, and Elvis sang about being commodified as a swoonable radio-boyfriend long before iPods:
I don't wanna be a tiger
Cause tigers play too rough
I don't wanna be a lion
'Cause lions ain't the kind
you love enough.
Just wanna be, your Teddy Bear
Put a chain around my neck
and lead me anywhere
Oh let me be
Your teddy bear.
Television has been tough medium for boy teen idols because it easily shows them aging out of the cubby-bear stage. Timberlake managed to make the leap to adult appeal; Donny Osmond didn't have to, because he somehow never seemed to enter puberty. It will be interesting to see how Bieber fares as a social media creation who has benefited from new PR.
That is, if you want to watch. You might not be a Belieber. In that case, look away, if you can. One way or another, like any other viral infliction, Bieber Fever will be cured by the best remedy: just a little time.
Deb Rox is not a Belieber and was neither a Daydream Believer nor a Homecoming Queen, but she confesses all sorts of other embarrassing pop culture afflictions at her blog Deb on the Rocks. She is a little bit Rock and Roll, however, and she would like Donny Osmond to know that he is not.