Can Justin Bieber Hide in Plain Sight?

He’s suffered the pains of superfame for half of his life. Now pop’s biggest male star wants to make R&B music and de-stress in an oxygen chamber.

Comments: 76

  1. Labeling people, as opposed to knowing them for their humanity, demeans all of us, "super stars" included. I hope he keeps skating.

  2. I hope we also care for the incredible suffering inflicted by poverty.

  3. Regular, ordinary people... we are unable to understand how destructive fame can be. We have several examples i.e. Michael Jackson, Marylin Monroe, John Lennon. I believe one needs a large supportive staff of people to manage the famous individual. Look at it Trump... he can only survive at this time with the help of taxpayers... spending a fortune to support him in every aspect. Obviously every super famous individual it could be a megalomaniac as Trump is.

  4. But the Donald’s wealth was inherited. He has no talent. His fame was his father’s money. He is not a Justin or Micheal or Monroe. And Lennon would still be here if not for being shot by a maniac. The Donald owes billions to Deutsche Bank. And he won’t show his taxes because if it. So for him I have no empathy.

  5. Agree or disagree, Justin is the greatest singer of all time. his music touches every species living on earth. And what is great about Justin is that he has accepted his failures, his substance abuse, his mishandling of fame at a tender age. He has shown that he is vulnerable and come back stronger through his faith, his music and his obsession for staying healthy. Everyday Justin tries to stay humble and creates amazing music. Good luck Justin. A life long fan of your music and you as a person!

  6. @Dileep Disagree. Not even close.

  7. @Dileep Is there some sarcasm there? Just wondering.

  8. I had my "15 minutes" of fame (although not nearly to the degree that Bieber has) in my 50's and it was tough for me to handle. I can't imagine trying to cope with celebrity status at such a young age. I'm rooting for him.

  9. @Lake How did you achieve your "15 minutes" of fame?

  10. I feel sorry for children who are thrown into the realm of fame like Justin, and so many others. Our culture of fame-worship delivers an unreal environment for them. Find your peace, Justin, and guard it.

  11. He’s suffered? Really? Most would say that he’s been afforded opportunities and riches that many would desire. Perhaps he should learn something about humility, empathy, and a sense of appreciation. That would truly make his life easier.

  12. @Check His Power Now Sounds like he is trying to do just that!

  13. @Check His Power Now to think that the simple presence of wealth means an absence of suffering is quite laughable.

  14. No one knows what another person experiences. Wealth can’t remove mental health struggles, heartbreak, and estrangement.

  15. I never understood how adults could hate a child. Same for Greta. Justin always was a great singer. And commercial music is something that can lift the heart as much as other styles. It only shows how limited so many so called intelligent ppl are.

  16. @william j. Bieber is 25, hardly a child.

  17. @Lynn in DC he didnt record an album for years, when he was very disliked by a lot of ppl he was a child... the same kind of hate ppl cary for greta.... And yes he is an adult now.

  18. Define "suffered"...

  19. Justin who?

  20. lol, at the end of the day, it reminds me of what Allen Iverson said about practice: “Man, we’re talkin’ about Bieber!” Do we really care? Hasn’t his teeny-bopper brigade grown up and moved on like the rest of us?

  21. @Boswell I guess Alan Iverson thinks the world revolves around himself. Actually there will always be young girls and boys for whom the K-pop and Justin Beiber's are appropriate to their emotional and psychological maturity. It's quite simple. And compared to a lot of what is spooned up for young teens, I find Beiber okay. I am an adult woman, however, and concerned for the mental health of young people who are bing poisoned by this culture. A cute guy in a pink tee shirt sining about food? Not hurting anyone. Let it Be.

  22. Maybe its time to ditch the backwards ball cap look?

  23. @ethan Hat Backwards Syndrome-it's a disease

  24. “But unlike Timberlake, Bieber isn’t working with pioneering sonic architects like Timbaland or the Neptunes, making choices that invite critical approbation. His approach is more mass-market paperback than literary fiction.” True and a small shame because as irritating as his kid antics were, and as silly as he can seem, his instincts as a singer are good, his phrasing is both casual and confident, and he has a great voice. I never buy his music but when I hear him he always strikes me as someone singing well but also doing less than he could. He’s still young. Hopefully he will doing something really ambitious with his talent in the years to come.

