It’s amusing – and a little sad – when you consider how Beyoncegate has incited so much finger pointing from the Transparency Police about her choice to sing the national anthem to a pre-recorded track (not lip-sync – there is a difference) at Monday’s presidential inauguration.
Those bothered by this incredibly common practice have branded her with a scarlet F (for fake). Yet we live in an era when that practice by our pop stars isn’t only accepted, but expected.
Justin Bieber is a prime example.
The kid is an engaging performer. A nifty dancer. Even a creamy-voiced crooner when he puts his mind to it.
But was he always singing without the aid of backing tracks at Wednesday’s just-about-sold-out Philips Arena concert?
Heck, no. How could he when a) his songs are so super-produced and layered in the studio that it would be impossible to re-create those vocals live, even with a band and backup singers and b) his priority is to present a spectacle, because that’s what his followers demand and what they pay to see.
Bieber’s fan base actually seems to be getting younger as he matures, and these kids couldn’t care less if he hit every note or sang every lyric. They coax their parents into taking them to a Bieber show because he is their swoopy-haired idol and they want to be awed while in his presence.
In that regard, Bieber’s “Believe” tour, which wraps this weekend but returns in the summer (he’s back at Philips Aug. 10), will have thousands of kids scurrying into homeroom today to share their breathless accounts of how Bieber entered the arena attached to a set of wings and dressed in cherubic white; how the flash pots and dizzying array of lasers electrified paint-by-numbers pop songs “All Around the World” and “Never Say Never”; how he and his cadre of dancers slithered across the beautifully constructed stage, filled with staircases and moving video screens, with Usher-like fluidity; how he turned his hand-held camcorder on his abs, inciting a tsunami of squeals so high-pitched that only dogs (and people over 30) could hear them; and how, through the clever use of home videos of itty-bitty Bieber and his own proclamations, Bieber taught them to never give up on their dreams because he never did and look at him now.
Hardly worth swapping YouTube videos about, right?
(He’s releasing an acoustic album on Tuesday, where we’ll get to hear him in unadorned form.)
When Bieber – a sometime Atlantan – wasn’t singing purely, he often sounded nasally and tinny (to be fair, he has apparently been sick recently) and the processed vocals on songs such as “Love Me Like You Do” and “Die In Your Arms,” performed like an old-school Motown revue, were impossible to decode if you didn’t have every word memorized (again, talking to the people over 30).
But we know that Bieber can sing (his voice coach, Atlanta-based Jan Smith, is one of the best). Yet right now, as an almost-19-year-old pretend boyfriend to millions, the business won’t allow him to merely be a singer. He needs Nicki Minaj rapping on a video screen during “Beauty and a Beat” and a hydraulic lift sending him skyward for the dramatic ending to “As Long as You Love Me”…because that’s what fans want.
In one slickly produced video, Bieber looked plaintively into the camera and mouthed, “I just wanna be me.”
Maybe one day, kiddo. But for right now, you’re gonna be whatever the pop machine demands of you.
(Check out our gallery for more photos from Wednesday’s show.)
By Melissa Ruggieri, The Music Scene