musings on popculture: justin beiber

Or is it Bieber? I mean, I could pretty easily check but I don’t think it really matters. I mean, I’m going to google him in a minute for the purposes of this little thoughtdump, but I’ll probably spell it wrong, either way I spell it, and I certainly won’t remember which way is correct, and even if I do I’ll just leave it as is because whatever, yeah?

Anyrate, Justin Beiber’s been around for what seems a long time but I didn’t actually know what he looked like till I randomly stumbled into this weird interview from 2012. Before that, I always thought he was on the Disney Channel and that’s where his fame came from.

Anyrate. It’s actually a really interesting interview and it’s what made me start thinking about Justin Beiber a lot. I didn’t reread that interview, but the gist of it is that he grew up being a brand and has the most peculiar life I can imagine.

And for a while–maybe still–I became kind of obsessed with this idea of Justin Beiber. This boy who grew up being super famous due to his musical talent and then has to be more this person who carries around people’s perceptions and ideas. I still want to write a novel about this, which actually became tied up in a different novel idea about Hitler conquering the world and building a city of glass, which, yeah.

But despite this random and meandering introduction, I do want to say some things about this dude who people feel so strongly about.

And I know this is a weird thing to do. Most people who care about Justin Beiber are teenagers or women. I mean, I’m assuming that. I have no idea what kind of people listen to his music or enjoy him as a person, but that’s not really important. And I could talk about how he’s in the news for being kind of an idiot but I also don’t care about that.

The thing is, I kind of like Justin Beiber’s new song. I’ve actually heard two of his songs over the last few months that I liked. The first was this one.

It could probably be argued that it’s barely even his song and he’s mostly just an instrument, but it’s his dumb face and body dancing, so I’m counting it as his.

Also, can we talk about this dancing? I always thought he was kind of famous for his dancing, but this is kind of hilariously bad, yeah? It makes me think of George Michael more than Michael Jackson, and I imagine that’s not the intention. Also, what a boring video! Like, it’s just him in a room getting scribbled on.

Speaking of weird videos, this was the first one I ever saw of his.

I honestly think that’s one of the most awkward videos ever made. Like, watch him dance with Nicki Minaj. It’s uncomfortably hilarious. This also might be one of the first of his songs I distinctly remember hearing and understanding that it was made by Justin Beiber. I know he had songs before this, maybe even a couple albums, but this was the first one I heard and thought to myself, Justin Beiber is on the radio.

Because, honestly, before that he was a Disney kid to me, though he apparently never actually was one. I thought of him as sort of an abstract teen concept that I had become pretty far removed from. This was also during the years that I almost exclusively listened to classical music and watched hours and hours of ballet, so I had become pretty far removed from popmusic or even most music happening with vocals and beats. But he was always just this kid that my teenage cousin really liked, and then he became this adult who dryhumped Nicki Minaj [someone who I also only really knew of abstractly–I think this video may have been the first time I saw her, actually].

And possibly through my burgeoning interest in Justin Beiber and my established love of opera, I stumbled upon this bit of genius.

Which is just fantastic. I want to live in it. But that’s only related to Justin Beiber kind of tangentially, as far as I’m concerned. Like, it’s Beiber’s hit song, but it’s sung by this gorgeous ethereal voice with haunting strings and so the opposite of what I thought of popmusic at the time, whether fairly or unfairly.

Also, I just love interesting covers of songs.

But between this and that Skrillex and Beiber song above, I hadn’t really thought about him and it felt like years had gone by. I mean, I saw stuff happen peripherally on social media. Like how he got arrested for drunk driving and then there was other stuff I don’t remember, which kind of successfully turned everyone’s baleful eyes on him.

Lots of people have always hated him, partly because he makes popmusic but mostly because he was making wildly successful popmusic. That’s kind of always been the state of pop post-Beatles–everyone hates you for making catchy music.

It’s really childish.

I mean, I was there. Had he come out when I was in high school, I probably would’ve been one of those people who talked about how no one should like him. But the thing about high school is that you shouldn’t really carry any of those kinds of prejudices with you once you leave that swirling cesspool of bad ideas.

Anyrate, what made me want to write this post in the first place was that I heard this song yesterday that I actually really liked. I liked it enough that I showed it to Chelsea, which also meant that I searched it in youtbe.

As bad as the above Beiber music videos are, this one is actually pretty brilliant. It might be one of the best videos I’ve seen in a long while. But that could be because I love dance. Also, we have good dancers here, who are notably not Justin Beiber, who’s mostly a funny dancer, despite what people say. He dances the way Justin Timberlake would have danced had Justin Timberlake never seen someone dance before.

Anyrate, I love the performance of these two. I think it captures the song really well, and it ends on a surprisingly emotionally resonant note.

But that’s not what brought me to the song because I didn’t see this till after I heard it in my car. What piqued my interest is how it feels and sounds like a love song but is actually pretty mean. I also found it pretty funny. That kind of funny mean, which fits with the perception that he’s a douchebag, I guess. But this is such a great line:

My momma don’t like you

and she likes everyone

Also, the title sounds like a statement of self improvement or personal empowerment, but it comes from this line:

If you like the way you look that much,

oh baby, you should go and love yourself.

And if you think that I’m still holding on to something

you should go and love yourself.

Which is kind of the perfect insulting description of a serial selfie taker. It’s also pretty mean, and in a very petty way.

Like, this song that sounds and feels like a love song is actually pretty petulantly aggressive. It’s kind of like Blake’s Chimney Sweeper. And, yes, I did just compare Justin Beiber to William Blake, so suck it, nerds.

Needless to say, this isn’t what we think of when we think of Justin Beiber. There are probably thousands of reasons for that, but I find it incredibly interesting that he’s making songs I enjoy, and also one that I find both hilarious and also kind of sweetly delicate. I mean, regardless of the songwriter or singer, I will always find the marriage of those two elements interesting. A sweet and delicate love song that’s actually a petulant dismissal of a love that never was.

But, yeah, these are my thoughts on Justin Beiber.

I know this is a weird thing to write so many words about and most probably think it’s incredibly bizarre to know that I’m currently listening to Justin Beiber and enjoying it, but I am.

This is also something I’m going to do now. Muse about popmusic, so deal with that, honkies.

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