I've been meaning to write this post for a long time, and was reminded it of it last night after having another Justin Bieber conversation. If you're reading this, you probably hate Justin Bieber. I say that because it's the general reaction I've been getting from my friends and other people my age and, honestly, I don't get it. I mean, Justin Bieber's music is bad. I'm not here to defend his music. I don't listen to it, and the few times I have, I haven't liked it, but that's beside the point.
Look, there are always going to be Justins Bieber. Pre-teen girls have to be in love with someone, and that someone is always going to make bad music. Pre-teen girls just have terrible taste in music. It doesn't matter how cute the guys from Animal Collective are, they aren't getting a grade 6 fan-base.
(By the way, I'm not trying to be sexist here - pre-teen boys have terrible taste in music too. I was listening to FM 96 (London's The Edge) non-stop at that age, as we all were.)
So yeah, Justin Bieber isn't a new concept. It was the Backstreet Boys and then 'N Sync when I was that age. It was the New Kids on the Block before that. Hanson was in there at some point. Now it's Justin Bieber, who took over for the Jonas Brothers. Justin Bieber is just a fact of life. But he's a fact of life that absolutely doesn't concern people in my generation, so I just don't understand why ADULTS care how good his music is.
Even if you do want to debate the merits JB, I think he stacks up pretty well to his predecessors. Groups like BSB and 'N Sync were money-making monsters created by record labels (same with the Spice Girls - remember when they were created? Something crazy like 10,000 people auditioned, and it was so publicized, the Spice Girls were superstars before we even knew who was in the group).
While J-Biebs is clearly a product at this point, his rise to fame was somewhat more organic - he was discovered through Youtube videos of him singing covers. It may seem like splitting hairs, but I think there's a big difference between being "discovered" and auditioning for a group that would be formed one way or another.
Secondly, I like that he's actually a teenager himself. Somehow it seems disingenuous to market a boy band of 20-year-olds guys to 12-year-old girls. Bieber is 16 now, but he was "discovered" at just 13, having already become popular on Youtube.
Now, some people have pointed me to videos where JB has come off as arrogant, stupid, annoying, whatever. He's not perfect. But at the same time, anything he says or does is magnified quite a bit, and nobody's on their game 100% of the time. And he's so ridiculously popular, I can understand him thinking he's the shit. He basically doesn't know any other way of living! Finally, he's been the victim of a LOT of ridicule and mean-spirited internet "jokes" (4chan is bunch of assholes, I don't care if funny stuff comes out of there occasionally), and, fame and money or not, that can't be easy. On the whole, he doesn't seem like a bad guy to me.
Now, while I'm baffled and disappointed by the hate JB receives from people my age, I fully endorse it coming from anyone under the age of 18. Just as falling in love with teen pop stars is part of growing up for some people, rejecting what's popular is part of growing up for many others. I hated the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync when I was a kid, as most boys did (and some girls too, let's not leave them out of the hate-fest!), and that was part of my childhood identity. So hate on, kids! But the day you turn 18, or graduate from high school, or, well, somewhere around that time anyway, you're not allowed to care anymore.
(Then you can care again when you're a parent and you have to deal with positive and negative influences and all that stuff, but I have to imagine innocent teen pop stars are the least of your concerns when you're worrying about violence and sex and stuff.)
I am a little worried about the Biebs. Where does he go from here? He's going to lose his pre-teen fan-base at some point, and his reputation with non-pre-teen girls has pretty much been forever tainted, no matter if he actually becomes a good musician at some point. There's a little hope, though: did you hear about that crazy band with one of the Hanson dudes, the Smashing Pumpkins guitarist, and a guy from Cheap Trick? I have no idea if they're any good, but that's kinda cool. And, obviously, Justin Timberlake is the gold standard for terrible pre-teen pop musicians becoming amazing artists. Let's hope JB's hilarious SNL sketch with Tina Fey last year is a portent of future success.
Of course, maybe I'm just trying to defend my Hallowe'en costume.