Justin Bieber and the (late) legendary Prince don’t usually appear in the same sentences. Until now.
The reason? A reportedly fake Instagram comment about the recently deceased music icon, which was evidently intended to appear as if it had been posted by the young Canadian, set off a social media furor on Thursday.
A rep for Bieber has since confirmed to the watchdog site Gossip Cop that the alleged Bieber-remark is completely “fabricated.”
Prince was found dead at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota on April 21. The causes of the 57-year-old’s death are still to be determined by authorities, although TMZ allege he suffered a drug overdose days beforehand.
— Gossip Cop (@GossipCop) April 22, 2016
Where does Justin Bieber fit into this? Amid the tsunami of Prince tributes shared by celebrities and public figures yesterday, the fan-manned Twitter account Shady Music Facts posted a screenshot of a note left at the Instagram account of musician and producer Andrew Wyatt, claiming it was written by Bieber.
This past Tuesday night before my show I was picking out an outfit…I was so tired from the past week of endless traveling and gigging that I grabbed my Prince shirt and said fuck it I'm gonna channel the purple one tonight…I didn't shower after the gig out of pure exhaustion…I went to sleep in that shirt and then I wore it again all day yesterday…today waking up to this news I am truly beside myself…devastated…the last of the greatest living performers…my guitar idol…his connection to ALL his instruments yielded a sexual transcending aura and the world is just less fucking cool without him walking on it… "Electric word life It means forever and that's a mighty long time But I'm here to tell you There's something else… The after world" #RIPPRINCE
In Wyatt’s tribute, the producer wrote about “waking up to this news I am truly beside myself…devastated…the last of the greatest living performers…my guitar idol.”
Shady Music Facts alleged that Bieber shared the following comment at Wyatt’s posting. “Well not the last greatest living performer.” The fan account also added a suggestive lead, which assumed that Bieber was “a little offended” by Wyatt’s description.
Justin Bieber got a little offended over an Instagram post calling Prince the last great living performer.. pic.twitter.com/259pCLC0YR
— Shady Music Facts (@musicnews_shade) April 21, 2016
Inevitably, random online users at Wyatt’s Instagram page reacted strongly to the alleged comment. Some mused that the Biebs was claiming he is one of the greatest living performers. Others speculated that the 22-year-old was simply saying — albeit in a clumsy way — that there are still great “living” performers to enjoy, even though Prince is now dead.
Gossip Cop’s report states that, in addition to the rep’s confirmation, they found no legitimate evidence that Bieber had left a comment about Prince anywhere online. The rumor-busting website also pointed out that Shady Music Facts previously posted a screenshot two weeks ago claiming Bieber “liked” a video Donald Trump Instagrammed before the Wisconsin primary. The account also alleged Bieber follows the Republican presidential frontrunner on Twitter.
It was subsequently revealed that both the Trump “like” and Twitter follow screenshots were “fake.”
While there’s plenty of “outrage mileage” to be gained if a screenshot of an Instagram comment is dumped on the Biebs (even if it isn’t authentic, as his rep states), Gossip Cop stressed that “people should place more emphasis on the ‘Shady’ part of the Twitter account’s name and much less on the ‘Music Facts.'”
They are right, of course. Photoshopping online comments is terrifyingly easy to pull off. And even if cynics don’t believe the Biebs’ alleged remark was doctored, given his extremely poor skills in written English, allowing him the benefit of the doubt is the less presumptive option. After all, there actually are great “living” performers around to celebrate. Elton John, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, and Beyonce, to name just a few.
President Obama on the passing of Prince pic.twitter.com/CMvj5Jaa8E
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) April 21, 2016
Meanwhile, fans, celebrities, and public figures including President Barack Obama, Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Chris Rock, Jennifer Lopez, Russell Crowe, Madonna, Katy Perry, Reese Witherspoon, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Keaton, Quincy Jones, Oprah Winfrey, Harry Styles, and more offered tributes to Prince on and offline on Thursday.
— Sara Vilkomerson (@Vilkomerson) April 22, 2016
The outpouring will doubtless continue for some time, given that Prince is a true music great, whose influence, talent, innovation, and excellence saw his music claim the top 10 spots on the U.S. iTunes sales singles chart, as well as over 50 songs entering the top 100 the day he died.
As for Bieber, the prince of pop brings his ongoing Purpose World Tour to Chicago’s Allstate Arena for a two-night run from Friday.
[Images via Jason Laveris / Getty / Dave M. Bennet/Getty]