When it comes to popular culture I’m like the black cooks who worked in lavish hotels and restaurants in the 1950s – observing everything that goes on but firmly ensconced in the shadows invisible to the players that be. So to say I’ve never heard of Justin Bieber would not be exactly true. To say, I wished I’d never heard of him would be more like it. But hey I’m not here to knock the guy. We humans have only a finite amount of time on this earth and anyone who can take a bite out of life and have millions of fans swoon over you while you do it – more power to you.
But what makes me spend my time today talking about the B-man instead of finishing up the bibliography for my book that’s due to be released in June or editing that Web story I have to get to is the fact that Justin Bieber represents a cultural trend that has been brewing for the last decade but has firmly reached a fever pitch. No, I’m not talking about his blatant vanillazation of black music. Yes this Canadian tot has once again made black music more palatable beyond the niche R&B market. We’ve seen that many times – Elvis can thank Big Momma Thorton for his hit “Hound Dog,” and how many of you scratch your heads at the meteoric rise of New Kids on the Block while simultaneously crying in your pillow over New Edition’s relative obscurity outside the black community?
Justin B., is somewhat famous because he’s successfully de-ghettoize, ghetto music – but nowadays that’s no big whup when arguably one of the biggest hip hop stars on the planet is a white boy – Detroit street cred notwithstanding.
What fascinates me about Justin B., is his ability to shape, control and master his own image – and singing career – thoroughly vexing the media, pundits, MTV and even the radio industry.
He’s the YouTube American Idol but without all the creepy (but amazingly accurate) Simon Cowell commenting and demonizing commercialization FOX’s hit show is famous for.
For those of you who don’t know (How could you not they even have cable in prison these days!) Justin came to fame after posting videos of him singing in local talent contests on YouTube. He quickly got a following of young girls – who let’s face it do not have the most discriminating tastes Tom Cruise still melts my heart even though he’s totally mental – and a guy in the Atlanta music scene noticed him and a star was born. He’s so popular that his manager was actually arrested for not Tweeting about him. (Of course, you can now by an infamous Free Scooter T-shirt now that Justin has worn the plain black and white tee, for just $24.95. Scooter is Justin’s manager’s nickname. Yikes I know way to much about this kid.)
Signing with the ultra-hip Def Jam and being mentored by another phenom Usher it doesn’t surprise me that old-school rappers like Ludacris are showing up in Justin B.’s videos and that they tyke peppers his language with “whatever’s” and “Wassups…”
What I love about this kid – and it’s not his talent or his looks – is his seemingly untainted irreverence for all this stuff going on around him. The girls, the fans, the interviews, the adults running his life. It’s like you look at this kid and you feel that he’s just amused by the whole thing. I saw a short clip of him on TMZ (please don’t tell anyone) and he was just relishing in the fact that they were talking to him about girls. And when they asked the obligatory question about what was the best thing about all this fame he gave the expected “THE GIRLS,” exclamation with an unexpected hint of sarcasm.
I mean, I’m so sick of all these non-impact “performers” – yes Miley Cyrus, Kelley Clarkson, Kate Gosselin, et. al. I’m talking to you – assaulting my senses with their unappealing, unremarkable and just plain mediocrity and then having the nerve to act like they’re the second coming. If the American populous weren’t so starved for some kind of meaning none of them would even rate a Wikipedia page. (Got Jesus?) But they prance around like they’re offering something meaningful to society. I’d take a Lizz Wright over a Miley any day but each to their own. So thank you Justin for pulling back the tinsel curtain and just plain reveling in your unexplained popularity and know that it is totally random. Maybe it’s because he’s Canadian that he realizes his place in the overall scheme of the American public. Who knows? But I find it utterly refreshing. Go Justin Bieber.