The world is peppered with mysteries that will seemingly never be solved: who killed JFK; the true identity of Jack the Ripper; what really became of Amelia Earhart; and just how Lady Gaga manages to walk on her teetering heels.
But currently topping the list is the enigma of just how and why Justin Bieber became so popular.
His singing skills are passable, but hardly the stuff of legendary voices such as that of Michael Jackson (who also started out a child star). His dancing is, at best, competent and his overall image is wholly lacking in originality.
That his fawnlike features, pouty lips and slight frame give him a fragile look almost bordering on the effeminate, makes the shrieking adoration of his teen fans all the more mind-boggling.
So just how did a boy from the wrong side of the North American continent (in this case, Canada) manage to step into the strato- sphere of success and attain the kind of status that affords him his own band of branded minions (aka Beliebers)?
The general party line is that JB’s fame is rooted in the rise of YouTube. In the words of Jon M Chu, who directed Never Say Never, Bieber’s biographical film (yes, he has one of those – at the ripe old age of 18): “Justin wasn’t chosen by a big corporation; he was chosen by the people, kids at home in their living room who are on the internet all day long…”
Yeeess, but so is every Idol, X Factor winner and The Voice victor.
“He’s kept the relationship a one-on-one, almost sort of a texting relationship with his fans, through Twitter,” Chu tells us.
Again, hardly a watertight validation given that virtually every artist nowadays takes to Twitter.
Still, perhaps the secret lies in how the Bieb and his worker bees have gone about executing the perception that Justin is personally invested in every one of his fanat- ics, er, fans. That he’s had the likes of musical powerhouses Usher and LA Reid on his team from the get-go just might have contributed to his success as much as the side-swept perfection of his hair.
And unlike his Jonas Brothers, Jesse McCartney and Miley Cyrus predecessors, Justin separates himself from other teen idols by mere virtue of the fact that he’s not a product of the Disney or Nickelodeon machines. He is his own boy-man. One who feeds every braces-wearing tween’s fantasy of some day whisking them off in his white Ferrari.
All of which only serves to contribute to his carefully manufactured image of the small-town unknown underdog who went on to conquer the world. Or the minds of sparkly pink-nailed girls everywhere, at any rate.
But there is also a less cynical side to the story. By all accounts, Justin should be classed in the same “freak” category as the afore-mentioned legend, MJ: he’s 18, but looks like a 12-year-old girl; he hangs out with people substantially older than him, most of whom – including his mother – are on his payroll, and his days are characterised by shrieking devotees who threaten to kill any poor lass he happens to lock lips with.
But as his Never Say Never doccie revealed, Justin comes across as a normal kid who was shoved into stardom and is simply making the most of the opportunities afforded to him (points scored for his spin doctors). That he remains approachable and doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously helps.
Come May, we Saffers will get to see him in action for ourselves. And even those of us who are dubious as to his true talents might just be tempted to buy into Bieber Fever.
“Cause you know you love him; you know you do.”
LARA DE MATOS