Justin Bieber, and the experience of child stars like him, is the inspiration behind the title track on Sir Elton John’s new album, The Diving Board.
“It’s about the pitfalls of being a young star, like a young Justin Bieber,” the 66-year-old Brit singer-songwriter told the UK’s BBC Radio 4 in a recent interview to talk up his upcoming 30th solo album.
The father of two added:
“It’s hard when you’re young to go through that incredible fame, when you haven’t had a childhood and then you want to grow up.”
Alluding to Bieber’s explosive entry onto the world stage in 2009 after he was discovered on YouTube back in 2007 — John’s own steady ascent from bar pianist (when he was still known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight), to band musician in Bluesology for acts like Major Lance, Patti Labelle and The Isley Brothers, a career as a jobbing songwriter and the beginning of his still continuing partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin — led to his slow-burn fame breakthrough in 1970 with the release of sophomore album Elton John, the follow-up to his 1969 debut Empty sky.
“Luckily, fame came to me when I was 23, and then I lived my teenage years during my fame,” the veteran singer said.
“But I wouldn’t want to be Justin Bieber or any of those young artists.”
“It’s tough on them,” he concluded.
John also shared strong opinions about what he described as the damaging effect of talent shows like The Voice, (UK’s former television show) Pop Idol, The X Factor and the rest, on music.
“The Voice is all about watching the judges, it is in America. Nobody on The Voice in America has had a hit record. Nobody on The Voice in England has had a hit record — they’re nonentities.”
He has a point. Last year’s UK winner, Leanne Mitchell’s self-titled debut album widely criticized at the time for lacking any musical identity, peaked at No.134 in the album charts and punched in less than 1,000 copies in its first week after release.
Likewise, this year’s UK winner, Andrea Begley, only scraped to number 30 in the charts with her song “My Immortal” following her win.
Admitting that he has never watched a television talent show, John blistered that television and video fast-tracks amateurs into a fame game they are ill-equipped to cope with.
“They’ve propelled people into stardom that aren’t ready for it, you know, and it can’t sustain it. And they’re only as good as the next song. I hate that, I hate people being cast aside,” he added.
Somewhat synchronously, John’s connection to Bieber saw a passing of crowns in May. Following the inclusion of specific streaming data to record sales calculations by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the teen singer’s 2010 signature hit “Baby” dethroned John’s 1973 double-A “Candle in the Wind / Something About The Way You Look Tonight,” to become the highest certified single in history.
With Bieber and his manager both raising the ante about his upcoming single “Heartbreaker” and the 19-year-old’s new music to come, perhaps the buffer, tougher-sounding, embattled heartthrob who recently told the tabloid media what he thinks of the negative press he receives may just have the mettle it takes to last the distance.
From his comments, it seems no-one would be happier about that than John.
Described by the Artisan News Service as “Elton’s finest musical moment perhaps in his career,” The Diving Board is set for release on September 16, 2013.