In 2008 a small boy with wide eyes, a glossy grin and a helmet of swept brown hair by the name of Justin Bieber was held up to the altar of celebrity, and all around the world a new generation of teenie boppers came together to sing his praises.
It was a strange, shrill sound that echoed across the globe - a sound we’d come, through gritted teeth, to call Bieber Fever.
Armed with social media and the internet, this bleating army made Beatlemania and Girl Power look like minor footnotes in the history of hysterical pop worship.
The ‘Beliebers’ made their God the most followed person on Twitter, the first artist to put seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100 at the first attempt and granted him a personal fortune in the tens of millions.
But alas, no teen sensation, no matter how big, is immune from the awful and inevitable fate that lurks in wait... the moment when the alter of fame becomes a sacrificial table and the backlash begins...
1. SHARON PUTS THE BOOT IN
Sharon Osborne has been called a lot of things, but rarely a prophet. And yet the acid-tongued matriarch heralded the start of the Bieber Backlash when she predicted his star was on the wane in October, 2012.
“His fans are growing up -- they’re 18, 19-year-olds now. … They’re young women. And he still looks like that little boy!” she said in an interview, the words of a woman who’d seen plenty come and go in the music industry.
Bieber shrugged his shoulders in response:
While the rest of the world quietly wondered if she might just have a point…
2. THE TROLLS GO CRAZY
A few months later, and 2013 began for Bieber with a drugs controversy. The teenager was snapped allegedly holding a joint at a party by gossip website TMZ. A cynical attempt to ‘develop’ his image or a silly accident? We’ll never know for sure, but either way it backfired.
While many of Bieber's wholesome young fans emitted genuine howls of concern, a far more sinister Twitter trend called #cutforbieber briefly flared in which fake accounts were set up to encourage Belibers to cut themselves in response to his behaviour (sample: "You stop using drugs and we'll stop cutting. You make this world meaningless and we've lost hope," tweeted @brittanyscrapma)
Bieber has always been a target of derision from people who hate manufactured pop, but this was trolling on a much deeper and more disturbing scale.
3. MURDER PLOT
Bieber hate went even further in February when details emerged of a plot to have him killed and castrated.
The grim recording, made from inside Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, revealed how inmates discussed a plan to kill the singer at a Madison Square Garden show by robbing him of his manhood and then “strangling him with his signature paisley scarf”.
4. THE FANS TURN
Until his trip the UK this month, the whole world had turned on Bieber except the people who most matter to him (and his record company): the fans.
But then, at London’s O2 arena, what should have been a scene of cherished memories being made forever was turned into a living nightmare of crying children, fuming Mums and broken little hearts.
After experiencing ‘technical difficulties’, Bieber finally went on stage two whole hours after he was scheduled to perform. Unaided by alcohol, drugs or fully grown legs, thousands of his young fans were too tired to watch the show and had to be taken home less than halfway into his set.
The ensuing press coverage took delight in finding fans prepared to renounce their Bieber Fever. The Bieber Backlash net had gone full circle, and was now closing in.
5. THE MELT DOWN
Teen Sensations are as well trained in maintaining a serene façade as SAS soliders are in breaking necks. Even if the whole world is baiting them and their soul is collapsing in their chest, they keep smiling. But inevitably, at some point, the backlash gets too much and they crack.
Shortly after the disastrous concert Bieber donned a gas mask to enter a London restaurant, looking every inch the horror movie nutter. While this wasn’t quite Bieber’s bald-Britney-with-a-brolly moment – he’s worn the mask before, for one thing – it was a clear sign the negative press was getting to the 19-year-old.
But it was later and – inevitably - on Twitter when Bieber took his haterz head on:
With a new ‘proper musician’ acoustic album on the way, will the current Bieber Backlash prove to be a mere aberration in Justin’s story, a footnote in his transition from child star to grown up music legend? Perhaps.
But as countless past teenage heartthrobs will tell him, nothing – least of all the love and devotion of millions of young strangers – lasts forever.
