Commentary: Justin Bieber won’t forget London in a hurry.
In just seven days the 19-year-old has united international media, parents of fans, paparazzi, and an array of voices in universal condemnation of his antics in the British capital.
That is, except for Ne-Yo.
Singer, producer and hitmaker to many a pop starlet, today he became a lone voice in a sea of cynics defending the seemingly indefensible Bieber.
Noting Bieber’s two hour delayed Monday show at London’s 02 Arena — which he encored by collapsing backstage on Thursday after breathing difficulties on stage — before he was hospitalized, Ne-Yo said he empathized with the star.
Explaining that a tour is “trying,” he mused that if people understood just how emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging life under a lens can be, they might be more considerate.
“Not even to do a tour,” Ne-Yo continued, “but just to be in the public eye the way Justin is, everything you do as an artist is put under the magnifying glass. All eyes are on you and the smallest mistake becomes your world.”
Indeed, it does. But, of course, Ne-Yo spoke up for Bieber before images of his expletive-filled, paparazzi face-off splashed around the world today.
Bearing in mind that the late Michael Jackson — Ne-Yo’s hero, and Bieber’s too for that matter — dealt with an excruciating level of fame for decades, before he finally succumbed to an insatiable need for nightly oblivion and attentions of a negligent ‘doctor’ — would he still defend Bieber’s latest act of fury?
Going by the rest of Ne-Yo’s comments, yes. “I don’t think anybody deserves any pity or anything like that,” he says. “This is the life you ask for, but people need to take into consideration it’s so trying.”
And yet, even as the media dines off the images paparazzi are paid to deliver — in truth — every reporter, editor, newsgroup, and television network knows what they do to get those sought-after shots.
Jodie Foster spoke of it last August in her open letter defense of a then besieged Kristen Stewart. In a now famous passage, Foster spoke of recalling Stewart as a child in downtime while they worked together on David Fincher’s 2002 Panic Room. Her memory shimmered into another, the present day, where Stewart:
” … [A beautiful young woman] strides down the sidewalk alone, head down, hands drawn into fists. She’s walking fast, darting around huge men with black cameras thrusting at her mouth and chest. ‘Kristen, how do you feel?’ ‘Smile Kris!’ ‘Hey, hey, did you get her?’ ‘I got her. I got her!’ The young woman doesn’t cry. F**k no. She doesn’t look up. She’s learned. She keeps her head down, her shades on, fists in her pockets. Don’t speak. Don’t look. Don’t cry.”
Those words resonated for many. An insight into the methods — and, often — malevolence of the faceless ones behind the pictures we all read, all click on, and will all continue to.
The intersection between pop culture’s need for media and the media’s demand to be fed represents a dangerous tightrope. One that every ‘name’ — whether it’s Bieber, Tiger Woods, Jennifer Lawrence, Edward Furlong, Kate Middleton, or whoever — walks. And, sometimes, they fall off it.
But don’t worry. Someone will be there to catch them in a pap shot and a biting comment when they do, and the crushing wheels of the entertainment media industrial complex will keep on turning.
Seen from that perspective, Bieber’s diēs hebdomadis horribilis — the “worst birthday,” a two hours late opening night show, the half-baked apology, Twitter meltdown, gas mask, a doubted collapse, endless shirtless shots, and paparazzi fronting — marks the timeline of a pressurized boy-man acting out.
Bieber may or may not know much, but he does know this: The righteous indignation expressed in the media echo chamber is really just concealed glee that he’s given so many, something to talk about.