Justin Bieber is the 12/14/18/22 year old starlet beloved by tweens and loathed by the rest of us. His schtik – young tyke discovered on YouTube raised to megastarstatus – smells fishier than Fleetwood Dock, nevertheless he has become one of the most successful young pop stars in modern times. Marketed to the nth degree as the Timberlake for those with channel-hopping attention spans, his legions of fans have an obsessive character which borders on the evangelical. No website is safe from the “Bieberatti”: entire towns could be filled by their number, their on-line enthusiasm blanking out debate on almost every other subject.
Bieber, of course, has very little to do with the music released in his name. Listening to any of his songs is very difficult. Not in a Mogwai or Inuit throat singing difficult, more overdoing the post-production by a year sort of way. Clearly his lyrics are meaningless, and obviously he has no sincerity in singing them. I can’t escape the view from the wilder parts of my brain that, like a washed up end-of-the-pier variety singer, he walks off stage after a gig to light up a cigarette and swear like a garage mechanic.
Created by the Internet, Bieber has his career shaped and ultimately decided by the on-line world. An infamous messageboard tried to send him to North Korea for a special gig, YouTube videos are hacked and replaced by hardcore pornography. His television appearances are rare, like terrorists in Afghan caves he only appears in website form. His autobiography will be the first tangible sign of his existence after his birth certificate, although this could feasibly be a hardcopy print out of a Licence User Agreement.
The ickle pop boy nobody likes has, it now seems, won over another audience without lifting a finger or singing a note – okay, that’s what he already does, what I mean is, through the work of an unknown DJ Shamantis, a reworked version of a Bieber single has become an instant internet phenomenon. Fittingly for Bieber, outside the walls of the world wide web, the new version of his song is totally unknown. He has failed where “Newport State of Mind” succeeded in that field, at least, a rare loss.
The track – which at over 30 minutes long is an average Bieber track multiplied nine fold – can be enjoyed here. Stretched to its absolute slowest using a music manipulation programme – the claim is 800% slower, something causing Doctors of Music Tech and Production some concern – the resulting soundscape is unexpected, immense, a touch pretentious and absolutely mesmerising. It’s SunO))) on ket, whalesong as re imagined by Tiesto, or both muddled up with Sigur Rós and Cocteau Twins.
If this is the only piece of ambient music the “Bieberatti” listen to throughout their entire lives, the experiment would be worth it. Okay, so there are questions to be asked from this – is this any less meaningless than the Hallmark card lyrics of the original and so on – although I lean towards the side of the argument which considers the track a successful reimagining. Think TATU taking on “How Soon Is Now”, for an obvious example.
Like all pop starlets, Beiber will fade. His celebrity is temporary, his songs will not last into the next decade if that. The Internet will create, form, and reject more like him. However, the ‘net can also make unexpected superstars at its own behest and will (I’m looking at you, Rick Astley, and no, I’m not linking to THAT SONG…). This “800% slower” version sound exactly like some of the best tracks of its kind in my collection, and if it’s taken to be superb or nothing more than Enigma for the 21st century, it has got more attention from the ‘fashionable’ side of music than any of the original material. Enjoy it for what it is, Beiber is ultimately musical candyfloss, 30 minutes worth of his stuff in real time would make you very ill…