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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Explaining the Bieber Fever – Who is Justin Bieber?

Explaining the Bieber Fever - Who is Justin Bieber?

Seriously, what is the deal with Justin Bieber?

The sixteen-year-old is technically a singer, but he is better known as an unstoppable online icon and prodigious teenage sensation.  Recent Twitter studies have shown that 3% of the microblogging servers are dedicated to him, and his name is mentioned 60 times per second during peak hours.  To put this statistic in perspective, co-founder Evan Williams reported that Twitter averages 90 million tweets per day, which means there are approximately 2.7 million mentions of Justin Bieber on any given day.  In simpler terms, it appears as if Bieber’s online fandom has the influence and prevalence measurable to a small country. 

Who is Justin Bieber?
How could a single person, let alone a harmless and inoffensive teenager from a small town in Canada, warrant so much attention?  What could possibly be so fascinating about Justin Bieber?  Although his two albums (titled My World and My World 2.0) skyrocketed in sales, he hardly lit up the music industry with any interesting or innovative songs.  And with all due respect to teenagers, his life experiences at the age of sixteen are virtually non-existent.

Despite his lack of accomplishments, the Internet’s ongoing conversation about Justin Bieber is growing more prominent each day.  The discussions often revolve around his helmet hair, his eight-year-old girl voice, or his tendency to attract water bottles hurling at him on stage.  Nobody said he was an interesting guy, but the Internet sure has taken an unhealthy interest to him.  In any case, the mundaneness of Justin Bieber has not stopped his popularity one bit.  While his celebrity status may seem very fortunate, I do not believe his success is entirely accidental.  In an attempt to rationalize the ‘Bieber fever’, this article will analyze the numerous factors that contributed to his massive appeal.

There is a large part of society that loves a triumphant underdog story.  Unlike the children of celebrities, who were born into the media spotlight, nobody anticipated the same level of popularity from a small-town boy raised in Stratford, Ontario.  There is a difference in how we perceive teenage stars like Miley Cyrus compared to Justin Bieber. The former catapulted to celebrity fame with the help of her daddy’s role in producing Hannah Montana, but she also comes across as artificial and entitled in many media reports.  It is somewhat difficult to root for Cyrus to succeed, especially with so many controversies that she attracts, and especially with a silver spoon fed into her mouth.

In contrast, Justin Bieber’s humble beginnings made him far more down-to-earth than other teenage icons that crash and burn.  Before he was discovered on Youtube in 2008, he was just a regular kid who participated in some singing competitions, but otherwise an unknown entity in the celebrity world.  A lot of his fan momentum stemmed from the fact that his popularity was not planned or calculated.  His rise to fame felt like an organic, modernized Cinderella story, complete with a fairy godmother named Usher.  That is not to say he became popular because people felt sorry for him, but rather Bieber resonated with the masses because he was very relatable.

‘Relatable’ is a tricky word to describe Justin Bieber.  Many of his fans are normal teenagers, so he is obviously a relatable figure.  And yes, a lot of these teenagers do spend too much time on the Internet, littering the web with every mundane thought in their developing minds.  However, I also believe the online community took a liking to Justin Bieber, because they could ‘relate’ to his journey – an ordinary guy who would not have been recognized without the Internet.  In essence, the web is Bieber’s place of origin.  Hence, the Internet ‘adopted’ Bieber as one of their own.  We propelled his popularity through Twitter, just like how he initially reached out to us via Youtube.

Explaining the Bieber Fever
Bieber has several unique attributes that are critical to his success.  First of all, he appears to be very enthusiastic about his abrupt fame.  Whereas others might flounder under the pressure of so much media attention, Bieber thrives on it.  We know plenty of celebrities who try to lead a ‘private’ life, thus shutting themselves out of the limelight as much as possible.  Yet, Bieber welcomes the publicity with opens arms, always managing a gracious and inviting attitude towards any media platform.  In a 2010 interview with The Early Show, Bieber says: “It's been such an amazing experience coming from a little town in Canada and to have it evolve to what it is today. So I'm very blessed.”  This gratefulness is a recurring theme in his numerous interviews.

He is also appreciative of his massive fan base.  Many celebrities thank their fan followings in the occasional interview or awards speech, but actions speak louder than words, and Justin Bieber works very hard to reach out to his fan base.  Perhaps because he is a teenager himself, but Bieber frequently interacts with his fans via Twitter.  On September 16th, one fan tweets: “I have a 1 out of 5 million chance that @justinbieber will see this and tweet me a happy birthday.” And of course, Bieber’s response: “HAPPY BDAY! #smile”.  He also consistently leaves messages like “im honored and thankful to have ur support” and “greatest fans in the world!”  The relationship is clear: Justin Bieber loves his fans as much as they love him.

Finally, and most importantly, this kid has a lot of charisma.  He is not particularly articulate or insightful, but Bieber is charming enough to play up to his adoring fans.  He knows the right words to say to get a positive reaction.  He knows the right avenues to reach out to his targeted demographics.  He even knows the right time to wink at the audience, thus causing all the girls to swoon in unison.

Justin Bieber is such a self-aware celebrity who never lets the fame get to his head.  In addition to working very hard to maintain his fame and popularity, he knows how to market himself to maximum potential.  “Bieber Fever” and “Beliebers” often trend on Twitter, and as corny as these nicknames may sound, they capture his essence perfectly – he is playfully winking to his fans, winking to his dissenters, and winking to the web in general.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he is serious about his fans, his fame, and his career.  This kid put a lot of effort into becoming a celebrity.

The Internet may be obsessed with Justin Bieber, but not without good reason.

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