“Rather than the rise-to-fame narrative of his first concert movie, 2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, it amounts to damage control by way of distraction.” Marc Hirsh, Boston Globe
The movie Mr. Hirsh is talking about, Bieber’s second cinematic adventure, is Believe. Based on early box office showings—somewhere around $4.5 million in its first five days—not many people believed in his second movie. This, and many other facts about this young Canadian star, both good and bad, simply point to the obvious. His life is rife with controversy. He is always in the press.
Born Justin Drew Bieber on March 1, 1994, in London, Ontario, he later moving to Stratford. He’s the son of Jeremy Jack. His mother is Patricia Mallette. Mallette herself has been extensively interviewed, and has often talked about her early struggles. In fact, everyone tried to push her toward getting an abortion. She held many low-paying jobs, and lived in low-income housing. Her mother and stepfather helped her raise her son. For readers interested in her full story, she published Nowhere but Up, her memoirs, in the fall of 2012.
Bieber’s elementary school, in Stratford, Ontario was Jeanne Sauvé Catholic School, a French-language immersion school. Growing up, Bieber’s musical interests resulted in him teaching himself to play piano, drums, guitar, and trumpet. But like a lot of other kids, he had other interests. For example, he liked hockey, soccer, and chess. His love of music and singing, however dominated his life as early as when he was just 12 years old.
Without a doubt, Justin is a hugely talented performer. At 12 years of age, in 2007, he entered a local singing competition in Stratford and placed second (singing “So Sick”). Mallette posted that video on YouTube, initially just for family and friends. But then she kept posting videos of various songs he sang—mostly R&B tunes. And so, as with quite a few talented artists these days, Bieber was discovered on YouTube. In his case, it was American talent manager Scooter Braun who saw his videos on YouTube in 2008. While Braun later went on to manage the star, things got rolling when an early meeting was brokered between Bieber and Usher—Usher is a huge supporter of the singer/actor—and the rest was, and is, history. Bieber was signed to Island records, though currently, his labels also include Teen Island, RBMG, and School Boy.
How successful has Bieber been with his music? Extraordinarily! His debut, My World, released in the fall of 2009, soon became certified platinum in the United States. He was the first artist in history to have all of the songs from his debut extended play appear on Billboard’s Hot 100. A studio album soon followed and it debuted at number-one in several countries. His first tour, the My World Tour, came shortly after the single “Baby”. Before his second studio album, Under the Mistletoe, appeared in November 2011, his biopic concert film, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never appeared in theatres (and did quite well worldwide, earning almost $100 million dollars). Though the movie Believe didn’t do well at the box office, the album did, debuting at #1 on Billboard 200 in 2012.
Most of Bieber’s meteoric rise to fame and media attention had been positive, good news up to 2013 or so, and helped establish his name alongside other Canadian musical stars. But along the way, the tremendous pressure of fame began to take its toll. There’s been abundant negative press surrounding some of Bieber’s gaffes, and sometimes awkward or immature stunts.
On Christmas Eve, 2013, Bieber tweeted this: “My beloved beliebers I’m officially retiring”. Shortly after he tweeted “I’m never leaving you, being a belieber is a lifestyle.” Rumours continue to abound, but we’re including these tweets as a possible indicator that Bieber is feeling the pressure. Here’s a shortlist of just a few of the incidents involving Bieber that, well, didn’t go down well:
- A photograph showing him at London theatre apparently smoking pot, and passed out
- His ditching his pet monkey in Germany (while it was in quarantine)
- His apologizing to former President Bill Clinton for defacing a photo of him
- Signing the guest book in the Anne Frank House museum with “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
- His being charged in two different countries—the United States, and Canada—for driving under the influence, and assault, respectively
Many rising stars, especially young ones, trip up like this. Most of these incidents, and others, seem entirely preventable; we’ll leave the reader to decide that. The balance and maturity required to walk hand-in-hand with fame, however, are mammoth. And speaking of mammoth, we’d like to end this article by pointing to a few more of Bieber’s accolades.
Among the awards Bieber has received are Artist of the Year at both the 2010 and 2012 American Music Awards. He was nominated for two Grammys (Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album). He was named by Forbes in 2012 as “the third most powerful celebrity in the world.” In terms of sheer fan popularity, as of early 2014, Bieber had an estimated 46.5 million fans on Twitter (in a neck-and-neck race with Katy Perry). He has 63 million fans on one of his Facebook pages.
So perhaps, in the end, this young Canadian star can do without the support of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (see this CBC News piece for the full story), and unlike the Mayor, take a little time off, away from the spotlight.