I have a semi-embarrassing confession: I kind of like Justin Bieber.
Not necessarily him as a person, or his rushed tattoos, or his Selena Gomez on again/off again romance, but the fact that he can lay down a rap on a track with Chris Brown while shouting out Lauryn Hill and make it seem realistic. Or that he can still make swag seem like something you want to have, even though the word is so fantastically played out that it’s only rivaled by YOLO. Or that him and his ever-evolving hair make him Jennifer Aniston circa 2010 or a Beatles front man.
Plus, even though I want to dislike him, he’s just so catchy I can’t help singing along to “Baby” or “Boyfriend.”
But here’s a question that’s hard to answer: Will anyone care about Justin Bieber when he’s 30?
And the answer is this: maybe.
The path can go one of two ways:
Path One: The Justin Timberlake Route
Remember the frosted tip afro of teenage Justin Timberlake? When the boy bands died and most of those megaforces of the ’90s went on to storied careers as reality TV stars on MTV, or dance show judges on MTV, or bit characters in romantic comedies that eventually will get shown on MTV.
And then he did Justified. And Future Sex/Love Sounds. And The Social Network. And Friends with Benefits.
And relevance was achieved.
Timberlake channeled his persona first into his established medium as his own personal brand, and then took time off in closely related but creative endeavors – like his acting or his William Rast clothing line – while still sprinkling in features on songs from T.I., Timbaland, and Nelly to remind us why we all fell in love with a boy from Memphis with a smooth voice and a lot of charm.
Justin Bieber has already followed some of these footsteps, with his own starring role in a movie – granted, it was a lame biopic, but still – and hosted Saturday Night Live multiple times to some fanfare (like another Justin we know).
Path Two: The Aaron Carter Route
That’s right. I just broke out Aaron Carter. Not even Nick Carter – Aaron.
My best memory of Aaron Carter was one of his songs that was featured in Rugrats in Paris: The Movie (Aaron’s Party for the win).
Granted I don’t know if his claim to fame was ever as big as either Justin, but he did have a chunk of success singing about teenage parties and love.
Aaron did Saturday Night Live too. (No worries if you don’t remember.) And then he did House of Carters. And then Dancing with the Stars. And then Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off. And had at least one run-in with the law.
Aaron Carter is pop culturally irrelevant in our current sphere – and he’s only 25.
Granted, Bieber hasn’t started dating Selena Gomez and her friend Demi Lovato at the same time, or doing bottom barrel reality TV. But his love life is a dominating part of his celebrity cred (much like Taylor Swift, and we all see how much people talk about her music versus her dating) and those pictures of him possibly smoking something that might be marijuana don’t bode well either.
It’s all in Bieber’s hands as to whether he’ll slide into cultural irrelevancy or reach new heights.
And through the rise or the fall, we’ll all secretly be humming along to his newest song.