Before I set out to rehabilitate a young pop star with genuine talent and something special to offer the world, three basic truths need to be established:
1. Justin Bieber is a mess.
2. Justin Bieber is a brat.
3. Justin Bieber, who will perform at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday, needs guidance.
After all, while I was typing that last sentence, new Bieber alerts just rolled in! Let's see, what do we have here: Marijuana was found on the 19-year-old's tour bus as it crossed the Canadian border into Detroit (though he wasn't on it); the Los Angeles County D.A. rejected a paparazzi's hit-and-run case against the singer; and German officials are trying to get Bieber to pay an unpaid bill for a pet monkey (wait — what?!). Oh, and here's one more! Bieber's entourage is now being investigated for a melee in the Hamptons.
All that, however, is benign compared to his other misdeeds, including a recent double-whammy of urinating in a restaurant mop bucket then, immediately after, assaulting a photograph of Bill Clinton with cleaning fluid all while dropping an f-bomb at the presidential visage.
How do we know this? Because one of his buddies recorded it.
After starting his career as a sweet, perfectly coiffed mama's boy cooing Baby, the kid has turned into Bad News Bieber.
"He hasn't been arrested, hasn't been sent off to rehab, and hasn't been put on a 5150 hold," says Ken Baker, chief correspondent for E! News. "He hasn't reached the pinnacle of celebrity meltdown mode. But there is a pattern of misbehavior, of him disregarding authority and being a little angry. . . . He's gone off the deep end in terms of his image. He's rebelling and acting out."
Listen, Bieber has a right to be 19 years old. The problem with Bieber is that there seems to be malice in his actions, that he's angry about something. As a result, Bieber-bashing is at an all-time high. On Canada.com, his countrymen just issued "7 big reasons why Justin Bieber is a jerk." (No. 2? "Those awful topless selfies.")
Enough is enough. It's time for an intervention. Herewith, positive advice aimed at a young man with a good voice, slick dance moves and a creative future worth saving. He also apparently has a monkey out there who needs him.
5 STEPS TO A BETTER BIEBER
1 STOP DISRESPECTING FANS (AND THEIR CRANKY MOMS)
When the Biebs plays the Times Forum, he'll bring with him an aura of malevolence quite different than the last time he was here, at the 93.3 Jingle Ball in December. Biebs was a rascal then, but he wasn't a wildly urinating punk. He had a cool GF (Selena Gomez, who has since been the epitome of an on-off flame) and a hot album (Believe, which includes hits Boyfriend and Beauty and a Beat).
He also showed up on time, which has since become a real problem for this kid. A few weeks ago, Bieber arrived 90 minutes late for a gig in Des Moines, Iowa. In March, he was two hours late for a concert at the O2 Arena in London. He's also topped the two-hours-tardy meter in both Germany and Dubai.
Here's the deal: By showing up late and essentially thumbing your nose at the crowd, you're not only alienating your fan base but you're also ticking off your fan base's PARENTS, who control the cash that buys tickets, albums, concert T's, etc.
Bieber's rep has taken a hit, but his ticket and album sales appear to still be strong. That won't last if he treats his fans like garbage.
Advice? Buy a watch, dude.
2 STOP SPITTING, BRO
Bieber is allowed to act like a buffoon with his pals. Drinking, smoking weed. Not exactly a genius move, but youth is when we make mistakes. People made a big deal when he visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and wrote in the guestbook: "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber." So what? For once he's being genuine, and you crush him for it? No.
Bieber was railed on for racing cars through his tony Calabasas, Calif., 'hood and ticking off fellow neighbor and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Keyshawn Johnson, who was once a ne'er-do-well kid, too. I don't want people getting hurt, but that one gave me a good karmic chuckle.
No, the far bigger problem is that Bieber seems to be lacking basic manners. In July 2012, he made a profane ruckus on a commercial flight. He also spits a lot. Like a camel. He recently launched loogies off a Toronto hotel balcony, possibly with his fans nearby. That's a PR disaster.
