It was just past 10 p.m. on a calm Friday evening. Like everyone else filling the cushy theater seats around me, I was in full-on Harry Potter mode, my internal fury already brewing at the mention of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Just a few more previews remained before witches, wizards, and Death Eaters alike would fill the screen when, suddenly, a little blond boy broke the mounting tension. The entire theater burst into a frenzied mix of laughter and expletives as the reality of the preview settled in. Coming soon to a theater near you: Never Say Never, the inspirational story of Justin Bieber’s ascension to fame, glory, and influence. In 3D. Oh, yeah. As eyebrows around me scrunched, searching for the merit in this movie, I asked myself a similar nagging question: Why, J-Biebs, why?
Contemplating my question, I quickly realized there was much more to chastise than the movie itself. The mere existence of Never Say Never, which documents Bieber’s defiance of the odds to reach his stardom, is a testimony to his narcissism. At the tender age of 16, the baby-faced Bieber apparently believes himself to be much more significant than the passing pop icon he is. Unfortunately for the world of music, Bieber has confused being a participant in a form of art with being a true artist, and so have many of his fans.
In the biography section of the official Justin Bieber website, his debut album My World is championed as “an intimate look into the mind of a budding young Renaissance man.” Young Renaissance man, eh? I can agree that Bieber is young, but I’m not so sure about a Renaissance man—or even a man, for that matter. Renaissance man calls to mind someone like Aristotle, a philosopher, physicist and biologist. Or perhaps Leonardo da Vinci, the scientist, painter, engineer, mathematician, musician, sculptor, and inventor. But the prepubescent pop star can hold a candle to these beacons of brilliance, right?
Wrong. The third track on My World, “Down to Earth,” is renowned as his greatest tear-jerker. As YouTube user thabest245 describes the song, “this song made me cry like mad tears !!!” Like mad tears, yo! Looking a bit deeper into the song than thabest245, Bieber’s lyrics reveal one of his innermost pains—his parents’ divorce: “Mommy, you were always somewhere / And Daddy, I live outta town / So tell me: how could I ever be normal somehow?” Without downplaying the emotional hardship endured by families experiencing divorce, Bieber’s struggle with divorce is entirely normal; an estimated 38 percent of marriages will result in divorce before the couple reaches their 30th anniversary. Bieber’s lyrics are generic at best, far removed from the philosophy of the Poetics.
In another song off My World called “Common Denominator,” Bieber tries his hand at the wonders of love. “Just a fraction of your love fills the air,” he opens the song. Bieber was obviously bored doing algebra work and decided to write a love song instead. Da Vinci would be proud, except that daydreaming during algebra is one thing, and a 16-year old thinking he knows squat about love is another. Maybe he found “the one” while buying a new Lego set at Toys ‘R’ Us. Maybe it was love at first sight from across the jungle gym. Or maybe he’s just full of crap.
A couple lines later, Bieber waxes poetic: “You’re the light that feeds the sun in my world.” Well, Bieber is almost as good a scientist as the producers of The Core. At least now we know the Biebster isn’t a Renaissance man. Maybe if he was, he would be privy to the fact that the sun is a hot ball of gas undergoing constant nuclear fusion and that these myriad reactions release energy in the form of light waves. There is no “light that feeds the sun,” Mr. Bieber. Stick to similes.
At least he’s original though, right? Take, for example, the very next line of “Common Denominator:” “I’d face a thousand years of pain for my girl.” Please, Mr. Bieber. In 2004, Max Bemis of Say Anything sang, “I’d walk through Hell for you.” In 2002, Vanessa Carlton sang, “’Cause you know I’d walk a thousand miles if I could just see you.” In 1988, Charlie and Craig Reid of The Proclaimers sang with their Scottish brogues, “I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door.” Though mimetic, Bieber’s poetry is hardly Aristotlean—it gushes Usher.
Justin Bieber is no Renaissance man and no artist. Bieber is nothing more than a mockery of true musicians and artists everywhere. The problem is not his flippant tainting of a historically beautiful form of art—from N*SYNC to Ke$ha, the pop movement’s lack of culture is nothing new or unfamiliar. The travesty here is that Justin Bieber believes his own hype. Bieber and his marketers alike attempt to pass his music off as art, rather than the Top 40 fad that it truly is—a musical Bieby Baby, if you will.
This child’s “art” is dwarfed by that of today’s true artists. Compare Bieber’s trite, bland desciption of love with spoken-word poet Gemineye’s proclamation of passion. Bieber: “It’s like an angel came by and took me to heaven, like you took me to heaven, girl.” Gemineye: “I want to engage you by putting a two-carat solitaire diamond on your mind and marrying your every thought. I want to lick every inch of every crevice, so I can get an oral fix from each orifice and taste your passionate imagination.” Damn. Maybe Gemineye should get a movie deal. Unlikely, perhaps, but never say never.