Justin Bieber Turns 27: How He Survived Child Star Fate To Return To Number One
There’s a lot to be said about how we treat child stars and the manner they grow into adulthood, especially when we’ve seen so many young minds irreparably damaged and their lives shattered by the very concept of fame.
Justin Bieber, who turns 27 today, is an interesting case to examine in terms of how he burst onto the global music scene at the tender age of 13 after he was accidentally discovered by Scooter Braun on YouTube, and how the media were quick to jump on every single mistake he made.
The baby-faced, floppy-haired pop star was fast-tracked into becoming one of the biggest artists on the planet. Supported and mentored by the likes of Usher and P Diddy, there was an immediate weight on his undeveloped shoulders, but he appeared to have the talent to back that up – or, more significantly, mask the struggles of any kid thrust into the spotlight at such a delicate time in their life.
Fame and fortune that befalls teenagers or pre-teen child stars can often lead to self-destruction and misery. Take Michael Jackson, for example – he is perhaps the most tragic example of enormous pressure endured as a child, and it led to a flurry of questionable decisions and a whirlwind of accusations and court trials prior to his death at just 50.
And there’s also Lindsay Lohan, another child that made it big and struggled to cope with the onset of global popularity. There appears to be a pattern that adults don’t seem to take on board, and it’s only decades later that some celebs are able to reassemble shattered lives and form some semblance of an independent existence.
The media were unspeakably cruel to Britney Spears, who at 16 was catapulted into stardom with the release of Baby One More Time. It’s all uncomfortably documented in the recent feature, Framing Britney Spears, and it is a similar level of scrutiny and malice that has followed Justin around.
However, unlike many unfortunate stories of famous children, the Canadian singer has, after an often bumpy road, transformed into a much happier, grounded and coherent adult.
When someone hears his name, many will recall the time he allegedly spat off a balcony onto fans, or when he went to the toilet in a mop bucket in a restaurant. But it’s all too easy to criticise young personalities when they inevitably act out or rebel for attention. Does that mean we should forever hold these juvenile incidents against them, like we are all such perfect individuals who’ve never acted badly?
Sadly, the bad boy wannabe/brat label stuck, after a series of immature decisions and awkwardly-captured incidents, such as when he wrote in the Anne Frank House guest book that she was ‘a great girl’ and ‘hopefully she would have been a Belieber’.
But the time has long gone to hold silly grudges for teenage indiscretions. After all, what are we really doing in this scenario if not simply attacking kids? Now a man approaching his 30s, Justin by all accounts conducts himself differently as he nears a more autonomous and stable decade of his life. With all the wealth he could possibly need, a sweet and loving relationship with wife, Hailey Baldwin, and a healthier attitude to his past, mental health problems and addictions, it would be easy for the media to be prepped with pitchforks should he slip up further. It’s also an unrealistic and toxic standard that society sets for regular people that just happen to be talented and famous. If history has taught us anything, it is that money, love and happiness doesn’t prevent mental health illness – but the press haven’t appeared to clock on yet.
Last year, Justin spoke candidly about drug dependencies and overcoming said addictions. Similarly, he’s discussed suicidal thoughts and depressive periods on more than one occasion; again illustrating an air of maturity after spending his early career being catered for left, right and centre, before realising he had no basic life skills or independence as a man away from the recording studio.
‘I made every bad decision you could have thought of and went from one of the most loved and adored people in the world to the most ridiculed, judged and hated person in the world,’ he wrote in a lengthy yet revealing Instagram post back in 2019, where he spoke honestly about his battles with his demons, the law, drug use and the very real struggle to preserve his mental health.
And it isn’t just his personal development that deserves applause, it’s his musical output too. If you listen to his entire catalogue of songs, there’s a distinct energetic sound that slowly evolves into a more authentic and sometimes experimental approach – and it’s nice to be able to identify key moments of that progression, as he has gone from an acting-out child star into rounded, learned adult.
In 2020 and beyond, the once-divisive musician appears to be far more at peace with himself – as he approaches his late twenties – than other recognisable faces that have before him. Now married and somewhat settled down with 24-year-old Hailey, having been wed for nearly two-and-a-half years, 27-year-old Biebs is a far cry from the kid who sacrificed his innocence to the ruthlessness of the music industry.
Nowadays, he’s far more open and vocal about being a flawed human. His music contains relatable themes and has successfully moved away from being a clear-skinned, teeny bopper into a respected recording artist that can – surprisingly – disassociate from the likes of debut Baby or the antics of his formative, adolescent years.
And it’s refreshing to see on all fronts. Pleasing in the sense he’s managed to find solace and purpose, the latter which coincidentally was the title of his 2015 album that first saw a major shift into adulthood, with tracks like What Do You Mean?, Sorry, Love Yourself, and Where Are U Now.
With Justice, his upcoming album just around the corner, the likes of Holy, Lonely and Anyone are further proof of his developing sensibility through his songs. Take Lonely for example, with biting lyrics such as, What if you had it all / But nobody to call?. Perhaps most indicative of his self-reflection as an adult, he acknowledges his antics as an impressionable boy surrounded by money, fans and a team of sycophants, writing, ‘Everybody knows my past now / Like my house was always made of glass / And maybe that’s the price you pay / For the money and fame at an early age / And everybody saw me sick / And it felt like no one gave a sh*t / They criticised the things I did as an idiot kid.’
It’s also a testament to Bieber that not only have fans stuck with him, but he’s successfully welcomed different demographics to engage with and enjoy his music; in a similar way Ariana Grande has moved from cutesy, Disney teen into a highly-respected entertainer.
Most recently we’ve seen Justin be there for teenage sensation Billie Eilish, morphing into somewhat of a guardian role for the young singer. Having been there himself, he now know, after years of feeling isolated, about the coping strategies, triggers and whom to surround oneself with during that vulnerable stage in life.
So, from this sceptic-turned-fan, Justin Drew Bieber, I salute you. Oh, and Happy Birthday!
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