Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Feature: Justin Bieber - Never Say Never

I'm going out on a major public image limb here, but I gotta do it.

Up until October of this year (2011), I didn't know much about Justin Bieber beyond his name. I knew that he was what my generation calls a, "teenie bopper," that young girls screamed about him, and he had floppy hair. That's it. The sum total of my JB knowledge. And honestly, I didn't care to know more. We've all seen these flash-in-the-pan acts. There are loads of them. I expected Justin Bieber to be the same. I expected that in another six months, he'd have had his fifteen minutes and would be gone.

In October, I went on a three day company retreat. Let me set the scene. I work for an AWESOME, but fairly new, non-profit organization. It has multiple facets and is a little bit complicated in terms of operation. The retreat was to be an intense, serious work session. The attendees (of which I was the youngest at 33) were the CEO and his wife, the CFO, the facilitator, the marketing guru - all of these people have been in the business world for decades - along with the president of a record label, another unit head, and me.

The second night we were there, after two days of grueling work, the facilitator announced that we were going to watch, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" that night, as a group. Required viewing, no less. I absolutely could not believe it. I kept waiting for him to say, "Just kidding. We're not watching that." But he was serious. To add to my shock, the record label president said, "Oh, I've seen this. You're going to love it. Amazing film." What in the world was going on?!

(It's worth mentioning that we watched it on a wall-sized projection TV with a ridiculously powerful sound system.* It's a darn good thing we were at a cabin in the middle of nowhere, because anybody within a mile would have been able to hear with absolute clarity.)

I have a ton of respect for the people who were at the retreat, so I popped a Diet Coke, kicked back and watched the movie. It changed my mind, to say the least.

Let's pause for just a second, shall we? I just want to be clear that I'm not a "Belieber," a fanatic, or even a real fan. But I gained a healthy respect for the Bieber team, Justin himself, and for the process that he went through to gain his success. The kid has worked his tail off, and his story is nothing short of phenomenal.

I loved the film. I've recommended it to pretty much everybody, and even made my wife watch it. In fact, I've almost purchased it about a dozen times. And, kiddos, I'm a professional musician. My reputation is a real part of my life, and I try to look after it pretty assiduously.

Among other things, "Never Say Never" gives a real look at what a touring act goes through on a day to day basis, at what kind of work it takes to be successful, and at what a young person goes through when they accept a life of touring, recording and entertaining. As his vocal coach says at one point in the film, "You gave up normal."

As documentaries go, it's a home run. Grand slam, even. And I've seen a lot of documentaries. And, no, you don't have to go crazy over Justin Bieber to appreciate his career and his path to stardom. I won't play spoiler and get into it here, but if you have any interest in the business side of the music world, you absolutely need to watch this film. 

So, if I've lost your respect and you've seen this film, I can live with that. But if you're freaking out right now and you haven't seen the film, give it a solid look and then we'll talk.

I'll tell you this, too - the drummer in Bieber's stage band is a lot of fun. You don't get too many looks at him, but he's got crazy energy and some great ideas. Oh, and speaking of drums: if you LOVE drummers and drumming but HATE Justin Bieber....uh, maybe you shouldn't watch this film. Just sayin'.

Again, I'm not crazy about Justin Bieber, but I do believe that he's the real thing, that he's put in a lot of hard work, and that his story is maybe the first of a whole new generation of stars - a story that will become common. Someday we'll look back and the whole Bieber thing will be very normal.

For now, I can respect what he's done for himself. Even if I don't know any of the songs by heart and probably won't ever buy a ticket to a show. There are plenty of twelve-year-old girls for that.

*There was a large-ish ceramic bear on top of one of the speakers that fell to the ground and shattered because of how loud and rockin' the movie was. It is now affectionately known as "The Bieber Bear."

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