Scooter Braun may or may not have had a difficult time explaining to Justin Bieber why his own manager was the reason a new batch of Internet snark and scornful media headlines landed on his 21-year-old shoulders on Friday.
Bob Dylan may have been confused too. Why the Dylan mention? That’s a good question. It is one Justin Bieber perhaps asked Braun following his unwise decision to use Dylan to make his point about Bieber moving through different genres of music: pop to R&B — and now, EDM. Bieber’s latest single “Where Are Ü Now” is a collaboration with Jack Ü’s Diplo and Skrillex.
Braun subsequently clarified his point. More on that below.
During the chat, Braun talked about how the success of other acts on his roster was due to the public allegedly accepting that “genres are crossing over.” Billboard then asked Braun if this alleged “genre” crossing was the reason he put Bieber with Diplo and Skrillex.
Braun said it was, before recalling Bieber’s demo piano version of “Where Are U Now” was turned into a hit after Diplo and Skrillex “ran with it, and now they have this huge record all around the world.”
If Braun had only stopped there, he might have avoided the fallout. However, his liking for hyperbole — previously noted by acclaimed longform journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis — led to him dragging Bieber into a Bob Dylan-shaped mess not of Bieber’s making.
Braun went on to compare Bieber’s guest performance of “Where Are Ü Now” with Skrillex and Diplo at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival 2015 to Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
Scooter recalled, “Martin [Garrix] pulled Justin aside [backstage at Ultra] and said, ‘Listen, man, I don’t know what’s going to happen out there on that stage, but I’m really glad you’re doing this.'”
Garrix chimed in to Billboard, “Having Justin onstage had so much impact,” (as was said at the time, and since, Bieber’s appearance at Ultra marked the festival’s definitive arrival in the mainstream).
Of Bieber’s current-and-probably-not-permanent genre switch, Braun reflects, “It’s like Bob Dylan. He pissed people off, but whenever he switched,he reinvented himself in a way that made him who he is today.”
As one might expect, social media had a few things to say about that analogy. Meanwhile, media headlines delightedly tore into Braun for mentioning Bieber with Dylan, even though the music maven wasn’t referring to either artist’s abilities.
The manager defended himself on Twitter, writing, “Don’t twist my words please,” next to a link to an Entertainment Weekly article. Braun then posted a lengthy explanation, revealing Billboard asked if he had been scared that Bieber would be booed at Ultra.
Braun said his Dylan reference was actually about Bieber stepping out of his comfort zone at Ultra, just as Dylan did when he went electric back in 1965 (at the time, Dylan was feted as folk’s “voice of a generation.”)
— Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) June 12, 2015
Here’s the thing: Braun is right. Dylan’s switch in 1965 was an example of bravery. And it was brave of Bieber to get up on the Ultra stage, considering the out-of-control hostility he deals with. It’s also true that the singer’s musical palette has moved from pop to R&B/EDM during his career.
All that said, Braun should have known his remarks about Dylan and Bieber would be read as a literal comparison because that is exactly how he expressed them to Billboard before his later Twitter explanation. Braun has previously commented on the continuing, negative, clickbait-centric Bieber-media narrative and is surely aware it needs no fueling.
The lesson for Braun, going forward? Don’t feed the beast.
[Scroll to 14:01 for Braun’s critical view of the predominant, media narrative on Bieber. The Wall Street Journal interview was filmed earlier this year.]
[Images via Getty Images]