I don’t like the song, per se. In fact, I listen only to NPR in the car. The other songs on my iPhone range from Classical to World Music, from Brahms to Batish. I also read five to seven books per week and subscribe to fourteen magazines.
With film, I do occasionally allow myself the pleasure of a blockbuster like Tarzan, Ghostbusters, and Batman v. Superman, all of which I saw in the theater the day they opened. I would never see a musical because people don’t break into song in real life.
The point is, my tastes hew toward the highbrow. As an educated professional in my 40s, it could be no other way.
So why this Bieber song, then? The reason it has been at the top of my playlist for the last ten or eleven months is absolutely not because it “makes you want to get up and move,” as a young person told me at the gym today. (I go to the gym to stay healthy and not because I’m a narcissist.)
There are academic, altruistic, and even anthropological reasons to download the song.
Firstly, the academic. I forage for new artistic trends in much the way a cocker spaniel hunts down an especially pungent truffle. The last line of the song’s refrain — “You can/go and/love yourself” — has the same melody as the equivalent line in Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da from the seminal 50-year-old White Album — “la la/how the/life goes on.” And that song itself was said to be the Beatles’ nod to ska pioneer Desmond Dekker (“Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace.”) When a strapping, angel-faced entertainer evokes a tune from half a century ago, it may reveal an entirely new emerging genre — a tribute/ripoff hybrid, if you will.
But it’s not just my interest in emerging genres that brought me to this young, buff troubadour. There are altruistic reasons to download the song. It was co-written with Ed Sheeran, a member of an increasingly vocal minority group. I am a longtime supporter of Ginger Pride and believe they should have the same rights as anyone else’s stepchildren: to marry, teach in our schools, and have pale, easily sunburned offspring.
There’s another altruistic reason we should support this hard-bodied artist. He’s had to survive the pressures of the spotlight ever since the tender age of fourteen. Last year someone even released his “dick pics” on Twitter, which I instantly looked away from out of respect as they scrolled through my feed. I think we can all understand how difficult it must be for him to live his life with his penis under a microscope (a figure of speech, of course, because from what I saw, it definitely couldn’t fit!)
There are also anthropological reasons to study the works of this sinewy genius. The millennials are changing our world, and we need to educate ourselves about their tendencies: Lack of interest in grammar, attention to selfies, and vaping in scents that remind them of their juice boxes. Listening to Mr. Bieber may help us understand our future world leaders.
In short, I think I’ve made it clear that I have this Bieber song on my device for the most intellectual, academic, and moral reasons: an interest in emerging genres, a curiosity about the millennial generation, and basic human compassion because he has to live with his penis in a fishbowl (again, a metaphor; it wouldn’t fit!)
Now that I’ve clarified my artistic tastes, I need to run out and catch the Aaron Carter comeback tour, with opening act Hanson — for reasons I’ll describe in a thesis next week after I stop crying tears of joy.