The most baffling sensation of 2010, at least for me, is Justin Bieber. I mean, where the hell did they find this kid? Legend has it that Usher saw him on YouTube, signed him to a record deal, and now this scrawny little 16-year-old with the most offensive bowl cut since Paul McCartney is the biggest thing ever.
Justin Bieber sings with Ludacris! Justin Bieber sings with Sean Kingston! He hits on Kim Kardashian! My God, he’s everywhere. Never mind that when Bieber sings you can literally hear his voice trying not to drop, or that his music isn’t all that much better than Usher’s or Ludacris’s (who, by the way, once sang about licking a woman from her head to her toes – why is the 16 year old kid singing with him again?). For whatever reason, Beibermania has gripped the country and, like Han Solo in the tractor beam, we are powerless to escape it.
We all know the deal with child stars, right? They burn bright, hit puberty and then all but disappear, doomed to drug scandals, homosexual affairs, and stints on The Surreal Life until they finally make a big comeback, albeit looking like a shell of their former, youthful selves. Looking back on some other famous child stars, what fate awaits our precocious Mr. Bieber?
Scenario 1: Neil Patrick Harris What Happened: NPH made his name playing Doogie Howser, a pint-sized M.D., on TV in the ’90s. Once he grew up, we kind of lost track of him for a while. He’d show up in supporting roles here and there in a few movies (Starship Troopers, Undercover Brother), but then he played a coked-up version of himself in the Harold and Kumar movies, came out of the closet, and currently has a comfortable gig playing womanizer Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. Oh, he’s also gonna be in the Smurfs movie next year. Personal note: I met him once. Really nice guy. Bieber’s Odds: It’s easier for child music stars to stay employed than childhood actors; it’s safe to say that Bieber’s fame is a byproduct of his catchy music, whereas NPH’s starmaking role was defined by his age. Will It Happen? Probably not. Unless Bieber goes down in a hail of cocaine and hookers, I think it’s safe to say he’ll have an easier time staying in the spotlight than Harris did; still it’d be fun if, 20 years from now, there’s a Harold and Kumar remake where Justin Bieber, not NPH, is the whore-mongering maniac.
Scenario 2: Michael Jackson What Happened: Sweet Jesus, I have a deadline to make and rattling off MJ’s entire sordid history would just make me sad. Bieber’s Odds: I personally believe every musician has a Thriller-quality album in them, but Usher, talented though he is, is not Quincy Jones. And Justin Bieber isn’t distinguishable enough as an artist yet to gain that kind of celebrity. Which, given everything that followed Jacko post- Thriller, might be the best thing for all of us. Will It Happen? For his sake, I certainly hope not.
Scenario 3: Jackie Earle Haley What Happened: This little scamp burst onto the scene as one of the original Bad News Bears. Then, he dropped off the face of the planet. A cadaverous version of him resurfaced in 2006, where he has since re-energized his career (and gotten an Oscar nomination) by playing lunatics and generally sketchy characters in Shutter Island, Watchmen, and, most recently, as a pederast Freddy Krueger in the new Nightmare on Elm Street. Bieber’s Odds: Again, being a child actor is a tougher gig than a child singer. But the idea of Bieber someday playing Rorschach intrigues me… Will It Happen? Probably not. Haley had a particularly rough go of it; it’s safe to say that Bieber is too well-managed at the moment to let that happen.
Scenario 4: Lindsay Lohan What Happened: Played twins in The Parent Trap, got hot, did Mean Girls, dated Fez from That ’70s Show for some reason, since their split has been a train-wreck, boozing, sometimes-lesbian (maybe?) fixture of the L.A. club scene. Can’t remember the last time she did a movie. Bieber’s Odds: Surprisingly, this one isn’t too out of the realm of possibility. Lohan came from a troubled home, which, as far as we know, Justin Bieber does not. But she had a hit record or two herself back in the day, and it was the same kind of tweeny-pop that Bieber makes his millions off of. They occupy the same circles. Will It Happen? Again, I hope not, but would anyone be that surprised if things went south and it ultimately did?
Scenario 5: Hanson What Happned: “MMMBop” happened. Every damn day for all of 1997 it happened. Since then, nary a hit on the radio, but the formerly androgynous trio has since found legitimate success as, of all things, an indie rock band. Bieber’s Odds: Amazing. You can only make the same pop song so many times before it gets annoying; picking up a guitar and starting a band might be the best move for him. Will it Happen? I’d be very pleased if it did, to be honest with you.