"He's been famous since he was a child, so I think he's lost a lot of his childhood where he would learn these lessons, like not to be a complete a--," says Jayde Donovan, morning-show host on Hot 101.5, a bastion of pop music in Tampa Bay. Bieber is Donovan's business, and while she's not ready to give up on him, she's ready for some changes.
"If you give a kid everything he ever wanted, and he drives a half-a-million-dollar car, and nobody says no to the guy, he's going to think he's a pimp and think he's funny," she said. "And he has these hoodlums around him that just say, 'Oh yeah, that's funny when you pee in the bucket.' No one's really guiding him."
We suggest Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, purchase a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. If saliva is a problem, we also suggest Braun hire someone to carry a spittoon.
3 YOU CAN KEEP PARTYING, JUST STOP TWEETING ABOUT IT
For a kid who rails against the paparazzi and a lack of privacy, Bieber and his posse seem to share every intimate moment. Shirtless selfies are one thing; getting filmed relieving yourself in a mop bucket in a nice restaurant is another.
"His public image took a turn with that video," says E! News' Baker. "That was the kind of stuff we'd been hearing in the Hollywood circle. I noticed the people who were defending him went silent after that. That's public perception — until they see it with their own eyes, they don't believe it."
Hey, we've all cyber-posted a lot of moronic stuff that made us cringe in the harsh light of morning. So here's a lesson not just for Bieber but for all of us. Treat your iPhone or Droid like a gremlin. Don't feed that sucker after midnight. Baaaaad things happen.
4 STOP ACTING TOUGH. YOU'RE NOT EMINEM OR JAY Z. YOU SING A SONG CALLED 'EENIE MEENIE.'
"When he's not peeing in mop buckets or spitting on people, I have seen where he's visited people dying of cancer in the hospital," says Seth Kushner, Jayde Donovan's co-host on Hot 101.5.
Kushner can be tough on celebrities, but he allows that Bieber-bashing is not always fair. "I think he is aware of his celebrity, and he tries to do good with it sometimes. But we're not going to write about that."
Instead, Kushner says, we write about him spitting or urinating or tackling paparazzi or defaming world leaders with Windex. Because those things make better headlines than nice stuff. So here's a solution:
Keep doing nice stuff.
Keep going to hospitals.
Force our hand, Biebs.
We don't care about your tattoos or your swaggy low-hanging pants or your backward ballcap or your macho white tanks or your dumb haircut. No crime there. But if you keep giving us mop buckets, we're going to run with them — er, so to speak.
5 JUST STOP. GO AWAY. TAKE A VACATION. WE HEAR TAHITI IS NICE.
If I were asked to defend Justin Bieber in the court of public opinion, I would point to his excessive workload. I also might blame his mother a little.
Since his debut in 2010, he's been recording and touring pretty much nonstop. It's the scourge of the teen idol; you don't know how long your success will last, so you (or, better yet, your handlers) milk that success while it's still robust.
But there's a downside. Recent reviews from a show in New Jersey ripped Bieber for being "lazy," "sluggish," "bored," and also that he might have been lip-synching. I wasn't there; I don't know if it's true. The times I've seen him he's worked his tail off. But if he's tired, who can blame him?
E! News' Baker says Bieber's never-ending workload could be taking a toll not just on his ability to entertain, but on his maturation as well. "You don't have time to be reflective, to step back, gain perspective," he says. "I have sympathy for him. I really do."
Miley Cyrus, whose workload as Disney's Hannah Montana was equally excessive, recently took substantial time off — and time out of the limelight — before her latest return, which has proved successful. In the U.K.'s Sunday People newspaper, the 20-year-old Cyrus offered the same advice to Bieber: "I told Justin to take a bit of time out [until] people aren't so obsessed with you. When you're not around, all they want is your music."
That's good advice.
So is ours.
Good luck, J.B. We'll see you at the Times Forum on Thursday.
Don't be late.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter and Instagram.