JUSTIN BIEBER: TEEN IDOL, a doco by MAUREEN GOLDTHORPE

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JUSTIN BIEBER: TEEN IDOL, a doco by MAUREEN GOLDTHORPE

When Justin Bieber seemingly appeared out of nowhere to the soundtrack of cute r'n'b pop and screaming girls, people who should have known better -- especially those media commentators who had been there for Beatlemania in their own youth -- just seemed idiotic in their damning and condescending comments. They came off as more silly than the girls who screamed because these were people who should have had a greater context of pop culture references.

When he arived in New Zealand I wrote this column, not in Bieber's defense but in defense of kids who were letting their hormones run free in a pretty harmless way. And those old grumps might want to go back to the lives of their own great teen idols - the Beatles, Jagger, T.Rex et al -- and consider just how much screaming attended their early careers. Sinatra too come to that.

It was far too early to dismiss Bieber as a no-talent as many did (some, I suspect, without hearing a note he'd sung).

And wasn't it Paul Simon who sang "every generation throws a hero up the pop charts"?

If you want to find out about the Bieber phenomenon this doco probably isn't the best place to come. It has a breathless, hyperbole-filled narration by Glen Brackenbridge (I am guessing he's an MTV-J or a radio jock) and there is very little footage of Bieber singing. There is in fact not a great deal of footage at all and much of it gets repeated throughout the 70 minutes.

But it does give you the sketchy outline of his short life -- his parents in a small Canadian town were teens when they had him and split almost immediately, he grew up in a religious household and was the darling child given all the support and encouragement he wanted, he played ice hockey, loved Michal Jackson, started to sing a bit, his mum put some clips up on the internet . . .

Nothing in any of that would seem to condemn him. 

And in the interviews here he seems alarmingly normal given what was going on around him at the time. In a word, screaming. Or Bieberfever if you wil.

He seems polite, quick humoured and quite a natural talent.

What is also interesting though -- and you just know his management is smart enough to spot this, exploit it and also keep it arms length -- is the converse of all those grumpy nay-sayers. Some just flocked to him so as to appear hip and down with the kids. So cue a Kardashian, models almost old enough to be his mum, B-grade celebs etc.

It became important to be seen to be with "the Bieber", as he jokingly calls himself.

Of course real talents like Usher -- who similarly grew up in public athough not quite as fast -- were there because they identified his talent.

But on the evidence here there isn't a case to be made that he is a great dancer like his hero Michael Jackson, and certainly his pop is manufactured for the marketplace. (Not an accusation you'd make against the young Beatles or Marc Bolan of course. Ho ho ho.)

Yes, things happened fast for him -- we live in the age of instant messaging so how could it be otherwise? -- and we might have to draw a big breath to see how long his career lasts. But the evidence is that it could go further than those grumps would like to believe.

Of course he will screw up at some point -- he's still got plenty of time for that -- but so far with a tight coterie of people around him (they all get their little profiles here) he might just last the distance.

And if he doesn't, so what?

For the screaming kids -- and they are well represented here, one girl sobbing uncontrollably and all you need to do is change it to black'n'white and it could have come from America in '64 -- Bieber is the unattainable, cute boy next door.

That they scream for him and like his music doesn't seem to indicate the fall of Western civilisation to me.

Open-minded about this phenomena? Then check out this.


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