  25. I think the best approach to judging music, literature, paintings etc. is to let the work speak for itself, standing alone. I don’t need or want to know what the creator thinks his/her work means or about their trials and tribulations. That being said I saw Bieber on SNL a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first time I’ve seen him perform or heard any of his music. I’m glad he is successful, has found love, and is getting his life together. It’s great his music gives his numerous fans pleasure. However I wouldn’t think that 50 years on, virtually anyone would know about or be playing his music. This opposed to the Big Bang which caused the seismic shift of world culture as we know it: The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 where they played I Want to Hold Your Hand.

  26. @winthropo muchacho Technically The Beatles first song on the show was All My Loving

  27. @winthropo muchacho I was at boarding school when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan for the first time. We were warned by the teachers that the T.V. would be turned off immediately if they heard anyone getting overexcited like the girls on T.V. I don't remember being thrilled at all nor do I remember what song they played. What I do remember is looking all around me, wondering if anyone would display any forbidden vocal enthusiasm and wondering why on earth they would because after all, it was just a band.

  28. @LT beat me 2 it !!

  29. The larger question is why humans worship and idolize athletes, entertainers, youth, models, and the wealthy to the degree that they become the intense obsession of the masses? This mass cultural addiction to celebrities dehumanizes, objectifies, and (esp where wealthy are concerned) blinds us to the human being behind the fame. We really should teach children to how to appropriately manage and express their admiration, appreciation and celebration of exceptional humans WITHOUT becoming obsessive.

  30. @Misplaced Modifier It’s not so much that they are worshipped as they are shoved down our throats by the entertainment industry

  31. Saw him perform "Yummy" on SNL. Started out interesting and then went nowhere, repetitive. No there, there Caramanica's description made me think of John and Yoko.

  32. February 14, 2020 Bieber the man has arrived, married and exploring the existential self related to Earth time. And then asking what have I accomplished and what will my place on Earth combine with the making of my biography that is movement to tomorrows; with family, friends, and the business of life's consequences both instinctive and of personal drives that evolve to both truth today and maybe we tomorrows... My prayers for Justin Bieber is that in times of solitude he seeks what is just natural and universal to his personal, and family culture and more so woven to a coat of grace to set the path that one will want others to follow the journey as a proper guide to the songs of man and mankind to learn and enjoy like maybe Dante , or Shakespeare or a Bieber.....

  33. Not a mention of the Lyme disease that has been the cause of all his physical troubles and the reason for the Oxygen chamber.

  34. @timbo Lyme Disease is a far more acceptable explanation for Canada’s Son than rehab/recovery or nervous breakdown.

  35. A 25 year old who owns his own own oxygen chamber. Full stop. That's enough for me. Next article.

  36. TL; dr. Don’t care.

  37. "Inching" back into public life when he and his bride document every move they make on the internet to the point to where even I (who certainly does not follow them) know about it? Didn't they get married like 3 times?HA!

  38. Best of luck to Justin. I think he is incredibly talented and deserves every ounce of privacy and peace he can find out there.

  39. As a person who gradually lost the ability to play or teach (my livelihood) music due to undiagnosed Lyme disease, your article strikes me as not only snarky but cruel.

  40. when I read "...he is now 25..." I laughed out loud and stopped reading. I'm impressed though how the autor of this article seems to be able to take all this calculated world weariness-nonsense seriously.

  41. @Mr. Chocolate You're right - but I've got to admit I love the portable oxygen chamber. Not forgetting about how he tells the world about his need for privacy via his publicity machine which is busy spewing forth the details about his marriage etc.

  42. I love Jon Caramanica. He's the only writer I trust enough to finish and enjoy a whole article on the bland Justin Bieber. As an ardent R&B fan myself, I'm even gonna give the album a quick listen on Spotify. Not expecting to be wowed though. Oh, and I will enjoy the inevitable Biebs themed Popcast. Peeps, check out Popcast from the NYT on your fave podcast app. It's so good. Much love from a happy subscriber

  43. I encountered Bieber when he was a child, “enjoying” his first flush of fame. I was walking through the Eaton Centre in Toronto and saw a pack of huge bouncer-type guys heading menacingly my way, surrounding a small boy who was hunched over, eyes down under a mop of blonde hair. After they muscled their way through the crowd, I realized who it was. I wouldn’t say Justin was having a fun day hanging in the mall. He’s had a weird life.

