If you’re an obsessive Twitter user like I am (follow me! @jocelynhope. I’m awesome.), you’re probably wondering who the hell this Justin Bieber kid is. From the scanty information I gathered before I decided to dive deeper down the rabbit hole of choirboys with unfortunate haircuts who sing about love and sex, I concluded that Justin Bieber is a 15-year-old white kid who was discovered on YouTube, and now hangs out with Ludacris. And he did that We Are the World cover. The one that didn’t have Stevie Wonder in it, and thus sucked. And he’s from Canada.
Curious as to why this whippersnapper consistently tops Twitter’s trending topics, I decided to watch a music video of his to better understand this teen sensation. Feeling adventurous, I chose to watch the video for “One Time”. It starts out with J-Beeb and his friend doing 15-year-old boy things, like playing video games, saying “skillz” with a z, and having iPhones that their parents bought them. Kids. Justin’s typical privileged childhood fun is interrupted by a call from R & B singer Usher. Turns out Justin, because he is ostensibly a celebrity, is crashing at Usher’s house. Or he’s housesitting for Usher. Now, why Usher, who is rich and famous and supposedly marginally intelligent, is entrusting his house to a 15-year-old YouTube sensation is beyond me. Because, like every high school sophomore left alone in a large house for more than five minutes, Justin immediately texts all his friends to tell them that there is a party at Usher’s house. Brilliant.
And here’s where the song begins. The song itself is really nothing special. A bit more Auto-Tune and it’s pretty much indistinguishable from any Akon or T-Pain song. It’s what I like to call Ringtone Rap. It’s the non-threatening, vaguely electronic crooned semi-rap you mainly hear in Forever 21 stores and blaring from the cellphones of preteen girls. The lyrics are like a Mad Libs of Ringtone Rap; they have phrases like “Imma” and talk about a vague sense of oneness with an anonymous “Girl”, who is addressed as “Girl”. I’m not entreating Justin to sing about the geopolitical situation in the Middle East or make subtle allusions to the works of Terrance Hawkes, but his lyrics leave much to be desired. Say what you will about Aaron Carter, but his songs had a touch of ingenuity in the subject matter; whereas Bieber prefers to stay in the safe zone of chaste white-boy love, Carter dared to tackle tougher issues, like his vivid dream-become-real in which he beats Shaquille O’Neal in a game of pickup basketball.
The video is as meh as his lyrics. As far as parties thrown by a teenager being left to his own devices go, it’s very tame. Attractive girls who look to range in age from 17 to 25 (ladies, statutory rape goes both ways, don’tcha know) dance in slow motion, and Justin Bieber sets his sights on a woman who looks at least 10 years his senior and kind of looks like Katie Holmes before she assumed her final form of Tom Cruise’s Personal Fembot. At the end, Usher returns to his home to find that Justin has thrown a non-threatening party full of non-threatening white people. If he were sensible at all, he would at the very least chew out this upstart child for throwing an unauthorized party in a home he did not own. Instead, Usher smiles bemusedly and joins the non-threatening revelry. One can only wonder what would happen if J-Beeb did the same thing at Suge Knight’s house.
In this video, we see the things that make up the appeal of Justin Bieber: he sings (or Auto-Croons) with an odd sincerity about a vaguely sexual relationship. He’s not going to make love to you like you want him to, but he’ll make out with you under the bleachers and maybe surreptitiously feel your boobs through your Jonas Brothers T-Shirt. But it’s OK because he’s got a promise ring. He wears a baggy hoodie over his baseball cap that covers his artfully layered, but not emo, hair and has a habit of flashing pseudo-gang signs. And he apparently parties at Usher’s house and hangs out with Ludacris. Justin Bieber’s success, I can say with confidence, partially stems from Americans’ undying amusement at small children and elderly women who act non-threateningly ghetto and say things that would get any pubescent male slammed with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
But in the end, what can I say about the enigmatic Justin Bieber? His lyrics are unimaginative, his fans are capable of stampeding, and his music videos are kind of boring. In a live performance I watched on YouTube, he surprisingly had a fairly decent voice absent Auto-Tune. He’s nowhere near as talented as many other R & B singers, but he wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought he’d be. At this I breathe a sigh of relief, because the Clinton Babies have had a track record of really liking completely tone-deaf people. Let’s hope Justin can maintain his success after puberty rears its ugly, awkward head (unlike Aaron Carter). Until then, all I can say is play that funky music, white boy.