Justin Bieber recently embarked on the UK leg of his Purpose World Tour, and was welcomed by hordes of extremely enthusiastic fans – many of whom have been waiting over three years to see the star, whose last UK tour was in March 2013. Unfortunately, the performer has not responded warmly to their love, and has proved himself to be undeserving of it. During one of his concerts in Birmingham, Justin told an arena of Beliebers that their screaming was “obnoxious”. At a following show in Manchester, he continued to criticise his fans, and told them that the screaming “has got to stop”. When they continued to scream – unable to contain their excitement – he dropped his microphone and stormed off stage.
This is an act of a diva. This is an act of someone who has let the Bieber Fever go to his head – he’s delirious with it.
Bieber began his career at 16, and as a now-22-year-old young man, he is somewhat understandably frustrated with his status as a ‘teen heartthrob’. Nobody is the same as their 16-year-old-self several years on, and few of us would want to be treated in the same way as we were then. This is something that fame certainly makes complicated.
However, wanting to be taken seriously as an artist is not a problem (though Bieber might want to reconsider miming at his concerts if he truly wants this). The problem is what he is equating with credibility and what he is shunning in the process of his ‘growth’.
Bieber’s fanbase – predominantly made up of teenage girls – is central to his career. These are the people who enable him to do what he loves (and make him ridiculously rich), and they deserve his respect. In his desperation to prove himself as a ‘real artist’, the star is accepting majorly misogynistic conceptions of his fans. The entire ordeal reeks of mainstream media’s belittling of fangirls for their ‘hysteria’ – screaming being the key act which is attacked, always. In demanding his fans stop screaming, Bieber is shutting them down for having emotions and expressing them; he is telling them that their happiness and enthusiasm is not okay. Whatever happened to “when U smile, I smile”, Justin?
It’s ironic that Bieber is now embodying the very same attitude which has acted as a barrier to him throughout his career. He should be angry with critics who dismiss him for holding the attention of teenage girls, not the girls themselves. He should be aware of how ridiculous this sexism is – his whole life is the product of the power of teenage girls! It is disappointing that he is unable to recognise this, and chooses to disrespect and reject the passion that his career his built upon.
It is entirely possible to ‘grow’ as an artist without alienating your original audience (and without being a sexist pig). Just ask Zayn Malik, former member of the X-Factor formed boyband One Direction. Zayn’s debut solo album Mind of Mine is a drastic departure from the sounds that 1D produce, even writing and singing one song – ‘Flower’ – in Urdu. He is doing exactly what he wants to do with his career now, is establishing himself apart from his past – but he has not done so at the cost of his earlier fans. Although Malik has been critical of the construction of One Direction itself, he has also displayed a deep gratitude for his experiences in the band, expressing that it was “an incredible experience” that he will treasure forever.
Even more importantly, he continues to be nothing but respectful towards the band’s “amazing” fans, constantly thanking them for their love and support. He is looking to grow as an artist, but he isn’t arrogant about it – he is more than happy to bring the One Direction fans along for the ride, and he accepts that with them comes screaming and selfies. In fact, he delights in it, because he knows that this is a part of how his fans express their joy.
Bieber would do well to learn from Malik’s grace, and soon. Because, sooner or later, it will be too late to say sorry.