[legacy post from innovideo creative blog]
Considering I have been hanging out with middle school kids since long before any current ones were born, I have consumed my fair share of ‘tween media. I have watched Zach & Cody (in the Suite Life on and off Deck), Hannah Montana, and countless saccharine Disney Channel/ ABC Family movies. I don’t know if I actually believe that I will be more conversant with kids as a result, or if I find comfort that most of the content will be completely unobjectionable. I have also cheered for young talent, from 11-year-old Billy Gilman to yo-yo champ Grant Johnson to Britain’s Got Talent dancing sensation Aidan Davis… poor lad got overshadowed by some frumpy church volunteer with an even bigger dream. There are even several Christian teen pop stars in my library, from PureNRG and MissionSix to The Rubyz and yes, Robert Pierre. Sure makes a splash when I play the background music for the 4th and 5th graders each summer at “VBX” (Vertical Bible Extreme). I just think it’s cool when young people, whose names are not Jonas or Cyrus, get a chance to show the world some real talent.
Recently I became aware of a rising star named Justin Bieber. Two and a half years ago, his mom posted a few poorly shot videos of him in a local singing contest in Ontario on YouTube. Within a year or so his videos, including ones recorded just to post for fans, were getting a million, 5 million, even 10 million views. Needless to say, that got the attention of some of the big players in pop music. He signed with Usher’s music label and at the age of 15 is releasing an album in November.
Reaction to him is extremely polarized. Amidst a frenzied iTunes/YouTube comment chorus of “omg hes sooooooo hot,” you’ll see those that believe nobody should record music until they have passed through puberty. I will say this – the kid has talent. His most-viewed video/song will reach 12 million hits before long. He’s much more impressive unplugged, and for his age has some pretty deft fingers on the guitar. I refuse to badmouth him and dignify the vitriol of the “haters” that swear up and down he’s gay because his voice is high pitched. Huh? He may very well be a flash in the pan, but his short career bears some calm reflection before every tween and teen girl you know goes gaga over him. In some places he’s singlehandedly rivaling the Jonas Brothers in effecting mass female swoonage. To at least some degree, his two singles are in the top 20 due to (again) female fans with screen names like MrsBieber purchasing the song dozens of times, just to get it to stay high on the charts. Lucky dog.
I find it curious how much musical and personal territory Bieber has covered between his early focus that betrayed deep Christian conviction, even witnessing via YouTube, and his most recent release called One Less Lonely Girl (in which his voice is shoved through autotune that masks his actual talent). It appears that the adorable-little-white-boy-singing-R&B-love-songs genre has defeated the worship-and-witness fare. It is plain just by numbers of views. What bothers me is that Justin could have used his God-given talent to draw a lot of people – around the world – to Christ instead of just himself. Now he’s singing drivel, written expressly for him to record, such as “I’m gonna put you first / I’ll show you what you’re worth / Gonna fix up your broken heart / Give you a brand new start…” Hold the webcam, little man. Who’s the Savior around here? Of course young girls gush how much they “love” this ideal boyfriend, when those deep heart needs can only be met by a perfect and perfectly loving God.
I will not begrudge a self-described small town kid a dream few ever see realized. I just mourn what it seems now might never be. What potential there could have been for amazing talent to be used for true good, from what I hear, is already being eaten up by the pop-music machine. Prove me wrong?