Thursday morning in Miami, Justin Bieber was arrested for doing some incredibly stupid things. Chief among them was driving under the influence, which should never be championed. What set this arrest apart from any other, of course, is the magnitude of Bieber’s celebrity. What if he was someone else?
The popularity of Justin Bieber can’t be understated. He’s running somewhere close to 50 million followers on Twitter, if you want to use that for a metric. Bieber has also figured out some way to release two theatrical documentaries about himself despite only being 19. Nonetheless, these things sell based on his fanbase.
His ultimate undoing comes from the cornerstone of his fan base. Unlike many other musical acts who are awful (looking at you, Imagine Dragons), Bieber gets pre-judged from the fact that his business comes from teenage girls. Their opinion isn’t valued.
Amongst the performers in popular music, those whose music appealed primarily to the demographic of teenage girls were automatically written off. Disparaged through terms like “bubblegum” and the misnomer “boy band”, there was no way they could make a competent record.
A prominent example of recent light is Justin Timberlake. As a member of *NSYNC, he was looked at as a hand-picked artist whose talent was diverted to singing unmemorable leads. When he broke out as a solo act, he still had some of that dust. Then, he got ahold of Timbaland and was suddenly “new and improved”.
The Neptunes had made beats for boy bands before, and are still considerably venerable. When attached to a boy band like the Backstreet Boys or *NSYNC, they’re merely an afterthought to the spectacle that is the ultimate production. All of this leads back to Justin Bieber.
Despite having beats from critically acclaimed producers like The-Dream and Diplo, Bieber’s music is seen as terrible at the outset. Justin Bieber is not making the most complex music in the world and quite honestly doesn’t deserve critical acclaim. The big problem is that even if he did make a well-crafted song, it would essentially be denigrated because of who he is.
As soon as the news broke about Justin Bieber, people engaged in schadenfreude as if he had done something heinous. The ramifications of a DUI were not as important as the fact that an incredibly popular yet much maligned pop star were going to jail. Degree of the crime was not important so much as the fact that he was being arrested for something.
Judgement of Bieber makes sense when you consider that he committed an awful crime. Yet, the resulting thoughts weren’t “he should get help”. They were more of the “he finally gets it!” variety. Once again, we conflict celebrity with action.