Look, I’m not any happier about this than you are. Like so many of you, I thought Justin would be gone by now! I expected him out of the news cycle, or at least replaced by a younger, babier-faced tween or bween (baby tween). But Bieber remains as topical as ever, though less for his music now than his antics. When a celebrity’s public persona generates more attention than his or her artistic output, problems can’t help but arise. For instance, I don’t know what Jennifer Aniston’s last movie was, but I did read a blurb yesterday saying that she had the gall to appear in public with her fiancé on the SAME DAY that the poster for the new Angelina Jolie movie was released. The article actually insinuated that this was a calculated move on Aniston’s part, to earn more public attention than her ex-husband’s current wife. What a cunning, manipulative bitch. How dare she go out in public? Anyway, someone’s got to straighten out the Biebs, it may as well be me.
Dream: Get a letter to Justin Bieber.
Goal: Unachievable. To find my letter, Bieber’s poor PR team would have to sift through dozens of warehouses-full of sacks of letters from even bween in the bworld. I’m certain only a fraction of that mail makes to the right personal assistant, who edits further, and doubtlessly delivers only the most flattering letters to Justin’s hotel room, where they remain, unopened, on a desk, until they are thrown out by a long-suffered chambermaid. That said, there have to be a lot of former Beliebers out there who, through disappointment regarding his public persona, or simply aging out of the pop star bracket, know that he needs a talking to. If you are one of those people and you find this letter, trying forwarding it to him, won’t you?
Plan: Write as if JB is reading this missive, sitting alone in a big hotel room, waiting for something to happen.
Dear Justin Bieber,
First off, I want to make it clear that I’m neither a fan, nor a hater. I think you are often unfairly maligned, by men in particular, simply for existing in the world. You are a baby-faced pop star who has a ubiquitous presence on pop radio and teen culture, but why that should threaten and upset grown men so much is a mystery to me. I’m happy to say that for me, you are easily avoidable, save for the occasional Saturday Night Live appearance or awkward Letterman interview. But while I may not have any of your albums, I think I know the cloth from which you are cut. Take my counsel with a grain of salt, but I think I know the following things about you:
You’re bored. Who wouldn’t be bored, in your position? Because you have been so successful, you must be constantly touring and promoting your output of albums and merchandise, and you must be surrounded entirely by adults. You must hardly ever see friends from your childhood, and the friends you have made since all came with the baggage of knowing you before you knew them. That knowledge must give you the uneasy feeling that they expect something from you. That said, Justin, try to use this excess boredom constructively instead of buying a monkey, crashing a car, and being a dick. I know you can’t go outside and play, but what if you wrote down all your frustrations? Don’t edit them, don’t look for a pop hook, just get everything down on paper. Or find one of your tour musicians and ask them if you could learn at their feet. Find out where they studied (unbelievably, even to play repetitive pop music, sessional and touring musicians got where they are by mastering their craft, and probably had bigger dreams than ever your Luv2LuvUGirl Tour provided), and see what they can teach you about true musicianship. Alternatively, volunteer somewhere, and not for a photo op. Find out where the soup kitchen is on your next tour stop, show up with as little fanfare and entourage as possible, and volunteer to peel carrots in the back. On the face of it, this task won’t necessarily alleviate your boredom, but it will help put things into perspective.
You’re angry. I caught clips on you in a deposition video being terse and rude while someone twice your age and education level asked you some simple questions. And I get it, I’d be angry too if my freedom was taken away, my every move was scrutinized, and my closest friends and family were all on my payroll. The thing is, though, it’s nobody’s fault. From what I understand of your “origin story”, your mother took videos of you singing to send to your grandmother via a password-protected account and granny, being proud as she was, reposted them under a public account for her old lady friends to see. The boy singing without a trace of self-consciousness to his Mom and Gam-Gam was preternaturally talented to the extent that some friends showed other friends and they showed other friends and so on, and the boy became a viral sensation. Apparently, Usher and Justin Timberlake began a bidding war to sign you, and Usher won and offered you (or more accurately, your mother) a deal. I hope you don’t blame your mother for anything now or in retrospect, because to my knowledge, she was a single mom in Stratford, Ontario (alternately a tourist trap and a depressing pit of quaint). I’m sure worried about pushing you into a world you weren’t ready for, but who could have foreseen the megastar you’d become? Monetarily, you’ve provided for your mother in ways she couldn’t have done for you. That has to be weird. But that brings me to another point.
You’re ashamed (and not just for those dumb bangs you used to have). You feel guilty for complaining, because no one wants to hear the woe of poor little rich boy and because, superficially, all of your needs are met. But it has to be the strangest thing, knowing that so many people rely on you for their literal livelihood. If you walked away tomorrow, countless managers, assistants, musicians, dancers, concert promoters, merchandisers, lawyers, and monkeys would be out of a job. That’s too much for anyone to shoulder, let alone a slight if muscled bween.
Justin, I wish I knew what to tell you. Fame is something we can all speculate about, but no one knows what it’s like until he or she experiences it. Maybe that’s why so many famous people befriend and marry other famous people—they know what it’s like. But fame is fickle, and I wonder if your recent bad behaviour isn’t just your clever attempt at self-sabotage. Maybe if you’re smarmy, rude, willfully destructive, and ungrateful, everyone will treat you like the 5 year old throwing a tantrum and ignore you. That’s a fine idea, but a cursory overview of other child stars (Lindsay Lohan comes to mind) shows that fame becomes infamy quicker than a paparazzo’s camera flash, and you’ll have just as much attention as you ever did, for all the wrong reasons.
One time, I waited outside a posh Toronto hotel with two friends and a hundred bweens, all hoping to catch a glimpse of you. You never showed, but I wonder now if you heard the screams from your hotel room as adulation, or just noise. I wonder if you thought you were on the highest pedestal or a gilded cage. I wonder if you thought there was any way out of this, any way to push through the fans and the fame, any way to push beyond yourself and escape to somewhere real.