Justin Bieber's Apology: Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn't

Justin Bieber made more than a few jaws drop last Wednesday after he posted a candid, seemingly emotional video to his social media accounts.

It arrived hours after the singer's "nervous" appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, in which he admitted he had "done some things that might not have been the greatest."

During his smartphone-lit video speech, Bieber stripped away the front we are all used to seeing and described his past behavior as "conceited" and "arrogant."

He also said he was "afraid of what people are thinking about me right now," adding "I'm not who I pretended to be," and vowing that he now wanted to make "the best impression on people."

The 20-year-old's turn on Ellen and later confessional video have been widely interpreted as public apologies, and a new report from The Canadian Press muses that this all part of an effort to rehabilitate the singer's image by Team Bieber.

And apparently, this effort is working. According to social media data compiled at analytics firm Brandwatch, "Bieber's confessional video generated 10 times more positive mentions than negative."

There's nothing inherently unusual about celebrities shining up or changing their image in a focused way, which is what PR is. Whether a star is campaigning for an Oscar, a role, or public redemption --- no celebrity does it alone. Especially not a former child star such as Bieber, who clearly needs more help and guidance than famous adults.

This happens in much the same way that you or I might spruce up our CV or network if we want a new promotion at work. What matters, is that we are what we present ourselves to be. In other words: sincere.

According to Brandwatch company spokeswoman, Dinah Alobeid, Bieber's fans found his soul-searching confession/apology video to be just that.

"He came across to fans as genuine and sincere, and, at least, on social media, his fans rallied around him," Alobeid told The Canadian Press.

Brandwatch reports, the day after the video was posted, fans' "#WeDontJudgeYouJustin" tag triggered "more than 27,600 tweets and retweets (and nearly 100 million impressions). Overall, 69 per cent of Bieber mentions on Twitter came from women."

The Canadian Press report also cited a representative of the cynical view, wondering if the Biebs really has changed.

"It's very difficult for Justin Bieber to seem genuine," Roz Weston, one host on ET Canada told TCP, while opining that, "The roast and video and everything else on 'Ellen,' that was not for fans. That's for everybody else."

He added, "That video, it could have been genuine. It could be somebody who's looking to turn their thing around. Or it could be somebody who had a really devastating conversation with their lawyer about a pending court case."

But, let's level. The truth is, if Bieber didn't acknowledge the chaos of his last year-plus on returning, many would say that he's entitled. Now that he has apologized, it's still not good enough for some.

In short: Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

Justin Bieber
[Photo: Bieber posted an Instagram pic showing him writing in a journal in November 2014. His caption read, "The old is gone the new is here #workinprogress," the first part of which is taken from 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the bible: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come -- The old has gone, the new is here." ]

To Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson, Bieber's mea culpa is a result of him realizing that "when you've [got] international media saying, 'Hey, that kid's d*** isn't that big,' is when you start to realize that people really don't like you?"

Over at ManRepeller, Amelia Diamond went far deeper. "He acknowledges that he's done some things that may not have been the greatest.'" She added, "Haven't we all? Our lives just aren't filmed by TMZ."

The National Post's Rebecca Tucker reasons, "A public apology from Justin Bieber for his theatrics and public chicanery these past 18 months is not necessary."

She adds, "Because you'd be hard pressed to find an adult human being who was affected -- really, legitimately, life-changingly affected -- by the singer's...quasi-meltdown, with the possible exception of his family and close friends."

The Kansas City Star's Jeneé Osterheldt agrees. She states, "Bieber seems to be taking responsibility now," adding, "But the apology tour can stop here. Going forward, he owes himself forgiveness and a chance to escape the tragic child star narrative."

It's no secret that this is Bieber's comeback year, during which he will be dropping a brand new album. But that doesn't mean his apologetic efforts are any less authentic. As he told DeGeneres, he wants to "own up" to some of his actions in his Central Comedy Roast next month.

Those actions include: arrests, public urination in a restaurant mop bucket, paparazzi run-ins, weed use, reckless driving, and more. Resulting headlines were hardcore, and gleeful media coverage quickly accelerated the bullying and cyber-hate Bieber has received since the start of his career.

Notably, no-one is offering Bieber an apology for the years of media-sanctioned body and gender shaming that filters down from adults, and tells a whole new generation that this is okay.

And, as yet, no self-policing of the significantly skewed, abusive -- and often -- fabricated media reporting on Bieber has emerged.

Justin Bieber and Pastor Carl Lentz At Hillsong NYC Church in 2013
(Photo: Bieber and Pastor Lentz At Hillsong NYC Church in September 2013. After the service, Bieber tweeted that he "broke down" during the pastor's sermon.)

Although Bieber wobbled throughout 2013 to mid 2014, he sought out spiritual guidance and stayed at the family home of longtime friend, Pastor Carl Lentz, of the Hillsong NYC Church, for around two weeks last October. The singer has since been regularly spotted attending church services in both NYC and Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Inquisitr reported that the singer told fans during an online exchange last November that he had quit using weed and was "making a change" in his life.

Is it only "Justin Bieber superfans" who'll believe in the singer's rejuvenated attitude? If so, fans will be delighted to hear that Bieber's longtime musical director, Dan Kanter, says the singer is in the studio "24/7," and now moving "in the right direction because he's focusing all his attention on music."

And there's still plenty of them about. Analytics firm Next Big Sound, whose data informs the Billboard Social 50, which Bieber topped for most of 2014, reports, "One in five active monthly Twitter users follows Bieber."Although he is second to Katy Perry on Twitter, his level of interaction on the platform vastly exceeds the "Fireworks" singer's.

Overall, across Bieber's social media accounts --- including Instagram, Facebook, Shots, and Fahlo -- it is reported his engagement levels roughly doubled from December 2012-December 2014, and his audience has grown despite damage to his image.

Justin Bieber Reveals Lovesick Songs On Instagram
(Photo: Bieber is reportedly working hard with the legendary Rick Rubin on his upcoming album)

Bottom line? It's highly unlikely that Bieber could emerge from his last year-plus without an impulse to reflect. His apology wasn't as eloquent as actor Benedict Cumberbatch's recent apology for referring to black actors as "colored people." But, the 38-year-old, Brit boarding school educated thespian is almost a professor by comparison.

No matter how rich or famous someone is, money does not immune a late developing teen from the trauma of having their mistakes scrutinized globally and privacy violated 24/7.

Now Bieber has apologized, or at least owned up to his actions, and he should be allowed to make amends without people doubting his sincerity just because it's "Bieber!"

To this writer, the singer's statements and persona in his confessional video were real and substantial. It's going to be interesting --- and possibly inspiring --- to see what is to come from this young man, now that he has publicly drawn a line under his "bad boy" dramas.

Update: Bieber's second appearance on Ellen (Feb. 5) is reported here.

For another take on Bieber's video and comeback, read Lucy Jenkins' insightful piece.

[Images via Michael Rozman/Instagram]