By now you officially live in a box if you still haven’t heard of Justin Bieber. Since I first stumbled across a too-sweet but also a little too grown up video last July (free iTunes download), Bieber’s star has indeed risen meteorically. Last summer he was a “who’s that” at Kansas City’s Red White & Boom festival. This July, the cheapest seats at his Sprint Center concert start at $30 and go all the way up to a $350 VIP package. He’s been on Oprah, was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, and sang for President Obama. To think, it all started by him posting YouTube videos for family members who couldn’t see him win 2nd place in a local talent show in a small town in Canada (an inauspicious start, to say the least – check out this little guy).
I suppose there are probably many who haven’t heard of Greyson Chance yet. That’s a bit more understandable, since it’s barely been a month since he first stunned the YouTube world with a piano/vocal rendition of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi. I first heard the performance called “Billy Elliot meets Glee.”) Take a moment and watch if you haven’t yet:
The comparisons with Bieber are obvious. Both have killer smiles, can will their floppy hair into place, play piano and sing quite well, and each boy’s first posted video was of a minor talent show performance. But while JB has way more hits total, no single video (including the “official” music videos by big name producers) has as many views as Greyson’s 24 million and counting. While it took Justin years from his first posts and subscribers before he got on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Greyson has already been on twice in a month. The first time Greyson got a surprise call from Lady Gaga herself (he called her “Ms. Gaga”). The second time he walked away with a check for $10,000 for winning Ellen’s talent competition (that he may not have known he was up for), a new piano, and announced a record deal with Ellen’s own newly created label.
Some have accused Chance (or his parents, or talent scouts) of rigging the whole thing, claiming that nobody can rise to fame that quickly through truly viral means. The talent show video seems too good to be true. The sound quality is flawless. There are only girls in the audience behind him, apparently smitten by the 6th grader’s performance. What gives?
My take on this whole thing is, both Bieber and Chance have genuine vocal talent, especially given the ages when each began. (And who really cares how they were “discovered” if they’re actually that talented? I’ve seen way worse, especially from kids of mediocre talent being promoted heavily.) Greyson definitely has Justin beat as far as piano skill, and Justin sounds better acoustic than in studio. I also think Greyson has a much more mature vocal quality than Justin, not to mention being more than three years younger. My hope for Greyson is that he will be able to avoid some of the boy-diva antics that Justin seems to have gotten caught up in (Bieber allegedly told an Australian TV staffer “Don’t ever f***ing touch me again,” but denies it as rumor). Greyson will likely be a stellar piano man (think Billy Joel) rather than the “wow-’em with charm and dance moves” track Justin is on.
I really don’t know how long Justin Bieber’s perfect smile and swagger will carry him. He’s already outlasting his cute factor. Greyson Chance, I believe, has the potential to bring some really good music to the table (he’s already written and shared two original songs). Similar start, similar potential, very different likely outcomes. The deciding factor in the end? The company each will keep, the voices they listen to, and those in positions of influence keeping the best interest of each young man as their top priority, not just making boatloads of cash.