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Wednesday 6 March 2013

Belieb it or not.

JUSTIN Bieber is not a real person.

At the risk of breaking ten million teenage hearts, or at least of making them pound with righteous fury, allow me to explain: he used to be.

But since the age of 13 he has been an industry, a meal ticket, a product, an idol, a thing. He is now 19, and after six years of living like that through what should be a formative period in your life the chances of you retaining much in the way of normal human behaviour are, at best, slim.

Bieber was born in Canada, but there's no reason for anyone to hold that against him. He was raised by a single mum, and that's a tough deal all round, even though his father was in contact which makes him slightly more fortunate than a lot of other children.

His mum Pattie, who once wanted to be a child star herself and has what you might call an enthusiastic attitude towards religion, realised he had a good singing voice and started uploading videos of him performing cover versions on YouTube.

This was 2008 - the year Twitter became a big thing, a few months before Facebook started making money, the year of the iPhone 3G. Teenagers everywhere in the western world were getting online, sharing their own news and making their own stars.

One of the things they made was Justin Bieber, megastar.

Because enough of them were watching this pretty young boy's videos, a music producer happened upon them. He wasn't your average small record company exec looking for any old act - he was already business partners with Usher, one of the best-selling singers in music history.

Scooter Braun had the connections to make Bieber not just a professional singer, but an international idol. Pattie struggled with the fact he was Jewish but overcame it after a talk to her god, and at 13 the boy was signed to a record deal.

His first release went platinum, and since then there's been several years of your normal 'girl I love you', 'I wanna be your boyfriend', 'girl you're lonely' typical, harmless, aimed-at-teenagers music which has all sold well enough to make Justin Bieber, at 19, worth around £36million.

When he first toured a few radio stations, he tweeted about it. Ten girls might turn up. At the next station it was 50, then 100, then thousands. Radio stations played his music more often, thinking it would get them a bigger audience share. Other people realised they could make money out of him too. Scooter reportedly suggested fans get their boyfriends to take them to a Bieber movie in return for 'make out sessions', so even if you can't get money out of him you can get something else.

Today he has more fans on Facebook than Barack Obama. He has sold more than 12million albums. The single which took him mainstream in 2010 is the most watched video in YouTube history. He has more followers on Twitter than Canada has people.

And none of that happened because Justin Bieber was a real person.

It happened because he has a stylist who does his hair every day and buys his clothes so he looks cool. It happened because his eyebrows get neatened up, he has a voice coach, a choreographer, and a personal trainer. It happened because every time his teenage skin threatens a zit it has the world's finest skin treatments directed at it.

No-one, at 19 or any other age, looks like that without a great deal of effort from several people.

It happened because his story brought out the burgeoning maternal instinct in teenage girls. It happened because parents approve of his clean-cut, non-threatening image, because he is marketed, branded, and publicised. And it happened because, so far, he has shown zero sign of acting like a normal teenager.

D'you see? He's successful because HE'S NOT REAL.

Mums and dads don't get to hear him slamming doors, or disappearing all evening with an unsuitable school friend and a bottle of Bailey's. Girls don't come to realise that his bedroom, like that of every teenage boy on Earth who won't get up and sees laundry as a weakness, stinks. Lads of his own age wish they could be a bit like him, because he gets girls and is mega-rich, and don't see that all the girls he meets are weeping loons.

He spends large parts of his life in five-star hotel rooms, which probably all start stinking after a while. He spends other parts in blacked-out saloons, private jets, and windowless recording studios. When he gets a break - if he gets a break - it is somewhere a long way away from people his own age.

When he gives interviews, they're pored over by reporters and fans all desperate for something new. When he tweets, 35million mindless acolytes hang on every ungrammatical, badly-written word. When he says or does something stupid, like telling women what do with their ovaries, or turns up insanely late at his own show, the whole world does a brain-fart.

None of those things happen to real 19-year-olds.

And if any of his fans did get close to him, they'd find that because he's been primped, promoted, over-produced and tweezered since he was 13 he's probably got the kind of social skills which would make a real 19-year-old curl their toes halfway up their leg.

The way you learn how to be a good kisser is when someone who can do it better than you says 'stop, no, like this'. No-one's ever said that to Justin Bieber. He probably kisses like a washing machine on a spin cycle.

And what could he talk about to anyone he met? Private jets? How great he is? Certainly not what happened at school today, or what they've got in common. Justin has nothing in common with anyone, except maybe Usher.

Even his Twitter account, where he interacts with his fans and gives them a sense that he is at arm's reach rather than a distant icon, might not all be down to him. Yesterday after that disappointing first concert his management toured the crowd of Beliebers outside his hotel, took their Twitter names, and within minutes he 'followed' them.

There were tears, there was shaking, it was like they were in the room with Christ himself. Yet they have no idea if he ever bothers to read the feed, if the management did it or he did, and did not appear to realise that if he did all he'd see was borderline-insane stuff about OMG JUSTIN!!!! I LUV U!!!!!

If he liked seeing that kind of thing, he'd be weird. If he doesn't like it, he thinks you're weird. Think it through!

I could make some cheap shots about his music, voice, or misplaced habit of wearing his trousers low. But instead I'll just say that somewhere inside him is Justin from Canada, and he's got nothing to do with this monster called Justin Bieber, Inc., whose massive early fame cannot last forever.

The way you learn to be a good person is a childhood featuring adults who teach you that you get what you work for, that you're lucky, to say your please and thank yous and that acting like an arsehole will, at some point, wind up with you being treated like one.

Bieber's got far more than he has ever had to work for. The main adult in his life is a religious zealot who's taught him it's all down to a white male god when arguably it's got more to do with a Jew and a black guy. He's little idea of what things might be like without the luck, and whenever he seems to act like a twat there's a PR machine ready to spring to his defence.

Sorry, kids. That's not real life. That's an industry which makes a lot of people a lot of money, and as always in these situations they'll keep squeezing him past the point where he finds it enjoyable.

Whatever Justin is really like - a typical 19-year-old twat or an over-manufactured automaton who's forgotten that most human beings have no idea who he is - in a few years' time he's going to find himself growing a beard, getting a paunch, losing the stylist and finding himself with a bunch of fans who are peri-menopausal.

Then, and only then, does he have a cat in hell's chance of being able to hold a conversation, deliver a proper kiss, or realise that he's not as special as everyone who made a fortune out of him has told him he is.

It's possible he'll be like Michael Jackson, and wind up middle-aged but with the mind and outlook of a 13-year-old boy. Or maybe Judy Garland, dosed up on pills, or Britney Spears, with dead, dead eyes and sectioned for her own mental health. Perhaps, even, a replacement for Aled Jones on Sunday hymn show Highway.

The fact is that however much of Justin Bieber is real today, that's the one bit you're not allowed to see because it damages the brand. When you do start to see it, the brand is weakened, people are put off, and things start to spiral downwards. His brand is his jail, and he can't get out.

There are lots of factors and people involved in his fame, but the real monster isn't the management, his mum, nor the 19-year-old who occasionally throws tantrums and tries to regain a little control of his world.

It's his fans that made him what he is - and it's his fans who will, one day, destroy it.

So writes a boy trapped in a hotel room.