The War on Justin Bieber
As long as you can remember, you have been a music lover. Though your tastes have always been somewhat eclectic, you have always had a soft spot in your heart for independent singer-songwriters that combine technical proficiency with thoughtful and original lyrics. You’ve even got your school’s principal to agree to let you and your best friend Andy start an after-school music appreciation club, so that you can find others that share your passion and together spread the message of great music to all of your peers.
The club has been a smashing success, and if you do say so yourself, the quality of CDs purchased by your classmates has improved thanks to your leadership. You arrive at this week’s New Music Appreciation Club excited, having discovered some great new artists you think will really set the school on fire. You are a little irked when the meeting is sidetracked. Half of the members are really excited by a new young singer, backed by the Disney corporation, that is just about to release his first album. At first you think it’s some kind of dirty joke you don’t quite get, but soon you realize this new upstart’s name isn’t Justin Beaver, it’s Justin Bieber. But still you remain dubious. This is a guy who’s backed by Disney?
The girl’s in the club seem to be the most excited. They find him dreamy, which annoys you. What should beautiful eyes and skin have to do with making good music? Worse, this Bieber character is billing himself as a new kind of fresh artist, that will deliver a new sound no one has ever heard before; he also promises to fight against “the Man,” and will be more of an indy guy than a corporate tool. This is clearly a lie – the boy works for Disney for God’s sake! But you know that your message of quality music will win the day in the long run, and that no one will end up buying any of this Bieber joker’s albums. When the album is released, however, you are horrified to see that it shatters sales records, and Justin Bieber becomes a worshiped icon by most of your school’s students. You cannot put into words how much this bugs you – everything you have worked for, wiped clean by this corporate weasel! Andy at least sees through Bieber as clearly as you do, and you each make a pact to make Bieber a historical footnote by the time his next album is released.
You and Andy begin gathering allies. It’s easier than you thought it might be. For one thing, there are a lot of guys that are a little jealous of the girl’s swooning, and you discover they hate Bieber as much as you do. But there are also some girls who are indy lovers, and they hate Bieber as well. Within a few short weeks, the school is divided fairly evenly between those that think Bieber is the Devil, and those that believe Bieber to be the heir to Elvis and the Beatles. After a while, each side begins to call each other names that would surely get them sent to the principal’s office, were they overheard by a teacher. You and Andy decide that Bieber lovers have no place in the New Music Appreciation Club, and you kick them out.
One evening while surfing the internet, you are delighted to discover that there are actually websites and blogs dedicated to trashing Justin Bieber. Each links to yet another, and before too long you are a regular on many of them. As you begin to talk to more of your new internet friends, you begin to discover that the truth about Justin Bieber is far more insidious than you had even imagined. For example, most of the site’s members talk about how Bieber’s vocal range is due to his lacking normal testosterone levels, because Justin Bieber is a hermaphrodite! Worse, some people have found old photos and video tape that show that Bieber has associated with Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Phil Spector. The last is the worst, as many of the blogs you read begin to put the pieces together and deduce that it was Bieber actually murdered that woman, and Disney forced Spector to take the rap. The more you learn about these conspiracies, the more furious you become with the so-called “mainstream media.” Why is Rolling Stone not reporting on the obvious fact that Bieber is a murderer? Why won’t Tiger Beat demand that Bieber’s parents release his birth certificate to prove that he’s not a hermaphrodite? There’s only one reason, and it’s obvious – the mainstream media is in on the conspiracy, and all are obviously hiding things.
On the blogs you read, you discover that there are new recording artists that speak out about how much they hate Bieber. After a while, you become convinced that part of what makes a new artist great is the degree to which he or she hates Justin Bieber. You begin to trash some recording artists that you used to love, because they selfishly focus on their own material and refuse to make albums that speak out against Bieber or the Disney Corporation. You decide that the mission of the New Music Appreciation Club is no longer to find fresh new independent artists, but to promote anti-Bieber artists. Because of this, you find that you begin backing crappy artists that, truth be told, sound exactly like Bieber, but are backed by Disney-rival Dreamworks.
You begin to pass out flyers at school, letting people know that Bieber’s sexual nature is in question, and warning all that your school paper is in the pocket of the likes of Michael Eisner or George Soros, since it insists on only “reporting” on trivial matters such as the football team’s record, or the drama club’s production of You Can’t Take It With You opening this week. While you are buoyed by the fact that your inner circle is behind you 100%, you are bitterly aware that many students are laughing at you and your flyers. But the worst is yet to come.
Andy comes to your house one evening, and suggests that maybe you’ve all gotten a little carried away with Justin Bieber. He says that while he doesn’t like Bieber any more than you do, he’s not really sure that Bieber is a hermaphrodite, or that he is the anti-Christ. It might be better, he says, if the New Music Appreciation Club goes back to focusing on great new artists that everyone can enjoy. A lot of people are starting to think the New Music Appreciation Club is a joke, he claims, and what’s worse people are starting to defend Bieber. Not because his music is great or original, but because you’re making them want to by acting kind of crazy. Can’t we, he asks, just start over and listen to some good bands?
You realize now, for the first time, that Andy is a traitor, and has been working for Disney and the Bieber team all along. You toss him unceremoniously out of the New Music Appreciation Club and tell all your remaining allies to never speak to him again. Andy goes off on his own, and tries to start a new club that focuses less on hating Bieber and more on finding new independent artists that kids might like. Both camps, the pro-Bieber and the anti-Bieber, conclude that Andy is not only a spineless toady, but the worst human being ever.
After that, you step up your efforts. You begin to closely read Tiger Beat articles about Bieber, noting his likes and dislikes so that you can tell kids to have diametrically opposed viewpoints. Justin says in one article that he watches How I Met Your Mother; the New Music Appreciation Club puts up flyers declaring How I Met Your Mother is not only drivel, but a threat to the school itself. At one point Justin confesses he hates oranges, and so you go on a huge pro-orange campaign, buying oranges and handing them out to kids for free. Later it turns out that was a misquote – Justin loves oranges. You push hard for the school to adopt a no-citrus in the cafeteria policy.
You realize that Bieber is something so new and so hideous that the only hope for the school’s very survival is to make sure that no one buys his next album. Sure, some people point out that Bieber actually kind of sounds exactly like all the pop starts that came before him, and that the new Dreamwork’s guys you’re pushing sound exactly like Bieber. But that’s just because they’re sheep. They can’t see the big picture.
And so you wait, wracked with anger and true fear, praying to God that when the next Justin Bieber album comes out in late 2012, no one will buy it. You pray hard.
The very fate of your school is at stake.
To me, this is what the past three and a half years have felt like.
And while I confess that the anti-Justin Bieber crowd has been amusing to watch, it’s been frustrating. Because at the end of the day, there’s nothing really original about Justin’s music. It’s basically the exact same as the big Pop Idol that we made #1 before him. Maybe that’s just the nature of Pop Music. But things had gotten so bad with the genre the previous decade that it would have been nice to at least try to make Justin attempt something edgier, with more substance than he was making. We’ll never know, but I have the feeling if complaints about Bieber hadn’t been of the “he’s a hermaphrodite” sort that we might have gotten all the kids at school to demand something better of him. He’s a recording artist that cares about record sales, after all, so he might have been willing to make a better record. Now we’ll never know.
And worst of all, now we’re stuck with this version of Justin Bieber, and most likely will be for another four years.