In 2010, a boy with blonde hair and a golden voice crooned a love ditty, which resonated in classrooms in Delhi, clubs in Miami, and became the background score of many a love story. His voice, not yet cracked; his dance skills enviable; his blue eyes and bee-stung lips made 16-year-old Justin Bieber a household name.
Seven years since that hit single Baby, Bieber’s music, his life and that of his fans has changed. Today, he performs in Mumbai to a crowd that more or less worships him. The `JB’ army of true believers is ready with Bieber merchandise, posters, placards, henna tattoos, and whatnot. Tears will flow, goosebumps will be felt and Bieber hashtags will take over social media.
Raised in a middle-class family by a single mother in Canada, and discovered on YouTube in 2007, when he was all of 13, Bieber’s journey pretty much defines fame in the age of social media. Here was a kid, recording covers of his favourite musicians and uploading them on YouTube, being fought over by some of the biggest music labels in the US. His inspiring story gave wings of hope to many. If he could, we could, many thought.
From being that innocent looking, sweet sounding teenage kid to that mugshot which went viral when he was arrested for DUI (driving under influence) in 2014 – Bieber’s persona changed as much as his music. He was suddenly the bad boy. Tabloids couldn’t get enough of his messy break-ups, charges of vandalism and racist graffiti, and backstage tantrums. His squeaky clean, Disney prince charming image had given way to an alleged sex god who patronised brothels and couldn’t get enough lap dances. The idol had fallen, as they always do. But the JB army – which had grown up alongside him – didn’t leave his side, their love for him only getting louder, more brazen and often illogical.
And then in 2015, he released another hit Where are you now featuring American DJ Jack U. While everyone was busy figuring out how baby Bieber turned into bad boy Bieber, he went ahead and changed the sound of his music. With this song, he entered the EDM zone. He followed it up with What do you mean and the megahit Sorry, and just like that Bieber entered a different league, one that saw him mixing up his trademark teen-pop with R&B and electronic dance music. It was no longer just for pre-teens and teenagers, and this so far is the loudest sign of his evolution.
Last month on his 23rd birthday, the change was obvious, and out there on Instagram for the world to see, as he posted a photo of his mugshots side by side – one from the DUI day and the other one from 2017, with the caption “I love this because it reminds me I’m not exactly where I want to be but thank god I am not where I used to be. The best it yet to come. Do you believe it?”