Justin Bieber started his music career when he was just 14 and so easily falls in that bracket of stars who the more paternalist among us worry about. So, will he turn out like Michael Jackson, not ever really having had a childhood and mixing genius with utter, self unaware lunacy?
The recent spat he had with photographers, on the face of it, seem to confirm those fears - Bieber is lashing out, becoming irritable and needs help. Collapsing on stage, vomiting, sending out odd pictures and rants on Instagram, being late for performances while playing video games - don't we all want to just mother him?
Sure, perhaps he doesn't always help himself. Aiming to quash rumours of being in receipt of professional help, Bieber wrote recently on Instagram: "if Anyone believes i need rehab thats their own stupidity lol I'm 19 with 5 number one albums, 19 and I've seen the whole world."
His success is an interesting phenomena. The power he has over his fans - or the Beliebers - is something quite remarkable, and strangely peculiar. It is no surprise that they self-indentify as beliebers, playing on believers, as well.
As an experiment on Friday afternoon I refreshed his Twitter page for 4 minutes to see the fluctuation in his follower count. At 16:19 he had 35,996,754 followers. A minute later that figure was 35,996,608. Many hundreds of people followed and unfollowed him in that time, but in what must be a very rare occurrence after that minute passed he was left with fewer followers.
On a much larger scale this was not the first time Bieber had lost so many followers. After having his haircut a while back many of the Beliebers stopped following him on Twitter in protest. Some 80,000 of his fans pressed the button on their Twitter pages that once said following, and now read follow - to which they so rebelliously declined.
After looking again at 16:21 he had 35,996,925 followers, 16:22 that figure was 35,996,991 and by 16:23 it was 35,997,086. In four minutes Bieber gained 332 more followers - some two hours after his last tweet - such is his power. It would be interesting to see how many followers he gained right after a tweet (though I was not prepared to wait around for that to happen).
Bieber has more beliebers than Shintoists, Sikhs, Jews, Jains Wiccans and Rastafarians have followers. With the last three he has more beliebers than them put together. Most religions have observed in the past few years a decline in their followers. One rather biased looking Wikipedia page on this very issue reads:
Factors related to and influencing the religiousness of young and emerging adults include religious participation, peer influence, parental influence, and risky behaviors such as gambling, sexual behavior, and delinquency.
But if Bieber seems to, by himself, fill this void, is he only bolstering the sexual delinquency of young people today?
In a long essay for the London Review of Books by Michael Herbert Miller, on Bieber, he points out, "Most of the lyrics [on his song You Want Me] are still embarrassingly naive, but he sounds older. His voice is huskier. The sentiment is more overtly sexual, too".
Though Miller doesn't believe this himself, this might rattle critics who suggest that young people are more interested in pop music than they are good morals and high ethical standards, which is what explains the noted risky behaviors of gambling, sexual behavior, and delinquency.
But as Miller demonstrates, Bieber is far more than that. Before he was being bullied in the press, and receiving the negative attention which has worried parents of beliebers, he was a noted good example of someone able to enjoy life, which can be a source of inspiration to a Godless youth.
For every time we hear of Bieber swearing or getting his kit off, it ought to be remembered that he was the author of these fine words:
"Life is a roller coaster. Just know when u dip low it is only to build excitement as u will fly high again. Enjoy the journey".
Think he's a hedonist? Think again:
do something for someone else. #giveback
This piece of good advice received 76,529 retweets, and 45,186 favourites (at the time of writing). As far as demigods go, with their ability to hold the attentions of young people the world over, you could get far worse than Justin Bieber (who by the time I had finished writing this had 36,001,652 followers).