In all manners of publications you can find people asking this question: "why is this kid still so popular?" These are not just music magazines, or blogs, either, but the likes of the NY Times, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, NY Daily News, etc. All of these have full length articles dedicated to trying to answer this question. It is a maddening paradox for those that dislike him, and inexplicable for those who do.
What most objective sources agree on is that he has a modicum of singing and dancing ability, but nothing to merit such stardom. He has decent looks, but, again, does this win him 30 million fans on Facebook? He has top songwriters writing his stuff, but, ya know, they have written for others too, and none of them have reached the stratosphere like this kid has. One common conclusion of such articles is this: Justin Bieber is here to stay.
And that is really the perplexing thing. We can understand tween-age girls getting obsessed with a cute boy, and with millions poured into advertising he could even sell a few million albums, but that doesn't account for the staying power Bieber has.
In doing a minimal amount of research for this article, I read posts on answers.yahoo.com and other places that said: "he's just a trend though, he'll die down soon" and "don't worry, in a few years no one will remember him. " These were written three years ago.
In an article on music.yahoo.com titled Why is Justin Bieber So Freakin 'Popular? the author sums up saying, "will the 'Bieb' be another Michael Jackson? This is not likely, he may even drop a few rungs down the ladder within the next couple years." That was in 2010.
On February 9th of this year Bieber made his second appearance on Saturday Night Live, this time as the host. Not exactly a fizzling star.
So the heart of the puzzlement seems to be this: How does this bratty, annoying kid from Canada have such staying power ??
Again, many, many people out there give the answer that he appeals to millions of tasteless young girls who don't know any better. Sorry, that doesn't cut it. You don't achieve superstardom and spots on talk shows and SNL and everywhere else year after year by posting up a slick advertising campaign. He's got something else.
According to vulture.com, in their article Why is Justin Bieber This Popular? they write: "this means he has-and boy do we dislike typing this probably as much as you dislike reading it-a natural star quality."
Many people point to his story, and I think this starts to get at it. He got his start posting YouTube videos, and was discovered in 2008 by talent scout, Scooter Braun. Usher took him under his wing, and off he went. So, Bieber has this element of being "of the people" which he can claim.
And his producers naturally play this up.
Scooter Braun said to the NY Times: "I said: 'Justin, sing like there's no one in the room. But let's not use expensive cameras.' We'll give it to kids, let them do the work, so that they feel like it's theirs. "
Bieber has this image that he's not a product of Disney and uber-powerful record execs, like Britney Spears. His fans believe-however misguided the belief might be-that he worked hard, he broke through, and he made it. For this reason he is an inspiration.
Look at the title of his documentary: "Never Say Never."
Beliebers don't just think he's cute, and they don't just like his songs. They believe in him, and, because of his story, because of where he came from, he brings them hope, and he represents possibility. Perhaps this is why a documentary of his life was produced so early in his career. That is the message of Bieber. You may think his music is awful, but it's not about that. It's about Bieber himself.
As Bieber transcends his own music, so he inspires his fans to transcend themselves. He represents hope and a bright future. He embodies possibility.
In uplifting them, they, in turn, lift him to new heights, enabling him to far transcend the successes of those that went before him, such as Aaron Carter and the Jonas Brothers.
It is this relationship that is key. This is why Bieber puts so much time and energy into relating to his fans through social media on a personal, one-on-one level, as much as he can. This is the touchstone of his popularity.
More than anything, Bieber is relatable.
This, to me anyway, comes closest to explaining the Bieber phenomenon that just WILL. NOT. END.