  44. One of the reasons the USA is slipping into an authoritarian State is that people are more interested in Justin Bieber. Is it the self-absorbtion that draws them towards this instead of matters that will affect their ability to function as citizens?

  45. @James You're quite wrong, James, there are times for all things. Until a serious person or preferably persons issues a believable call for the people to rise up and storm the White House -- and other key government facilities -- which I am quite willing to heed but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for -- I will occupy myself with things that do not cause my blood pressure to get TOO high.

  46. @James You in the 18th century: "One of the reasons the colonies are subject to the King's depredations is the younge people's fascination with the latest dances from Europe." You in the prehistoric era: "One of the reasons nobody knows how to hunt mammoth anymore is the latest fad of cave paintings. In my day, we carved a woman out of ivory and liked it."

  47. thanks James

  48. For all the folks who have had nothing positive to say about Justin B — I say chill. Your mean spirited remarks are about you NOT him. He is only 25 years old. He has made plenty of mistakes but I say people can change. He will keep evolving. He was given a great talent and he capitalized on it. Not unlike Michael Jackson or other child stars be they singers or actors. And like many it (the talent) has recked havoc in their lives and with boundaries not in place to have a “normal” life. So I think he will surprise us. I hope he surprises himself. And for the record I am not a fan per se, but I believe in growth and development of our youth and of giving back to the whole of society.

  49. I have to hand it to him. I was at the London Eye last year coming off, and he and his entourage were trying to get on. They were simply told "you need a ticket like everyone else". His reaction? Quietly, calmly, with his girlfriend by the hand, they turned and got tickets. Sure, when the stars have a tantrum, we notice. But when they just do as they are told quietly, no one notices. I noticed, and I think he behaved very well.

  50. "The pains of superfame" is a phrase designed to elicit a certain emotional response, and put a good deal of the blame on the nature of the beast itself. While some of that can be true, a lot of it comes down to the choices made while experiencing it. Daniel Radcliffe has been on an arguably similar (or even more intense) trajectory since age 11, and by all accounts seems to have emerged from it remarkably centered, doing serious, high-quality creative and charity work. It's all about who you choose to be and who you surround yourself with. Perhaps Bieber is finally starting to learn that.

  51. @John The two situations are quite different. Radcliffe became famous through film that was being shown all over the world but he was not there, physically, to receive the crazy and loud adulation that Bieber did every night he performed. It was much easier for Radcliffe to have a normal and private life.

  52. Bieber has immense talent, so it is especially perverse that his name has become a kind of synecdoche for the supposed phenomenon of popular artists without talent. Somewhere in the comment section of most classic rock or Motown YouTube videos, someone has written: "this is when music was GOOD, now we have Justin Bieber." Well no, the truth is you're getting old and deaf, and your mind is closed to new experiences. Bieber is young, so I have no doubt we will see still greater accomplishments from him.

  53. @sedanchair Good luck comparing Justin Bieber with Stevie Wonder or even Marvin Gaye. My mind is not closed to new experiences. I like Michael Kiwanuka and Adia Victoria and Esperanza Spalding for example.

  54. @sedanchair Good luck comparing Justin Bieber with Stevie Wonder or even Marvin Gaye. My mind is not closed to new experiences. I like Michael Kiwanuka and Adia Victoria and Esperanza Spalding for example.

  55. He has always seemed genuinely very vulnerable to me, which gives rise to a protective instinct--much magnified after hearing about the guy several years ago who stalked him with garden shears and extremely bad intentions. It's nice to see him so cared for now by his spouse.

  56. Anthony Hamilton is an R&B singer, one of very few remaining in music; Justin Bieber/Timberlake not so much.

  57. Oxygen chamber? What is he, Michael Jackson now?

  58. Poor fella... Finding better things to report on might be a good start.

  59. I'd be okay with him being quiet and living in obscurity the rest of his life. There are way more talented people out there like Billie Eilish.

