I mean, you knew it was coming, right? How can I not blog about the topic I think about most often right now?
Joey Brooks. Just kidding; who the eff is that? I'm talking about Justin Bieber.
(A note: I love a lot of things, Justin Bieber included, unironically. Yes, I am often embarrassed by this. I take pop culture and pop music in particular way too seriously. I like a lot of things I should hate, or at least question deeply.)
I saw Never Say Never 3D: The Director's Fan Cut Sunday night and I couldn't sleep afterward.
What is it about that kid? I mean, I can sit here and list the ways he has charmed me (and millions of others), but seriously, what IS it? He's a force of nature, an animal, something that exists because it must. But if you delve into the specific case, you just get footage of thousands of people crying, hysterical, screaming, "I love you, Justin!"
I've been that person before, kind of. I cried when I heard that Jon Bon Jovi had gotten married. I was five. He was 26. I've been in an arena, my body tense with excitement, screaming. I enjoy giving into the collective energy of that many delirious people.
But Bieber fans are different. They weep uncontrollably. They are obsessed. They can't get enough of whatever it is he's offering. What do they get out of it? I mean, eight-year-olds riot when he is doing a public appearance. Generally speaking, eight-year-olds don't riot. They all look so sad, so pained in their worship.
Is it the desire for what he represents--A beautiful, sensitive guy to sing love songs for you? Is it a safe, sanitized way to feel and express all the loneliness and desire pent up inside of you? Is it cultural conditioning that lets you know you should want this? Is it the fame, the fact that he is untouchable, beloved by everyone?
I lent it to Monica so I can't quote from it, but Justin Bieber as virgin sacrifice rings true. A large undercurrent of the narrative is whether or not he's normal and what fame is doing to him--and a tense look forward: Will he be the next Britney? Or Michael? We're shown home movies of his earliest perfomances and we're meant to see that this kid is different, special. He was made to be world-famous at the age of 14. He deserves the acclaim and we (the public) get the rights to him, forever more.
His vocal coach says to him, "You gave up normal." You gave it up. You sacrificed what you had before: Hockey games, roughhousing in your grandparents' home, screaming and yelling with your friends. You gave it up. And the gods gave you 10,000,000 beautiful, lonely girls holding their hands up in the shape of a heart, singing the words to your songs.
But you have to keep sacrificing. You have to rest when your voice is tired. Drink wheat grass juice. Be gracious to the people who hound you. It is Olympian in scope. When I look at my life as a choreographer (I have been moaning over how HARD it is, why don't people UNDERSTAND), the scale of sacrifice is so minimal. I get to make the art I want, on my schedule. I don't have to drive to every small theater in the country and shill. I don't even have to be skinny or beautiful. Making dances makes me feel better about myself and the world; I don't have to worry about 10,000 girls crying all night because Tara King cancelled the show. (Results may vary for other people named Tara King.)
Anyway, I don't know what I'm going on about. I don't really get fame. I don't know that anybody does.
Reminds me of a joke I heard recently. A man in a bar says, "Look out that window. You see that school? It's a good school. I built it with my own hands, paid for the bricks so the little children would have a place to learn. You'd think they'd call me a school builder." He orders another drink and says, "You see that bridge? I built that bridge. Needed a safe way to cross the river so I did it. You'd think they'd call me a bridge builder." He drinks some more. After several beers, he looks up and says, "But you fuck one sheep...."
Notoriety wins every time.
(And there lies a door down the road to my thoughts on Michael Vick, crime, and forgiveness...a door that will stay closed for now.)
I wonder, also, about the way Justin Bieber being a boy changes things. Certainly when Miley Cyrus hits the stage, there are 10,000 girls singing rapturously along, too. But I don't think Miley gets chased down by screaming hordes. I don't think her mom gets assaulted by little girls.
Is it that women are allowed to lose their heads, to go wild and get a little violent, where men are not? Men have to remain aloof? I don't know. I do Miley Cyrus looks a lot older than she is. Coltish teenage women have no place in the cultural imagination. Coltish teenage boys (particularly when devoid of any threatening marks - stubble, acne, deep voices) tap into something deep, emotional, semi-religious, viral, visceral, violent.
Yeah, sure. I wish it was me. I wish that the things I love to do were beloved by the world, supported with a huge crew and millions of dollars. As a friend said, "I want someone to steam my costumes." There's nothing like coming off a show that you killed, the feeling of connection with the audience, the feeling of being bigger and better than yourself. And it doesn't get much bigger.
And yeah, I wish our shows provoked the reactions that his do. I've been in a crowd of screaming, singing fans, sweating and dancing together. I've gotten lost in a euphoric haze at a rock show, been expanded beyond my edges, lifted to a place of reverie and joy.
Of course, one of the joys of contemporary performance is that it can and will fail (as Jerome Bel talked about at length in Pichet Klunchun & Myself). Justin Bieber's music can't fail because it's generated from pure calculation.
But when contemporary performance succeeds, the feeling of being changed lasts longer and is more memorable. At least, I can talk about it afterward, more coherently than, "It was awesome! Everyone was so stoked, man!"
But I miss the kinetic experience of standing in a crowd of people who are too close together, bodies moving because they can't stop, voices rising in a chorus--I want to know how to bring that to the dance audience. I want to know how audience participation can go from awkward to transcendent.
And, I really want to watch some more Justin Bieber videos.