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The Conversation: Justin Bieber


Justin Bieber: Merely saying his name in conversation causes teenage girls the world-over to scream, cry and lose control of their motor functions. He’s caused riots and been the subject of a 3-year-old’s emotional breakdown on YouTube. And he doesn’t even have a driver’s license. Why is the USA catching Bieber Fever? Here to discuss are Press writers Jaclyn Gallucci and Kaitlyn Piccoli and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson.


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Jaclyn

The Bieb! He’s so dreamy.

Mike

You know, I’m inundated with images and words related to Justin Bieber—online, print, in-store signage, radio promotions—but I don’t know that I have ever heard a song by the guy. This is not to say I have never heard his music—I’m sure it has been playing audibly somewhere in my vicinity—but I have never been aware I am listening to him. That speaks to a generational divide (I’m 35) and a cultural divide (my listening patterns don’t lead me directly to the Top 40) but also, I think, suggests his music takes a back seat to his demographic appeal. (His key demographics being, I would guess, pre-teen girls and pedophiles, two groups for whom music is a tertiary consideration.) I don’t mean to suggest he makes bad music, just that his image is much larger (and more important) than his songs.

Jaclyn

I said I didn’t like Clay Aiken once and got hate mail. So I’m going nowhere near Bieber. Right now, there are 1,000 girls searching for a plastic egg with Bieber tickets at Penn Station. I don’t want the 999 who don’t find it clogging my inbox. There’s nothing wrong with Bieber, or with having a crush. But there is something wrong when a 3-year-old has a nervous breakdown because she “loves him.” That just doesn’t happen in the course of playing with dolls.

Kaitlyn

As a 20-something female who grew up a devoted fan of the boy-band resurgence of the late ’90s, I fully understand the profound grip that pop stars have on the tween psyche. Young girls going crazy for pop music is nothing new; it’s been happening since Lisztomania in the 19th century. With that said, Bieber’s fans are approaching a scary level. It’s one thing to know every lyric by heart and scream yourself hoarse at a concert (our parents did it with the Beatles and New Kids On the Block); it’s quite another to form a near-riot at Roosevelt Field just to get near him. While you used to wait all week for your favorite singer or band to be on TRL after school, now you follow them on Twitter and Facebook and know what they’re doing 24/7. It’s no longer about the romantic notion of music sung by cute boys—it’s full-on Internet stalking.

Mike

Wait a sec: “Our parents”? My SISTER listened to New Kids. My YOUNGER sister.

Kaitlyn

OK, I take back “our parents.” I mean Bieber’s fan’s parents.

Mike

Um, is that somehow supposed to make me feel better?

Kaitlyn

No, it’s not. Just stating the facts here buddy.

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Jaclyn

Excuse me, as a fellow old person who remembers those days long ago when MTV actually played music, I would like to say that I was not one of those crazy chicks who obsessed over the New Kids. That said, I of course had a NKOTB Trapper Keeper, but that was merely to maintain my place in the delicate social structure that is the third grade.

Mike

Kaitlyn, leaving aside your relentlessly insensitive ageism, the point you make is a good one: It does start to feel like stalking, or something similarly repulsive. Curiously, whenever we post a Bieber-related story on LongIslandPress.com, we get dozens of comments from young girls (or grown men pretending to be young girls) including a phone number at which Justin Bieber can reach them. Naturally the phone numbers are redacted on the site, but still: Where does THAT come from? That willingness to provide such personal information on a public forum? To me, that suggests a perceived intimacy much greater than we’ve seen in the past, and one that could lead to some truly disastrous consequences.

Jaclyn

It comes from parents who have the time to pimp their kids out on YouTube, but don’t bother teaching them common sense things like don’t post your phone number on the web. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing—that these kids are putting themselves in danger, or the fact that they really believe—at 13, 14 years old—Justin Bieber is going to see their number and call them.

Mike

That’s a disquieting thought. On a potentially related note, I recall a recent radio promotion wherein girls were asked to call the station and cry—like, sob—for a chance to meet Justin Bieber. Some of the girls sounded like they were electrocuting themselves to invoke wails greater than their competitors. It was truly chilling radio.

Kaitlyn

It’s disarming to see how willing these girls are to humiliate themselves for a boy they don’t even know. What’s more disturbing is that websites and radio shows are giving them with a forum to do it, for entertainment. All I can say is I’m glad my preteen obsessions stopped when Justin Timberlake started sporting that ridiculous afro.

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