Monday, June 20, 2011

COLUMN: Bieber

Is it just me, or does this photo scream, "I have to poop!" ??

I woke up today with one clear thought in my brain:

Justin Bieber has a lot in common with the Beatles.

My girlfriend earns extra cash frequently babysitting two of the cutest girls (ages 6 & 7) ever to walk the earth. I, having never been around kids since I was one myself, greet our time together with a mix of fascination and fear. Most of the time, I sit around in an awkward display of helplessness while they run around like they've been out mainlining caffeine with John Belushi. They bounce, hop, skip, sing, run, yell, shriek, cry, jump, pounce, and cause irreparable emotional damage to my cats -- while I just sit and concentrate on NOT having a stroke.

Still, there's a part of me that desperately wants them to accept and trust me and know that I've got their back. My girlfriend loves spending time with kids, so I want to, too. That's why I'll say yes when they ask me to play house, even though they always demand that I take on the role of the family dog. And that's why I'll sit there acting like it's the most interesting in the world when they show me their new Justin Bieber magazines and tell me what his favorite color and food are. (Purple and spaghetti.)

We were out shopping the other day, and when my girlfriend wasn't looking, I slipped a DVD copy of the Bieber concert movie into our cart. Not only do I come across as Mr. Awesome for getting the girls the movie, but it gives them something to do other than bounce, hop, skip, sing, etc. Win-win, right?

That's what I thought. Until this morning, when I woke up humming the most irritating earworm of all time:

"It's like bay-bee, bay-bee, bay-bee, ohhh, like bay-bee, bay-bee, bay-bee, nooo!"

I hadn't thought of the repercussions of devoting a small percentage of my life's soundtrack to Justin Bieber, and now his evil little song is stuck on autopilot in my brain. I can appreciate catchy yet blindingly stupid music -- that's why God made The Ramones, after all -- but have their ever been lyrics more insipid than Justin Bieber's "Baby"? That's when it dawned on me, and the answer is YES, I HAVE heard lyrics just as bad:

"Love, love me do, you know I love you, I'll always be true, so ple-e-e-ease, love me do."

Think about it: A debut album full of silly, catchy, G-rated love songs. Young girls shrieking in a near-riot pandemonium. A really bad haircut. Who am I describing? Justin Bieber or 1964 Beatles? They're one in the same. Okay, maybe the Fab Four worked their way to fame playing to seedy clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool. Well, Justin Bieber worked HIS way to fame playing to preteens and pedophiles on Youtube. Was there one single music critic on the face of the Earth in 1964 who would have dreamed that four teenagers singing a song called "I Want To Hold Your Hand" would end up revolutionizing pop music for the rest of time? Maybe before we cast Justin Bieber into the abyss of worthless teenage annoyances, realize that there's a chance he could be a longer haircut, an Indian guru, and a Yoko Ono away from real artistic greatness.

But another thought just crossed my mind: Justin Bieber also has a lot in common with Shaun Cassidy. In 1977, Cassidy launched from a Hardy Boy into a million-selling cover of "Da Doo Ron Ron" and the front page of every other issue of TigerBeat. Heck, even prepubescent Shane had a Shaun Cassidy poster in my room. Any dude who could solve mysteries AND rock out was cool in my 6-year-old world.

One of my friends is a Quad City-based musician who recently, on a trip out west, finagled his way into tickets to some posh L.A. event. And the way he tells the story, he was queueing in line when he realized that directly in front of him stood an aging yet still recognizable Shaun Cassidy.

After some debate, he tapped him on the shoulder and explained that his sister was a HUGE fan back in the day. That was Shaun Cassidy's cue to turn from Normal-Guy-In-Line to Complete Lunatic. "Who the (expletive) do you think you are? Do you know who the (expletive) I am? Don't (expletive) speak to me!" Etc., etc. My friend really thought that he was about to be decked by Shaun Cassidy, so apparantly one shouldn't da-doo-dredge up the past in front of Mr. Formerly Famous.

So who knows where insta-fame and Bieber Fever will take our pal Justin? I'm not convinced that he's destined to become a musical icon, but he's got as much of a chance as the next guy. After one particular incident that happened to me a few years back, I'll never take ANYTHING for granted.

We were in Chicago to see one of my favorite bands, a criminally under-appreciated Scottish group called The Trashcan Sinatras. They were the opener for a multi-band show at the Cabaret Metro. We pushed our way to the front row and had a fantastic time. Afterwards, we weighed whether or not to stay up front for the headline act. None of us were fans, but they had a silly song called "Creep" that was getting some MTV play, so we thought we'd give them a chance. The lights came up, and this ridiculous little blonde frontman strutted on stage looking like he'd seen "Sid & Nancy" a few too many times, grabbed the mic, and sneered "'Ello! We're Radiohead!" before spending the next song strutting around stage like a peacock to some wholly unmemorable tune. After ten minutes, my friends and I walked out, proudly announcing, "Wow. They suck."

Two years later, Radiohead would release the ground-breaking album "The Bends." Two years after THAT would come "OK Computer," which Time Magazine would later declare to be one of the 100 greatest albums of all time. Radiohead are now one of the most critically-revered bands on the planet. A few years ago, I was happy to be in about the 215th row when they played an open-air concert in downtown Chicago to 75,000 people.

So don't look a gift Bieber in the mouth, I guess -- which is no problem for me, since I can't get my eyes off his magical hair. And who knows, fellow Bieber haters, maybe we're witnessing the dawn of a new American -- err, Canadian -- hero. Or maybe he'll be the flash-in-the-pan that we're all expecting. All I care about is that I made two little girls super happy by buying a DVD. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go listen to something -- ANYTHING -- that doesn't involve the word "baby."

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