Youth Culture Window
You’ve no doubt heard the ear-piercing sound of millions of teary-eyed and trembling tween girls screeching for the cute guy on the stage. But, who’s this new kid that’s stolen the hearts of young American girls?
The Kid with the Great Hair
He’s 16…barely. He’s (really) cute. He’s got some talent. And he’s actually fairly nice. His name is Justin Bieber (pronounced “bee ber”), and though you may not know him, your daughter does. Trust me.
He’s the latest musical import from Canada, and from the looks of things, he’ll finally bring balance to all the sex appeal previously generated by female Canadian singers such as Sarah McLauchlan, Shania Twain, and Avril Lavigne.
Bieber is known for two things: his music and his hair. (I’m still not sure which one of those two has the most renown.) In this slightly sarcastic “Justin Bieber Guide for Old People,” readers learn that the young man was raised in low-income housing by a Christian single mom in Stratford, Ontario. His official bio confirms this, adding that he was an only child.
From the looks of his music videos – which we’ll discuss in a moment – he’s interested in the same stuff that most boys are into: anything tech…and girls.
But that’s where the similarities between him and most other guys cease because his music has garnered him international fame.
A New Path to the Top of the Charts
Bieber isn’t just different from other young guys; he’s different from other musical artists, too. Unlike his melodic peers who’ve spent years touring with bigger names while working their way up the musical ladder, Bieber just posted a few “cover songs” on YouTube.
That’s right. According to Bieber, “I put my singing videos from the competition on YouTube so that my friends and family could watch them. But it turned out that other people liked them and they started subscribing to them. That’s how my manager found me. He saw me on YouTube and contacted my family and now I’m signed!”
He makes it sound simple, doesn’t he?
While Bieber’s not the first to use the web to launch his musical career, he is the first to use YouTube to go mainstream. His online music videos have been viewed over 100,000,000 times. (Yes, you read that correctly; a hundred million!)
That “little statistic” explains why Bieber was fought over by Usher and the “other” Justin, Justin Timberlake. Both megastars knew he would win young girls’ hearts – and their downloading dollars – so they both courted him for their respective record labels. In the end, Usher won out, and Bieber signed on with Island Def Jams.
There’s no doubt that most of those one hundred million hits come from young girls, but what are our girls hearing when they click on Bieber’s music?
Bieber’s opening volleys into the music realm are reminiscent of other male singers/groups like Hanson and The Jonas Brothers: catchy, and for the most part, harmless. A lot of his music (which has a touch of hip hop) is about figuring out relationships between himself and the ladies. Fortunately for our girls, his current message is much cleaner than the other hip hop songs on the charts right now, like this one, and this one…and this one.
“One Time” represents Bieber’s “first time” on the charts. Released as the hit single from his very first album “My World,” the song allows the newfound artist the opportunity to make promises to the girl of his dreams.
One love (Yeah yeah yeah)
My one heart my one life for sure
Lemme tell you one time (girl I love, girl I love you)
I'ma tell you one time (Hey girl I love, girl I love you)
And I'ma be your one guy (one guy)
You'll be my number one girl always makin time for you
I'ma tell you one time (girl I love, girl I love you)
I'ma tell you one time (girl I love, girl I love you)
The rest of the simple (and slightly repetitive) lyrics can be seen here. The song’s music video, which features a cameo by Usher, does show Bieber scoring a kiss from his sought-after girl. But all in all, this is a clean video.
“Baby,” his first release from his latest album “My World 2.0,” features Bieber wrestling with the frustrations that accompany a first love. The song has elementary lyrics, none of which many parents would find objectionable, and that’s a bit of a miracle given that the song and video features the often-foul, guest rapper, Ludacris.
As of this writing, “Baby” has spent 8 weeks on the charts, is currently ranked #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and peaked at #5. Right now, it’s also ranked #8 on iTunes’ “Top Songs.” The music video, set in a bowling alley, accurately shows exactly what teens like to do the most: hang out together.
Another song from “My World 2.0,” “One Less Lonely Girl,” finds Bieber strumming a guitar in a laundry mat – one of several instruments he taught himself to play – inviting the girl of his dreams on a city-wide scavenger hunt to find him so he can return the scarf she accidentally dropped. The wholesome music video tells the entire story.
After listening to his music and watching his videos, I’m pleased to see that Bieber has chosen to launch his musical career with a fairly healthy message. Hey…he could have gone the route of the other teenage boy who liked to sing about girls…I mean “hoes.”
But how long will Bieber stay clean? After all, he’s working for Usher, a known playa.
A Predictable Future?
There have been very few young superstars who’ve maintained their innocence in show biz. The Jonas Brothers, Jordin Sparks, and Demi Lovato have yet to cave to the debauchery that preys upon teenage celebrities, but for every clean act, there are plenty of stars like Britney Spears, Soulja Boys, and Miley Cyrus who are willing to capitulate to peer pressure, unbridled selfishness, and overt sexuality at a young age.
Which path will Bieber follow? Will he remain clean or will he be corrupted?
When asked by Kati Couric in an online interview if he would like to emulate Usher and Justin Timberlake, Bieber replied, “For sure. For sure. I’d like to, you know, build my career around what they’ve done.”
What might that mean? Will he “make love in the club” like Usher or “have sex to save the world” like Timberlake?
I can’t even imagine the pressures these young artists are under on a daily basis. Unfortunately for Bieber, it seems as though he’s getting a full exposure to the Hollywood lifestyle right now. While writing this article, it was reported that Scott “Scooter” Braun, Bieber’s manager, pled not guilty to charges of “reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance, and endangering the welfare of a child.”
That little bit of news could severely change the 40-city tour he’ll headline around the country that he just announced this month.
One to Watch (Closely)
I highly recommend that youth workers and parents keep a close eye on Justin Bieber, for two reasons. First, we need to be aware of his message because of how popular it is with our kids, especially girls. Secondly, regardless of his course of action over the next couple of years, positive or negative, his choices can serve as teaching points to our kids.
He’ll definitely be one to follow closely as his career continues to soar. Hollywood and Music City like to keep their young sensations in the spotlight as much as possible. Just last week, Joe Jonas, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus were featured on American Idol, and this week, Bieber’s boss Usher, will be visiting the FOX television show.
Justin Bieber already has millions of young girls eating out of his hands. For right now, his message seems to be a harmless one about young love. But, as parents and youth workers, we need to constantly monitor his music and message (and others’ music, too) so we can be a reference point to the teenagers we love.
David R. Smith
is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth
workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the
gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year,
Ministry By Teenagers
. David provides free
resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org
David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.
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