There was recently a plot to kidnap, kill and castrate Justin Bieber, proving that the singer has fans of all ages, from all walks of life. Fans like 45-year-old Dana Martin of Las Cruces, N.M., a convicted rapist and murderer. Martin has a portrait of the once-wispy-haired heartthrob tattooed on his leg. From behind bars — where he is serving two life sentences — Martin sent Bieber heartfelt fan mail. But when those love letters went unanswered, unrequited love begat crushing rejection, consuming Martin with revenge fantasies and murderous rage.
Literally murderous rage, as the one-time Belieber commissioned a soon-to-be-released fellow inmate, one Mark Staake, to abduct The Bieb and his bodyguard from the bowels of Madison Square Garden, kill the pair and, as a souvenir, send Martin the singer's testicles, for which he offered $2,500 apiece. Staake recruited his nephew, Tanner Ruane, to help execute the plot, and the two set off for The Big Apple. It wasn't the smartest plan, and ultimately Martin had second thoughts, confessing the plot to authorities. Upon arresting Ruane at an Upstate New York gas station, federal agents found pruning shears in his car.
In just three short years, Justin Bieber has sold more than 15 million records, unseating The Jonas Brothers as the world's preeminent teen-pop pin-up. But perhaps more impressively, he boasts more than 33 million Twitter followers and is the single most-watched artist in YouTube history. A bona-fide seminal superstar, Bieber is quantifiably the most overexposed icon in a brave new technological world, and he has the backlash to show for it. The video for Bieber's breakout hit, 2010's "Baby," has an unfathomable 821,587,265 views at press time.
While the clip for PSY's fluke K-pop smash "Gangnam Style" only recently surpassed "Baby" as YouTube's all-time most-watched video, "Baby" still leads the Internet in dislikes, with 3.3 million-plus thumbs down. Justin Bieber is simultaneously both teen pop's most beloved boy wonder and the most hated man (he turned 18 last year) in music. He's also easily the most hated Canadian since Chad Kroeger or Paul Bernardo.
Read through the "Baby" YouTube comments and you'll scroll upon a voluminous seething cauldron of viral hate for The Bieb, tended by trolls who, at least figuratively speaking, might cheer on the singer's emasculation by way of pruning shears. Here's one recent comment, left by user 9521johnnyboy:
"6 YEARS AGO CAME THE MOST ANNOYING LITTLE SHIT THE_ WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!!! BIEBER IS THE REASON WHY MUSIC SUCKS NOW!!!"
That's quite an indictment, not to mention one that's actually more common to comments on videos by artists with whom Bieber shares no mutual relevance. Like this disparaging dispatch, left by user MrImnotcoolatall on a 1971 clip of Neil Young performing "Old Man":
"this is real music not_ justin bieber"
Spoken as if there's only two kinds of music: Neil Young and Justin Bieber. (Well, maybe in Canada.)
Even the music industry shuns The Bieb. The singer's blockbuster third LP, Believe — the sixth-best-selling album of 2012, which was the highest-selling album by a male solo artist and spawned the hit singles "Boyfriend," "As Long as You Love Me" and "Beauty and the Beat" — was snubbed outright by the Grammys, receiving nominations in exactly zero categories.
But really, why the hate?
Bieber makes it easy (and fun) to hate him. "They hate the idea of me," Bieber told TV Magazine last year of his detractors. And why? "I'm young, I'm handsome ... but they just think I got here because of that." It's true. The Bieb's cartoonishly boyish good looks, faux-rapper bravado and shape-shifting comedy of hairstyles are enough to turn most post-pubescent stomachs. But it's the singer's unapologetically sugar-laden pseudo-R&B-pop and relentless pop-cultural ubiquity that really make hating him a modern-day pastime.
Here are two questions avowed non-beliebers need ask themselves: What threat do Justin Bieber's innocuous pop stylings really, truly pose to the "authentic" and unquestionably heterosexual music they listen to? And perhaps more importantly, would they ever really want to trade places with the pop star? Because what sense is there in hating strangers without jealousy as a motivator? It's an age-old question: Can you put a price tag on happiness? To put it more crudely, is Beatlemania-worthy fame and Scrooge-worthy fortune really worth having convicted murderers out there plotting to cut your nuts off?
In an August 2012 Rolling Stone cover story on Bieber, writer Josh Eels wrote, "Bieber lives a life that's designed to maximize his visibility while minimizing his actual exposure. He's rarely outside alone for long, and travels mainly in the blacked-out Range Rover or in his Mercedes Sprinter van ... running from enclosed space to enclosed space and covering his face like an astronaut who's lost his helmet."
In a November interview with Oprah, Bieber looked utterly shell shocked — sad-eyed and traumatized by the insular existence, death threats, hounding paparazzi and false paternity claims that come with superstardom. As loved as he is hated, Justin Bieber seems stuck in his own personal, very public hell. Watch his star burn Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. Carly Rae Jepsen will open.
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