You guys, this is so awkward. I actually felt bad for homeboy. Awards shows are not legitimate barometers for talent so much as they are for someone’s commercial success and industry politics. I think people would like for there to be some kind of legitimacy in them, but there is not, so if someone you don’t like wins something or someone you do like loses something, just shrug your shoulders and move on. Last night at the Billboard Awards Justin Bieber won their first ever Milestone Award. Something like that is bound to piss people off because Justin is a polarizing musician: some are indifferent to him, some hate him and some take him very seriously. When Justin went on stage to get his award he was met with about 50% boos and 50% applause. What happened after was incredibly awkward.
Justin gave this weird half-speech because he was completely taken aback by the response. He says, “I am not a gimmick.” To me it’s interesting that he recognizes his public persona and I can’t imagine what that kind of thing does to a teenager. (Actually I can because there is an extensive list of child stars who have had mental breakdowns.)
Justin Bieber wants to be recognized as an artist and said, “It should be about the craft.” What’s sad is that he is right, it should be about the craft. However, Justin doesn’t have the foresight to understand that he actually isn’t an artist. There is no doubt about it that someone as famous as him works hard, long extensive hours however while going to rehearsals, interviews and photo shoots might be strenuous it has little to do with craft. I think somewhere along the lines Justin began to believe he is a real artist because he works so hard.
Justin doesn’t write his own songs or compose his own music so where is the artistry he refers to? Perhaps it’s in the performance? I am a Britney fan and I know the stage is her real talent (which is why when she lost her ability to perform it was an epic tragedy).
The kind of performances that Justin and Britney (and Beyonce) produce are testaments more so to their athleticism and work ethic rather than any kind of musical ability. They’re OK singers, OK dancers and don’t write or produce their own music. Yet, can anyone be Justin Bieber or Britney? No. Many people have been where they have been, were given the same opportunities and chances, yet have failed to rise to the occasion.
These kinds of manufactured pop stars do have drive, have ambition, have the unique ability to give up a lot of good, normal things and deal with a lot of stuff that would drive anyone toward the brink of insanity and put a smile on the whole time. Until, of course, they can no longer maintain their perfect facades (like Beyonce and Taylor Swift) and begin to crack like Justin did when he acknowledged that not everyone thinks he is the coolest, hottest, guy on the planet and Britney did when she would speak to the paparazzi in a valley girl accent to mock their perception of her.
I am not a fan of Justin’s music but at the same time I know better than to blame him for it since he doesn’t create it and the fact that millions of people like it makes it a valid form of music. The worst criticism I think he faces is the one that suggests that because he sings music for largely teenage girls that it makes his music less legitimate. Because teenage girls are stupid (oh and I guess teenage boys know where all the good shit is?). If Justin’s fans were middle class, hipsters in Williamsburg then he would be perceived in a completely different way but because young girls like his music it has less integrity. While I realize he doesn’t create his own music, neither does Beyonce but she is praised as an artist, and there is craftsmanship in the creation of Justin’s music just not by him.
Why do we lash out at the people who are merely one aspect of an entire brand? Justin is the face, he is the performer, then there are the musicians, there are the backup dancers, there are the producers, the PR – there’s a team of people putting this gigantic, monumentous production on and we’re getting mad at the person who has the least autonomy and agency in the matter. It’s like getting mad at Leonard DiCaprio because Baz Luhrmann’s version of Gatsby sucked. You can critique Leo’s performance but that’s the only responsibility he has. Justin is merely playing a role in a spectacle and he plays it well, he shows up on time, sends a few heartfelt tweets to his fans, hits the right notes at the right time and goes home.
When you start pissing on him because you don’t like the idea of manufactured stars you’re pissing on the wrong person (and quite frankly destroying their sense of self in the process.) Don’t hate the teenage boy, hate the game.
P.S. I know he is sort of a douche but so is Kanye West and we all seem to manage to recognize his legitimacy as an artist, jam to his music and acknowledge that he is sort of a dickwad.