Like so many child stars before him, Justin Bieber is slowly veering away from his straight-laced, G-rated, Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks persona toward an edgy, Staples Center-paternity suit lifestyle. “Bieber Fever” no longer represents the wholesome bowl cut that entranced millions of tweens into spending their parents’ money on Bieber swag, but rather an alleged father who raps over Watch The Throne beats (seriously, Google it).

Justin Bieber

Under the Mistletoe
Island


With a surreal, Maury Povich-esque court case pending against the 17-year-old minor, he’s probably relieved his latest album, the Christmas-themed “Under The Mistletoe,” was released last Tuesday. The unsurprising chart-topper features high-powered artists like Mariah Carey, Usher, Busta Rhymes and Boyz II Men, but J-Beebz can’t quite match their talent. Instead, Bieber seems to be sending a subliminal message to the American public, and it sounds like a high-pitched, “Take me seriously, please!”

Bieber isn’t talentless. His musical releases and his escapades outside the studio — including controlling Funnyordie.com for a day — show he’s a shrewd and hardworking businessman (businessboy?). But he is repeatedly shown up on his own album. No one should expect him to hold his own against Usher on “The Christmas Song,” and he doesn’t. Anyone who’s contracted Bieber’s eponymous disease will find the cure in listening to Bieber against his own guest vocalists. Besides Usher, Mariah Carey’s range on “All I Want For Christmas is You,” Busta Rhymes’s family-friendly rap on “Drummer Boy” and Boyz II Men’s multiple reminders that, yes, they still do perform music together, don’t help JB in his quest to trade his Disney pedigree for something more respectable.

It’s easy for someone outside of the Biebenator’s demographics to criticize him, but his tween-girl fanbase makes Oprah devotees look fickle in comparison. He croons like a pre-pubescent Backstreet Boy, but his dedication to religion and aversion to even mild controversy (at least until this whole “you’re the father” thing happened) have allowed him to corner the market on good, clean fun. Who else could possibly sell an “Under The Mistletoe Ultimate Gift Box” for $69.98 in a post-Napster world and actually make a profit? He may be a joke to many, but there aren’t many musicians who could profit on their own versions of the “12 Days of Bieber” calendar.

Taking into account who exactly will be listening to “Under The Mistletoe,” it might as well be the next Beatles album. In the eyes of Tiger Beat America, Bieber outshines his costars with an attitude reminiscent of a Bart Simpson-Justin Timberlake hybrid. When he’s not busy living life with reckless “eat my shorts” abandon, Bieber is serenading his pre-teen princesses with Shakespearean prose like, “If you’re the only thing I ever get for Christmas / Then everything I wished for has come true” and, “Leave some cookies out / I’m gonna eat ’em all.”

It’s pretty clear Bieber’s success hinges more on his public persona than his talent level, but in relation to his competition, he’s a prodigy. Bumble-Bieber’s Hollywood existence and high-profile relationships have crowned him the Prince of (very) young showbiz, but it’s his insistence that he’s a real musician that catapulted him to the top in the first place. While his act may be more at home in a suburban shopping mall than the Hollywood Bowl, he’s unapologetic about it. Refreshingly, Justin Bieber doesn’t take anything about himself seriously except for his music, and while he is no Smokey Robinson, he’s done pretty well for a 17-year-old.

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