Monday 25 September 2017

Arise! The boy king of pop recrowned

Inspiring Beatle-like devotion among millions of fans, Justin Bieber is back to the toppermost of the poppermost

Justin Bieber's popularity extends far beyond the pre-teen market
Justin Bieber's popularity extends far beyond the pre-teen market
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

The meteoric rise and Biblical-like fall - and meteoric rise again - of Justin Bieber is one of pop's great cautionary tales. Or perhaps, not. Perhaps it is just a tale of a young fella from Canada doing what you'd expect from a young man who has been an international superstar on a par with Michael Jackson since the age of 15. (He is now 23 and made $56m last year.)

Though he didn't need to, Justin said sorry to his fans, to the world, with his mea culpa classic of that name in 2015. Vanity Fair magazine referred to his arrest in 2014 for DUI and drag-racing charges in Miami with suitably epic aplomb: "What a fallen time, when an angel wrestled with his own self."

Even after the terrible year in 2014 of various misdemeanours, a night-in-jail and endless dark nights of the soul courtesy of the tabloids' best attempts to turn a 20-year-old into a public enemy, Justin Bieber retained his sanity and his sense of humour through it all. Which can't have been easy when The White House received 275,000 signatures in a petition to revoke his Green Card and deport him back to Canada. As he said himself of his year of bad PR: "It's because of the way the 'Justin Bieber brand' was portrayed. I was a wholesome pop star, who was so amazing, who had nice hair and a f***ing image that no one could ever live up to. So when all this happened, people were like, 'Woah, let's rip him apart'.

"I just want people to know I'm human. I'm struggling just to get through the days. I think a lot of people are."

In March 2015, Justin allowed himself to be the subject of a famous 'roast' on Comedy Central. That the perennial enfant terrible of pop stood there and took it all is a testament to his strong sense of self. Not least when the jokes were often quite viciously at his own expense.

Will Ferrell, as Ron Burgundy, pronounced that "people refer to Mr Bieber as a kid or a boy. Well here's a newsflash, gang: He's a man. A full-grown man, who works and loves and makes things with his hands. A man who sings songs for nine-year-olds and cuts his hair like a gay figure skater."

Jeff Ross then revealed that: "Selena Gomez wanted to be here, but she's dating men now. Is it true you dumped her because she grew a moustache before you?"

Seizing a similar theme, Snoop Dogg added: "When you get to the county jail, you're gonna be the first dude who ever had a girlfriend and a boyfriend named Gomez."

Addressing Bieber directly, Shaquille O'Neal had this to say: "Last year you were ranked the fifth most-hated person of all time. Kim Jong-un didn't even score that low, and he uses your music to torture people." Asked recently about his high-profile arrest, Bieber said: "The police just wanted press. I never was speeding; I never was drag racing. The cop supposedly wanted to be famous for arresting celebrities, and someone had heard him say that prior to that. I wasn't drinking. I blew the thing and I had 0.01."

To understand the obsessional level of devotion he inspires in his young fans, aka Beliebers, it might be best to watch The Beatles's fans in the 1964 movie A Hard Day's Night. You also need to understand his popularity. The video for Justin's song Sorry has been watched on Vevo well over 2.5 billion times by his fans.

No doubt those same Beliebers will be watching tonight's star-studded Manchester benefit concert, which is televised live on BBC1.

To sum up: you'd want to have stone where your heart should be, not to be happy that this extremely gifted young man is back at the toppermost of the poppermost: the Boy King of Pop re-crowned, rebooted and ready to play the virtually sold-out RDS in Dublin on June 21.

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