  60. A few observations (I'll try to be kind): This story is nothing but a vast marketing piece put together by Bieber's "people". Yesterday, the story went, he's the 'bad boy' of pop, with all the 'Bugatti' excesses; today, he's the contrite, repentant Bieber---and, my, look how grown up he is! He speaks---not surprisingly, since he is one---pure Millennial: "Like" begins many a sentence. Where "Bro'" doesn't, that is. Why does this make my skin crawl? A recall a couple studies several years ago that found middle-aged men absolutely cannot stand 'vocal fry', 'up-talk' and the nasal snarkiness of the Millennial female. Let's be sure not to let Millennial males off the hook so easy either. He hates the trappings of fame, but takes camera crews and a retinue of accolytes along with him to the doctor's office or whenever he's out in public. Coulda' fooled me. I suspect that---sans the lights and the cameras and the ever present publicists, make-up artists and attendants-in-waiting there to do his primping and preparing---Mr. Bieber would be just another 25-year-old with slouchy pants and a backward baseball cap that you see in front of you at 7-Elevens and WalMart checkout lines everywhere. Given the context of modern public life, with Millennials staring down at their smartphones like Tibetan monks looking down, contemplating serene thoughts, he'd largely go unnoticed and ignored. Something that most of us are already familiar with. He should try it sometime.

  61. @David Bartlett And you know what else? He and that group of hooligans of his need to get off my lawn!

  62. @AM So, we are to infer that you take great delight in hooligans traipsing on your lawn? How very interesting. May we look you up when the city of Los Angeles goes shopping for a new location for, say, a halfway-house for hooligans, or a few homeless decide to encamp in your yard?

  63. I certainly would not know him from Atom.

  64. @Joe Runciter or Adam, even.

  65. "Can Justin Bieber Hide in Plain Sight?" Give me a break - the first thing his publicist does when Bieber wants to "hide" is to get him written up on the front page of the Times...

  66. I expect to click on the Times some morning soon and find that Biber has packed up the wife, the oxygen chamber and his new downsized entourage and flown off to take up residence in a village in northern India. The logical next step it seems clear would be for him to search out a contemporary Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and take up Transcendental Meditation.

  67. Front of the line for oxygen sounds elitist but maybe no more so than pro athletes in Denver.

  68. About ten years ago more or less, I was cutting through City Hall Park and came across a long line of teenage girls stretching down Broadway from Chambers Street along the park fence. I asked one of them what the big line was for. She told me excitedly that Justin Bieber was doing a signing at J&R Music World. Justin Bieber, I repeated, to which she smiled bashfully and looked down at the pavement. When I was crossing back about an hour later, there were scattered groups of tweens walking up Broadway. One girl was recounting the moment to her friends, “I said ‘Hi’, and he was like, ‘Hi’ “. Anyway, that was my with brush with Bieberdom.

  69. I'm confused by saying Bieber is from "the old top-down model" of marketing superstars. Yes, Bieber is a mass market product in the old way, but being discovered on YouTube, and having the most Instagram followers seems to be very much bottom-up or at least some mixture of the two.

  70. Well....... at least he's not terrorizing small towns on a motorcycle anymore!!

  71. I think he should move back to Canada, and live in Stratford where he came from. He should play hockey or basketball or whatever and have fun. He should learn French. He should go on tour with Celine Dion and learn to be a real professional artist if that's what he wants. In Stratford there will be no pressure on him to do anything except go to the Justin Bieber Museum occasionally. Get away from all the Hollywood glitz. He should look into the music of Stomping' Tom Connors and Gordon Lightfoot, and become Canadian again. In Stratford maybe he could try Shakespearean acting. I think he'd be pretty good.

  72. I'm rather out of it when it comes to pop music, so I'll just lay it out there. I'm going on 71 years old. I've never heard this guy sing. I've heard of him, but never got around to listening to his music. I don't bother with all that gossip nonsense on television, or in magazines, I don't have Facebook, Twitter, or any of that other nonsense. I read a lot, exercise a lot, play a violin, and spoil my grandchildren. So, I can safely say I don't know much about this guy other than he's gone through some problems, got caught up in the illusions of fame, and apparently got a bit lost. It happens. So, I simply wish him luck. Fame comes, fame goes, but so what? At best it's an illusion. Focus on your family, make music you like, and don't worry about where it all lands. Just do your best, make sure the children are safe, and go to bed feeling good about yourself. That's it.

  73. @Michael Kennedy Well written, sir! Blessings to you and yours from Pittsburgh.

  74. I really don't care. Do you?

  75. I feel bad for anyone with serious health problems. Musically though I’m not impressed. Just heard him on Saturday night live. His R&B wasn’t doing much for me. Cue Sharon Jones.

  76. After reading that he is "pop music's biggest male star" I had to do a reality check because I haven't heard of him since he reached puberty so I don't think he is worth the ink.