Justin Bieber in the UAE

We try to get inside the head of the seemingly troubled star Discuss this article

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As the Canadian pop sensation prepares to play the biggest music event Dubai has ever seen, Rob Garratt dissects the chart-topping phenomenon and takes a look inside the mind of the increasingly troubled star.

When Justin Bieber’s upcoming gig at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai sold out 25,000 tickets it was already the biggest concert the city had ever seen, according to promoters. So when Done Events announced a second gig, a day after the Saturday May 4 date, it more than sealed Bieber’s position as the biggest music act to ever play our neighbouring emirate. Bieber is incomprehensively huge – he has more Twitter followers than anyone else in the world, at 37 million and counting – but his appeal has been carefully crafted to target a specific age bracket: those older than his own 19 years are likely to be scratching their heads at the teen phenomenon that has clocked three billion YouTube hits – or at least not feel quite as strongly.

Bieber fever may be comparable to the fervent outbursts of Beatlemania, but is that where the comparisons end? Where Lennon and McCartney wrote the bulk of their music and flouted conventions, Bieber appears to many a manufactured star; the puppet creation of savvy record company executives eager to crack the teen market.

Discovered on YouTube in 2008 by American talent manager Scooter Braun, he was introduced to Usher, quietly signed to the pair’s joint management company (reportedly outbidding Justin Timberlake), and quickly packaged as a pop sensation. Just months later he began breaking Billboard records, and was later named the first artist to have seven US chart hits from a debut release, My World. Much is made of his fruitful youth spent teaching himself piano, guitar and trumpet, reportedly mastering the drums at two years of age, but his writing credits are shared with a legion of pro pop songwriters suggesting his control is negligible. It begs the question, how much talent does Bieber really have?

Far more damaging to Bieber than the charges that he lacks talent are the recent accusations that he no longer represents a good role model to his legions of younger fans, especially under increased media scrutiny during the recent European leg of his world tour. Things turned sour on March 4 when Bieber turned up two hours late onstage at London’s The O2. A few days later he was rushed to hospital after collapsing onstage at the same venue, feeding rumours about his physical wellbeing.

A few hours later Bieber got into an altercation with a London photographer, caught on television cameras yelling threats at a paparazzi while he was physically restrained by his entourage. Later that month there were more charges of violence when a neighbour accused Bieber of battery following a confrontation outside his LA home. And in a case of worrying star narcissism, after an April visit to Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House he signed the guestbook ‘hopefully she would have been a Belieber’.

Psychologist Dr Tara Wynne, clinical director of The LightHouse Arabia, a Dubai-based community mental health clinic, said Bieber’s behaviour was likely to get worse before it gets better. ‘It seems all of a sudden that he’s been tagged with this bad boy persona, and it all sounds very much about aggression and impulses,’ she said.

Comparing Bieber to other teenage stars such as Michael Jackson and Miley Cyrus, Dr Wynne said the problems occur because teenage stars are not allowed to develop a normal sense of self. ‘Justin Bieber has been catapulted from a normal existence to an extreme lifestyle of huge expectation. Where do young people get the internal resources to deal with all that? Young people are not prepared to cope, they’re quite primitive, so will often turn to risk-taking behaviour.’

Yet it’s possible, Dr Wynne adds, that this could all just be an attention-seeking act to move from his cutesy youthful image to a more rebellious adolescent, going hand-in-hand with his deeper, mature voice and ageing the Bieber persona as his fans age with him. Whatever the real state of Bieber’s mind when he takes to the stage in Dubai, it’s clear that for tens of thousands of ‘Beliebers’, it will be the greatest moment of their year.

Are you a Belieber?

Justin Bieber’s second major concert tour, Believe, has already proved a long and rocky road. Kicking off in the USA last September, the tour will trundle on for more than 120 dates over ten months before finally wrapping up in Atlanta in August. Announced last September, Bieber’s Middle East debut at The Sevens, on Saturday May 4, sold out in early April. A second date a day later was swiftly announced – but this came hand-in-hand with news that Bieber’s April 6 Muscat date had been cancelled amid concerns in the international press about the raunchier elements of his show.
At the time of going to press tickets for the Sunday May 5 show, priced between Dhs350-1,000, were still available. For details see www.timeouttickets.com.

By Rob Garratt
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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