Justin Bieber is totally over it.
At least it would seem that way, as the 22-year-old pop star basically sleepwalked his way through the Minneapolis stop of his Purpose World Tour on Sunday. It looked as though Justin would rather be literally anywhere else. And, given the magnitude of his celebrity, that’s a little scary.
Bieber descended onto the Target Center stage in a glass box as the crowd of young women screamed at immeasurably high pitches. Images of marbled Greek gods flashed on the screens while Justin scribbled on the glass, an obvious metaphor for his increasingly complicated views on fame and celebrity.
You have to hand it to him: He’s been famous for half his life, and it’s not surprising that he’s starting to lash out. Remember when you were a little kid at your spring music program and you just went through the motions, half-singing, to please your mom and teachers? That’s what Justin did at the Target Center.
The thing about pop stars like Bieber is that their fans grow with them. The previous generation had Britney Spears, who also went through a troubled period in her early twenties. You can’t help but compare Bieber’s total lack of enthusiasm and half-hearted dancing to Britney’s bad years.
Reports of strange behavior on Justin’s end — like walking around the park barefoot in a daze and writing a rambling Instagram post about awards shows — are reminders that a celebrity lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as we think. Is Justin is on the verge of a Britney-esque breakdown? Impossible and unfair for us to say. But being so famous, so early cannot be healthy for one’s emotional growth.
However, Bieber’s fans didn’t really seem to care on Sunday. They held their iPhones aloft to capture every moment, sending videos of a bandanna’ed Justin to their besties who couldn’t be there.
Most of the crowd seemed to be in their late teens and early twenties, sloshing wine as they screeched the lyrics. All of them were dressed up in the way girls do when they’re going to a party to see a boy they like, which essentially is exactly what they were doing at the show.
They knew every word to every song, mostly from Purpose, Justin’s very solid comeback album from last fall. Because when you’re a young woman, you blast your favorite songs in the car with your friends and sing them word-for-word with the windows down. They didn’t seem to care that Bieber was going through the motions — they had their Snapchats, their longtime crush standing before them, and their best friends to experience it with.
That girlish fervor for a pop star isn’t really something you outgrow. You just move on and then look back nostalgically, a little envious, when that pure, undying love is sitting right next to you at a concert, having the #besttimeever.
These girls are Bieber’s peers, and while they might not have an unlimited bank account and access to tiger and monkey pets, they have something he doesn’t: freedom. They can go to Starbucks in total anonymity, or see a movie without renting out the whole theater.
It’s obvious that Justin envies this, and that lack of freedom was the centerpiece of the stage show. We saw Justin trapped in boxes and cages, sinking into the stage between songs. When you combine that with his lackluster attitude toward his back catalog, the result is depressing, not “deep.”
The only time Justin looked alive onstage was when he was playing his acoustic guitar, or talking to a group of local kids who performed alongside him during “What About the Children?” Maybe Bieber should quit this whole “fame” thing, move back to Canada, and become a teacher.
Some of us have been Beliebers since Day One, when a purple hoodie-wearing Justin strummed a guitar on YouTube and learned the ins and outs of the industry from under Usher’s wing. He’s been around for nearly 10 years; “One Time” came out in 2009 — crazy, right?
In that time, he’s earned an insanely devoted fanbase, much like One Direction’s legendarily obsessive Directioners. Of course, teen girls have been glomming on to pop stars since the dawn of time. Fluttering your mascara’ed lashes at a singing heartthrob isn’t a novel concept. It’s a rite of passage.
Justin’s latest singles have earned him new fans, many of whom were ashamed to admit they enjoyed his little poppy jams from past albums. It’s not exactly “cool” to admit that you love Justin Bieber if you’re not a young girl, but newer songs like “What Do You Mean” and “Sorry” even had Kanye West counting himself as a Belieber.
But when you see a show Sunday's in Minneapolis, you have to wonder: why? What do I like about this artist who is so obviously bored beyond belief with the life we’ve made for him?
Maybe Justin just isn’t a touring artist. A lot of singers aren’t! Not everyone can be Garth Brooks. Justin’s not particularly charismatic onstage. We barely got any words out of him, besides some hackneyed quotes about life being worth living and the crowd being — you guessed it — “amazing.” He barely sang along to his hits, leaving the heavy lifting to a backing track.
Justin half-heartedly prowled the stage like a circus animal looking for an escape, wearing a Marilyn Manson tee emblazoned with “BIGGER THAN SATAN.” That was obviously not a joke; he is well-aware of how famous he is — famous enough to brand the shirt with “BIEBER.”
Maybe the young pop star should be left to record when he wants and spend the rest of his time wakeboarding on Detroit Lakes or petting tigers or whatever it is rich twentysomethings do.
Justin closed the show with his classic teenybop “Baby” and the deliciously catchy “Sorry,” but no matter how great the songs are, the joy has gone out of Justin. And that can’t be replaced by a backing track and some cool dancers.
Critic's bias: I consider myself a Belieber and own the Never Say Never documentary. My best friend and I debated buying the $80 Justin tapestry.
The crowd: Young women in ‘90s-inspired bodycon dresses and black chokers, a welcome change from the faux-country girl look they usually wear to shows.
Overheard in the crowd: “He asked every age and then just goes, ’26-40?’ What a jackass!” (Bieber had surveyed the crowd by age but seemed to dismiss his “older” fans, myself included.)
Notebook dump: Bieber is like your cringeworthy ex-boyfriend. He plays you cheesy songs on acoustic guitar and talks about how no one thinks he’s “good enough." And probably wears pheromones instead of cologne.