Justin Bieber’s “My beloved beliebers I’m officially retiring” tweet was a joke. A joke that seems oddly prescient now given the $1.25 million domestic debut of his Believe movie-documentary. Nevertheless, it was a joke.
You had to be quick to see it, and most of us weren’t watching his Twitter at the precise moment his incendiary-seeming trio of Christmas Eve tweets came down the pipe. But many fans were, and as usual, they rumbled the ruse before media outlets.
IQ spoke to a number of plugged-in fans who’ve been following the teen star for years and claim to know his online MO intimately. To them, the jig was up long before grave articles intoning the end of the Age of Bieber hit the web.
Within minutes of that deletion, Bieber posted his second “media” tweet at 20:02 pm. Two minutes later, the last “IM HERE FOREVER” tweet went up.
Additionally, an insider has reportedly confirmed the 19-year-old was making a point. “He isn’t retiring, clearly … He is basically poking fun of how quickly news spreads without anyone vetting if it is true or not.”
So there you have it. The Pied Piper of a many of this generation’s young females has no intention of abdicating from his hormonally-powered empire, and the mass emoting and projection will continue.
Of course we should have known.
Despite Bieber’s frequently expressed frustration over paparazzi hounding and a negative media narrative that prisms every Instagram video, skateboard fall, innocent if inarticulate guestbook entry, weed use items, Great Gatsby-esque parties, unproven accusations, a Brazilian close encounter, utterance and move he makes into a diabolical crisis — clearly walking away from a life uncommon and the adoration of millions isn’t something one does lightly.
“I’m not going to be stupid enough for me to let that happen to myself,” Bieber tells Believe director Jon M. Chu in the movie, in response to his ‘Are you conscious that you are the perfect candidate to become a train wreck?’ query.
In the film he continued, “I have a good head on my shoulders. Maybe I might make a few mistakes, sure, I’m 19,” before reeling off positive qualities he insisted his mother and a Sunday school-filled childhood taught him.
There are likely many reasons why the Canadian played the seriously taken (by many) prank after a week of such speculation following his “retiring” declaration during a radio interview, and poker face “I don’t know if it’s a joke” response to MTV at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere.
Perez Hilton engaged in a Twitter tirade seconds after Bieber’s tweets landed, calling them a “publicity stunt” to drive mad-with-grief beliebers into theaters over Christmas. MTV also noted the singer’s Christmas Day feed consisted mainly of re-tweets of fans gushing after seeing Believe, while The Wall Street Journal speculated similarly.
Sadly, Bieber retiring is just a pathetic publicity stunt for his new documentary movie, which comes out tomorrow. #GoodbyeJustin
— Perez Hilton (@PerezHilton) December 25, 2013
But, to beliebers in the know, the joke was vintage Biebs. The heartthrob is clearly aware the media watches his social media accounts and often selectively interprets messages, as it did back in March when he included then deleted a Lindsay Lohan comparison in a predominantly on-point Instagram calling out damning coverage of his turbulent Believe tour London leg. No prizes for guessing which line got the coverage.
But while Justin isn’t retiring, a break seems wise. After the year he’s had, now capped by Believe’s tepid market impact — it also rated 1.3 out of 10 on IMDB.com — right now is the perfect time to step away and reflect.
“I’m going to take my time (next year) to really find my sound as an adult. That takes time and patience, and I’m grateful I have the ability to step back and focus on my creativity,” he told USA TODAY by email earlier this month
He added, “The last year has not been the easiest for me. As I think is probably the case for all teenagers. I’m just trying to grow up and figure out who I am, but I have to do it in front of the world.”
Hypothetically speaking, even if the pop prince did decide to take the unprecedented step of hanging his mic and drop-crotch pants up for good, where would he go? The narrative would simply morph from “Bieber Accused Of X, Y, Z” to “Has-Been Bieber Lets Himself Go In X, Y, Z” and a ‘Spot The Former Superstar” stream of stories as he and his merry band of bodyguards tour golf courses around the world.
As Bieber heads into a possibly quieter 2014 (he’ll have more time on his hands so…) post Believe and the conversely cheerier success of his impressive iTunes chart topping, R&B/hip-hop collaborator-packed Journals collection, will the incoming year see more or less momentum-driving by those invested in the Stratford boy cum multi-millionaire icon’s trajectory taking a permanent dip?
Or is a better question can tabloids and traffic-dependent mainstream media outlets move from a position from hyper-judgment over Bieber’s adolescent exploits to a more balanced one?
The Daily Beast’s Rawiya Kameir writes:
“The instinct to direct society’s collective vitriol at a more-or-less harmless teenager is not about him or his antics, but about the fallout of celebrity culture and the myth of capitalism, wherein one’s success is directly tied to one’s worth. The non-Beliebing public doesn’t hate him because he posts too many selfies on Instagram, but because he signifies something far more insidious than the pop culture machine: he is publicly young and rich and otherwise privileged in a time during which growing social and economic inequalities are cleaving the fabric of everything we once believed in… It’s easier, and maybe more enjoyable, to hate something you can see but can’t touch. This is how one copes.”
Irrationally fevered comments seen on YouTube, social networks, or Bieber-related articles, raging over some gossip claim or incident, and a kid they have no firsthand knowledge of, seems to confirm Kameir’s analysis. Meanwhile, over at Uproxx’s The Smoking Section, a lighter perspective reigned.
After nutshelling a few of the shirtless one’s godsends to a sleepless news cycle, Gotty notes, “The media may blow it up, but the average gawker understands that the kid is growing up.”
Perhaps 2014 will see greater understanding all round: From Bieber coming to terms with invasive levels of attention and criticism as the price of fame in an information-insatiable version 2.0 world. And from the rest? A recognition we all play a part in shaping the socio-cultural landscape our young artists either survive or are destroyed in.