Thursday, July 11, 2013

Justin Bieber, Again

I said at one time that I didn't understand the rampant hate for Justin Bieber.  The kid, as I said back then, has some talent.

I still say he has some talent.  His musical product has moved in a direction that I don't care for, but that's a matter of taste.  It sounds like hiphop, and I don't like hiphop at all.  That isn't going to change, but I can admit it takes but skill and art to create, even in a style I don't like, so that's the end of that part of the statement.  But two years ago I said I liked Justin Bieber, and that has changed.

Bieber appears to have accumulated wealth and influence before he developed the intelligence and wisdom to know how to handle them responsibly.  And now he appears to be making the possibly fatal error of mistaking wealth and influence for rights and privileges.

Interesting side note: the origin of the word "privilege" means "private law," as in rules that apply only to those who can afford them.  It's also worth noting that in the United States, there isn't supposed to be any private law.  If you live here, you are affected by and expected to abide by the same laws as everyone else, every time, all the time.  Also interesting: "privilege" in its original definition could also mean a law that acted against one person in particular.  Funny how some meanings fall away.

Anyway, Bieber is in the news again.  He's been in the news quite a bit over the past year: annoying his neighbors by racing his brand-new Ferrari up and down the quiet residential streets of his rich suburb, playing loud music to also annoy those same neighbors, and now he's peeing into a mop bucket at a restaurant.

There have been reports of drugs on the tour bus, walking out on entertainment bills worth hundreds of dollars, being amazingly, densely self-absorbed in the visitors' log at the Anne Frank Museum and while taking a pee break in the janitor's closet, for some reason shouting F-bombs at Bill Clinton.  I just have to marvel at that last, I mean...really?  The guy wrapped up his presidency when you were still in nappies, Justin.  And last I heard, you were still a Canadian citizen, wouldn't you rather shout imprecations about Stephen Harper?  Or at least Pauline Marois.  In any case I strongly suspect Bieber isn't aware enough of the political world to be shouting F-bombs at anybody.  If he's gonna drop F-bombs, he might lob a few at the guys driving his Ferrari while intoxicated.  Getting your Maranello special impounded is worth a few choice swear words.

So here, I think, we have a case of rising too far too fast.  Like what I said about child actors, there is such a thing is losing the opportunity to develop wisdom and context while you're young and subject to the vectors that shape responsible behavior.  Bieber first got famous at the age of 13, when most other kids are still in sixth grade.  Generally you don't worry about stuff like demo tapes when you're in sixth grade, you worry about your English homework (or in Bieber's case, your French) and a pickup soccer game after school.  Irresponsible behavior yields bad grades, rudeness gets your nose bloodied, and afterward you come away from the experience with your pride appropriately shrunk to a manageable size and a better understanding of the rights of others and when you need to step up and deliver what is expected of you.

What began as a likeable kid with a good voice has become an obnoxious young adult with a good voice.  From one end to the other he has had legions of screaming fans and even now they still scream, but I think that's going to start changing within the next three to five years.  Firstly it'll change because he won't have the very young good looks of the kid he was but instead will begin to look more like a man.  That will kill most of his appeal with the very young teenybopper crowd.  While he has a distinctive sound and is pretty good with it, he's no Justin Timberlake.  Timberlake is Bieber's (too many Justins for this post) strongest musical competition, a white R&B singer who, besides being ridiculously successful, has managed to grow up as a responsible person in spite of his success at a young age.  Of course there's room in the firmament for more than one of this type of star, but I suspect that Bieber's may be on the edge of burning out.

Bieber appears to be going down the path that leads to Off The Rails.  Like Lohan, like Bynes, his behavior seems to be devolving into something ever more self-destructive.  Yeah, he's an adult now and technically responsible for his own actions.  That doesn't mean somebody shouldn't grab hold of him and try to steer him into something more positive.

Right now I predict about a 30% chance Bieber will be dead by his own actions within ten years. Drugs, car crash, or suicide after his career comes to a screeching collapse.

I just hope I'm wrong.

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