After all, when it comes to your general public, a backlash is a walk in the park compared to what usually comes next: boredom.
Justin Bieber performs on the street August 20, 2007 in Stratford, Canada. (Photo by Irving Shuter/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber performs on the street August 20, 2007 in Stratford, Canada. (Photo by Irving Shuter/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber Visits The Nintendo World Store - September 1, 2009
Justin Bieber visits the Nintendo World Store on September 1, 2009 in New York City.
Justin Bieber Performs On ABC's "Good Morning America"
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15: Musician Justin Bieber performs on ABC's 'Good Morning America' at ABC News' Good Morning America Times Square Studio on November 15, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Z100's Jingle Ball 2009 - Press Room
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Singer Justin Bieber attends Z100's Jingle Ball 2009 at Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
KIIS FM's Wango Tango 2010 - Arrivals
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 15: Justin Bieber arrives at KIIS FM's Wango Tango 2010 at the Staples Center on May 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
KIIS-FM Presents Justin Bieber At Nokia Plaza L.A. LIVE
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Singer Justin Bieber poses after his free performance presented by KIIS-FM at Nokia Plaza L.A. Live on February 13, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber Signs Copies Of "First Step 2 Forever" - November 26, 2010
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 26: Justin Bieber promotes his new book 'First Step 2 Forever' at Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue on November 26, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Getty Images)
68th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 16: Singer Justin Bieber arrives at the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 16, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never - Inside Arrivals
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Justin Bieber attends the 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' premiere at the O2 Cineworld on February 16, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)
2011 Billboard Music Awards - Press Room
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 22: Singer Justin Bieber poses in the press room with the Digital Artist of the Year award during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
2011 CMT Music Awards - Audience And Backstage
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 08: Singer Justin Bieber attends the 2011 CMT Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 8, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
BET Awards '11 - Arrivals
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Musician Justin Bieber arrives at the BET Awards '11 held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 26, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
2011 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - AUGUST 07: Singer Justin Bieber arrives at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards held at Gibson Amphitheatre on August 7, 2011 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
2011 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 28: Justin Bieber arrives at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Singer Justin Bieber arrives at The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber Lights The Empire State Building
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Justin Bieber poses on the observation deck at The Empire State Building on November 18, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
"Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" - New York Premiere
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 02: Justin Bieber attends the New York premiere of 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' at Regal E-Walk 13 on February 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Dolce & Gabbana Celebrates Fashion's Night Out
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08: Justin Bieber attends the Dolce & Gabbana Boutique on September 8, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Dolce & Gabbana)
The 40th American Music Awards - Arrivals
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Singer Justin Bieber attends the 40th American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
2012 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Justin Bieber arrives at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Teen Choice Awards 2012 - Show
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Singer Justin Bieber accepts the Male Summer Music Star award onstage during the 2012 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
2012 MuchMusic Video Awards - Show
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Justin Bieber perfoms at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards at MuchMusic HQ on June 17, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
2012 Teen Choice Awards - Red Carpet
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JULY 22: Singer Justin Bieber arrives at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on July 22, 2012 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
2012 Billboard Music Awards - Arrivals
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: Justin Bieber arrives at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand on May 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
2012 MuchMusic Video Awards - Arrivals
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Justin Bieber and guest arrives at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards at MuchMusic HQ on June 17, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
2012 Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards - Show
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31: Singer Justin Bieber onstage at the 2012 Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards at Galen Center on March 31, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NRJ Music Awards 2012 - Red Carpet Arrivals
CANNES, FRANCE - JANUARY 28: Justin Bieber poses as he arrives at NRJ Music Awards 2012 at Palais des Festivals on January 28, 2012 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber performs at the O2
DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 17: Justin Bieber performs at the O2 on February 17, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Phillip Massey/WireImage)
Celebrity Sightings In London - February 19, 2013
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 19: Justin Bieber sighting at Beat Club on February 19, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Chapman/FilmMagic)
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