Can someone please explain Justin Bieber to me?
I ask because I can't pass a newsstand without seeing his innocent little face, framed by his sincere bowl-cut. Yes, I grasp the concept that he's a budding pop star and that he's beloved by the training-bra set. What I've yet to figure out is why he inspires such frenzy.
Also, what's the deal with the 'do?
I wonder if part of his popularity stems from his name, particularly as it's ripe for headline puns, e.g. "True Beliebers" and "UnBeliebable" and "The Bieber Has Landed!" I'd wager his name alone garners extra press . . . and more than a few punchlines on Letterman's Top Ten lists. Seriously, in terms of words that are fun to say, Bieber is the new Buttafuoco.
I grew up in the '80s and we had our share of feathery-haired, doe-eyed, clear-skinned teen idols, too. My Bieber-of-choice was Shaun Cassidy, followed by brief but intense crushes on Leif Garrett, Jimmy McNichol and Scott Baio. I hail from a generation that spawned not one but two Coreys, so trust me when I say I'm familiar with the concept of the non-threatening, vaguely androgynous, dewy-skinned man-child.
But this Bieber kid -- he's different from the garden variety teen idol today and I'm trying to put my finger on why. What puzzles me most is his fans' intensity. My peers used to be content with snipping artfully staged shots of our icons out of Tiger Beat. We'd buy Mr. Cassidy's records or beg to stay up late if Chachi guest-starred on "The Love Boat," but that was the extent of our devotion.
At no point would we tweens consider sending death threats via Twitter to the Kardashian who dared pose with our golden boy. (On a related note, I also struggle to understand the Kardashians. Why exactly are they famous? I mean, other than being sired by the attorney who successfully defended someone whom all but 12 people in America can agree committed murder?)
But back to Bieber -- I did a book-signing last week and a mother brought her 10-year-old daughter along. Figuring this would be the perfect opportunity to finally satisfy my quest for Bieber-related answers, I asked the kid, "Don't you just want to hold him down . . . and cut his hair? Or maybe give him a tan and feed him a sandwich?"
She hissed, "No, he's perfect," with such a steely glare and steadfast determination that I dared not continue my line of questioning. (FYI, now I can tell you with full confidence exactly whom 10-year-olds don't like.)
In trying to figure out what's so appealing about this boy, I researched him on Wikipedia. According to sources, Bieber comes across as having "street cred" due to having worked with a "swagger coach."
Despite it being me who just wrote the previous paragraph, I have no idea what I meant by any of this and I'm still flummoxed.
To be clear, it's not as though Bieber is the Israel to my Palestine and I deny his right to exist. I'm just saying I don't understand the madness surrounding the kid.
However, Bieber Fever reminds me of a group of teen idols who burst on the scene half a century ago. The four of them also were pretty boys -- young, skinny, pale and, ironically, sporting coifs straight from Bieber's own bowl.
So I wonder if this means Bieber's in it for the long haul? Perhaps in 30 years "American Idol" will be featuring songs not from The Beatles' extensive collection, but from the Bieber's.
One can only hope he gets a trim before then.
(Jen Lancaster is author of the books "Such a Pretty Fat," "Pretty in Plaid" and "Bitter is the New Black" and the soon-to-be published "My Fair Lazy." Visit her online at jennsylvania.com.)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun