Justin Bieber Daily Mail interview? Q: How did this baby-faced Canadian teenager take over the world? A: With a little help from 47 million Facebook fans, 29 million Twitter followers and 3 billion hits on YouTube
‘I never stop working. In what I wanted to do in music I’ve never had any fear. But now I’m at the top there’s nowhere to go but down; for me it’s about staying standing at the top,’ said Justin BieberWith pale features, an Elvis-style quiff and a whippet-thin body, Justin Bieber looks younger than his 18 years.
Don’t be fooled, Simon Cowell warned me during an earlier interview.
‘The genius of Justin Bieber is he used the power of social media like no other artist, and he doesn’t stop.’ As the world’s first social-media superstar, Bieber built up a fan base of millions before he’d even signed a record deal.
‘I’m not a kid any more – I’m an adult, I’m making the decisions,’ said Justin
Now he has 47 million Facebook fans, 29 million Twitter followers and three billion YouTube hits – a world record that puts him ahead of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Eminem.
‘Only a fool would underestimate him,’ added Cowell.
‘I’ve met him a few times. He’s bright. The kid is more in charge than people think. I know this industry, I know what it takes, and he will be around for a very long time.’
With a fortune estimated at £70 million – which is set to double in the next two years on the back of a world tour, a movie and the returns from numerous investments – Bieber is part teenage heart-throb, part superstar businessman.
His latest album, Believe, topped the charts in the UK, the U.S. and throughout Europe, and his tour is sold out.
This amazing success has brought him a £4 million, 10,000sq ft house north of LA, a Disney-princess girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and a £500,000 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van customised with three high-definition TVs and a recording studio. About the only thing lacking in his fairy-tale world is a private jet.
Bieber fiddles momentarily with the diamond-encrusted whistle that hangs from his neck and then looks up.
‘No way,’ he says emphatically. ‘It’s a total waste of money. You buy the plane, then you have to pay for storage, and on top of that you have to think about the fuel, the cost of the fuel – that’s maybe $4,000.
‘Even hiring a private plane is like 50 or 60K. Once you get into that it becomes a habit – a bad habit.
‘I’ll get one when I need it – if I have to go somewhere instantly – but you don’t want to buy a plane; it’s definitely not worth it.’
What makes this exchange truly surreal isn’t the fact that Bieber barely even shaves yet – but that he’s only out by $100 on the cost of a tank of jet fuel. Cowell was right to say he shouldn’t be underestimated.
‘I never stop working,’ says Bieber.
‘In what I wanted to do in music I’ve never had any fear. But now I’m at the top there’s nowhere to go but down; for me it’s about staying standing at the top.
‘I’m not a kid any more – I’m an adult, I’m making the decisions and I want to keep on growing, and I believe I can.’
‘My music is never going to have swear words in it. Never,’ said Justin
With Believe marking a departure from the swooshy fringe and ‘baby, baby, baby’ lyrics of his initial incarnation, the pressure is now on for Bieber to make the transition from boy star to adult performer. It’s a challenge, however, that leaves him unfazed.
‘I look at Justin Timberlake and Usher and see how they crossed over really successfully, and I’ve seen people go off at the deep end, get full of themselves, think they’re the best and end up not being anything. I’ve worked way too hard for that.
‘I definitely don’t want to be just another teen heart-throb. But there are different ways of growing. I want to be loved like Michael Jackson was, from the four-year-olds to the 80-year-olds.
‘I am going to change and grow through my music and doing films. This album was different. My next album will be even edgier.’
Edgy enough to merit an explicit-lyrics warning, I ask? He shakes his head.
‘My music is never going to have swear words in it. Never.’
Bieber pulls up his trouser leg to show me tattoos of Jesus and hands clasped in prayer. He also has the Hebrew word for Jesus on his ribcage.
He no longer attends church regularly like he did as a child, but he is open about his beliefs.
‘I believe that He put me in this position, and that I have to always give Him the glory He deserves for putting me here.’
Unlike, for example, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake, Bieber didn’t spring fully formed from a major TV show.
Instead, aged 12, he appeared from nowhere – or more precisely, from YouTube, where his mother, Pattie Mallette, posted videos of her son singing in a local competition and in their tiny basement apartment in the blue-collar town of Stratford, Canada.
His backstory is straight out of a Hollywood script. Troubled teen (Mallette) gets pregnant by her on-again, off-again boyfriend (Jeremy Bieber).
At 18, she gives birth, and – besotted by her baby – turns her back on drugs and alcohol and embraces Christianity.
Justin on stage in California earlier this month. ‘I’m a musician; I play instruments, I write songs. I’m a businessman; I want to create an empire,’ he said
Meanwhile, the father, 19, languishes in jail for assault. He and Mallette eventually separate.
At the age of two, Bieber starts playing the drums, and soon he’s astounding his mother’s friends with his natural talent.
A hyperactive child, he teaches himself to play the guitar, piano and trumpet too, and begins performing in his home town.
Then, when he’s 13, talent manager Scooter Braun spots him on YouTube. Braun flies him and his mother to Atlanta, attracts interest from R&B star Usher and gets him a record deal with Usher’s mentor LA Reid.
At 16, Bieber’s debut album goes double platinum. His dad reforms and settles down, and his mother tours the world with him.
‘What happened was I found something I wanted to be good at,’ says Bieber now.
‘I wasn’t good at school because I had no passion for it. If I hadn’t found music my life would have been bad.
‘My family are all poor, so the cycle would have continued. My kids would have been poor, and their kids would have been too. I feel I broke the cycle, and when you get to break the cycle, you don’t go back.’
Bieber was originally painted as a pretty puppet, with Braun, now 31 and worth £15 million, pulling the strings.
‘That’s the greatest misconception of me,’ he smiles. ‘People think I’m a product, that they found this good-looking kid, cut his hair nice and put Auto-Tune on his voice, wrote him good songs, taught him how to dance and then said, “Here is a pop star for you.”
‘I am the furthest thing from that. I’m a musician; I play instruments, I write songs. I’m a businessman; I want to create an empire. I want people to know I don’t just sing songs. I’m the guy who signed the girl who just had the biggest single all round the world (Carly Rae Jepsen with Call Me Maybe; he brought her to the attention of Braun, who gave him a 50 per cent cut when he signed her).
‘I’m going to do movies – I’m talking with Mark Wahlberg about my first big movie. I invest in start-ups and IT. I have a very smart manager, but I always wanted to learn from him.
‘The education I’ve had you couldn’t get in any school. If I want to be good at something I will be. I’m good at this.’
With all his money and fame he can do anything, except walk down a street without being mobbed. You wonder how he gets his thrills.
‘On stage,’ he says. ‘Playing a song acoustically.’
Justin on stage at the Canadian MuchMusic Video Awards. ‘My family are all poor, so the cycle would have continued. My kids would have been poor, and their kids would have been too. I feel I broke the cycle,’ he said
But what about a thrill that has nothing to do with what he does, like buying a house or getting the keys to a car?
‘No, those are just things, material things…’
So what else does give Bieber a thrill? He shrugs his shoulders.
‘Honestly, I can’t think of anything.’
Perhaps, like his hero Jackson, he has forfeited his childhood for fame.
‘I’ve been working since I was 13 and there are definitely things that I missed out on, but I got to go to Australia and all these different countries. I met the President before I was 16 years old.
‘So I missed out on a few high-school parties. But I got to see the Eiffel Tower, to experience a business I want to be in for life. I don’t think I missed out on much.’
Braun’s business partner Allison Kaye offers an interesting perspective.
‘Since Justin was 14 he’s had business training as part of his curriculum. He would have a call every week with his lawyer and business manager and they would talk through contracts, royalty statements. He sees them all, and if there’s something he doesn’t understand he’s really upfront in terms of asking the question.’
The proof of Bieber’s extraordinary power is all around us. The 530ft-diameter Tacoma Dome is surrounded by thousands of hysterical girls – the so-called Beliebers. It’s impossible to get into or out of the stadium without running the gauntlet.
Justin with girlfriend Selena Gomez. Their first kiss was ‘the best of my life’
They scream at indescribable decibels, thrust notes into your hands and push their ‘Marry Me Justin’ placards into your face.
Many seem to know the names and birthdays of all his key staff, where he’s staying that night and the next, and the number plate of his tour bus.
In a world where Katy Perry declares she wants to have sex with Rihanna, and One Direction’s Harry Styles bed-hops his way through hordes of women, Bieber is the good boy, the one every girl wants to take home to her mother. He’s as unthreatening as Hello Kitty.
There is no sex tape, no hint of anything untoward. He rarely talks about his girlfriend, though he has admitted their first kiss was ‘the best of my life. It was in the car. It was scary and spontaneous and it was just awesome.’
Despite all this, many think Bieber is heading for a meltdown. When he was sick on stage recently (apparently due to drinking milk beforehand), rumours abounded that he was about to ‘do a Britney’.
He dismisses the idea: ‘I’m not going to shape my life round what people might be thinking. Whatever happens, happens.’
He also has some new rivals for his fans’ affections in the form of British boy bands One Direction and The Wanted.
‘I am not threatened by anybody; no one can threaten me,’ he insists.
‘It’s actually cool to have other young people on the scene. I’ve spent years being the only one at all these awards shows – now there are other people my age.
‘I hang out with One Direction, and the guys from The Wanted are fun, really funny guys. I keep my distance when they go to clubs to have their fun – I go home.
‘Drinking is definitely one way, but it’s not for me. I still want people to think I’m a good person, a good influence. I want to be around tomorrow.’
Two artists he’s met who have stood the test of time are Paul McCartney and Elton John – but disappointingly he can barely recall the encounters: ‘Yeah, we talked, but I can’t remember what either of them said.’
He has much more to say when the subject turns to his fans.
‘I love my fans; I love the mass hysteria. I mean, this was always what I wanted. And you’ve got to remember I was this kid with no marketing campaign; it was my fans that got me here.
‘They were the ones who’d show up at radio stations when I was playing on them, and that’s how I got my record deal. That’s how everybody started saying, “Who is this kid, Justin Bieber, who has 10,000 girls outside a mall in New Jersey?” My fans made me.’
Like the greatest cult leader of them all, Bieber has absolute control over his followers. One of his tweets can sell out a brand of clothing (Adidas) or spot cream (Proactiv), or catapult an unknown artist to stardom (Jepsen).
But at close quarters, the greatest eye-opener is how in control this kid is. In fact, he describes himself as fearless – except, that is, when it comes to flying.
‘I just started to really not like getting on a flight,’ he says.
‘It scares me. When I get anxiety, my heart drops and starts beating really fast as if it’s going to explode. And when there’s a weird noise, it’s like, what’s that weird noise? People say you have more chance of getting into a car accident than a plane crash, but they do maybe one flight a year and I’m on planes all the time. And all the time I’m thinking I have no control. If this plane crashes I’m dead. I feel like every time I get on a plane I’m risking my life.’
Tomorrow, he’s due to board another plane, and there’ll be dozens more on his current tour, which ends next year. But now, an hour into our conversation, his attention has started to wander.
He talks briefly about what he likes – The Simpsons, Family Guy, House, Tupac, the Beatles, Liam Neeson (‘I met him on Jonathan Ross; I really like that guy’).
He also admits he’s keen on Cheryl Cole.
‘She’s really pretty,’ he says. I suggest that at 29, she’s surely too old for him. He laughs and jumps to his feet. ‘Is that a challenge? She’s not too old. Nothing is too old for me, except maybe 50 or 60.’
He gets up to leave, but before he goes he pulls up his shirt to show me another tattoo, a crown on his skinny chest.
‘King of Pop,’ he says. So that’s the real challenge?
He nods. ‘I have no fear that anyone will beat me.’