The Sunday Times Magazine: Can you Belieb it?

01_NF29BIE_1196378kFor all the talk of Adele saving the music industry, the No 1 spot in the official singles chart is held not by a 27-year-old honey-blonde wailing about her ex, but by a 21-year-old bleached-blond pleading: “Is it too late now to say sorry?”

The boy known as Jay Bee, El Biebo, The Biebertron, the Biebs’ Knees, J Bizzle and The Notorious B.R.A.T. — and once considered the least likeable tween in pop — has three of Britain’s top four singles. You better Beliebe it. Justin Bieber is back.

Adele’s album, 25, became the fast-selling in British history last week, but Bieber’s Purpose soared to No 1 on iTunes in 99 countries. It dominated the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, where Bieber had 17 tracks, smashing a record the Beatles had held for 51 years. One Direction must be crying in the lavatories of their private jets.

Bieber’s success is improbable not just because his music has previously been thought of as lame R&B, excusable only as throwaway pop for kids, but because he had been widely written off as an overentitled jock.

For the past few years Bieb’s douchebaggery has eclipsed his music: as he turned from petulant child star to stroppy prepubescent to obnoxious twentysomething, he ricocheted between Victoria’s Secret models, sensational headlines and run-ins with the police. For a while the only peace from his antics was his claim that he was retiring (which he tweeted). Oh, we wished!

At one point JB, the most heartily disliked Canadian since Céline Dion, became so irritating that an official petition was launched, demanding: “We the people of the United States . . . would like to see the dangerous, reckless, destructive and drug abusing Justin Bieber deported.”

The second-largest petition in the site’s history, it attracted 275,00 signatures, double the number required for an official White House response. President Barack Obama gave none. Perhaps his daughters were beliebers still.

Efforts to salvage Bieber’s image seemed doomed for a while. Attempting a come-back with a Comedy Central Roast — in which individuals allow others to tease them — the icy atmosphere was captured by the comedian Hannibal Buress, who “joked”: “You should thank me for participating in this extremely transparent attempt to be more likable in the public eye . . . And I hope it doesn’t work.” Yet, eight months later, it has. Bieber’s career has done a 180. How did the much-maligned boy-child manage it?

To answer that question, let us first recall the Bieberlicious one’s tawdry descent; how a halo-haired teenager crooning “If I was your boyfriend” to every tweenager and their mum — crashed and burnt.

In a few short years the charges against El Biebo were stacked. They included crimes against music and his fans: he allegedly spat at them from a hotel balcony and narrowly missed vomiting on them while performing. In London he kept hysterical school girls waiting for two hours at the O2 on a school night.

Biebs became so narcissistic that for a year he was rarely seen in a top, instead wandering from stage to club clenching his imaginary six-pack and parading his tats. He became so self-obsessed that at Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam he wrote in the memorial book that “hopefully she would have been a belieber’.” (Of course! What else did she have going on?)

He spent precious free time pelting his neighbour’s house with eggs, leading the victim to call the police; and in a now infamous incident he urinated in a bucket in a nightclub kitchen, spraying a poster of Bill Clinton and shouting “F*** Bill Clinton” (he apologised later by tweet).

He also abandoned his pet monkey, Mally, in Germany after failing to get it proper security clearance; and started a fight with Orlando Bloom in the Cipriani restaurant in Ibiza, allegedly insinuating that he had hooked up with Bloom’s ex-wife.

A menace on the road, he was pulled over by Florida police in his canary yellow Lamborghini on suspicion of drink-driving, and bawled: “What the f*** is this about?”Later he pleaded guilty to resisting arrest.



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