Is Justin Bieber Really the Digital Michael Jackson… in 3D?

No, I have not lost my mind and joined Biebermania or caught the fever. As someone who’s experienced pop gods like King Michael or Run-DMC rock the world, I too rolled my eyes at the Star Trek-like teleportation of the Canadian teen to Planet Pop. The voice and dancing were eh, and, well, I’m a little long gone for his demographic. (Though, admittedly, I found it fascinating to watch Usher instantly boost his protégé’s R&B street cred through appearances in videos and at performances.) But, as someone who’s written about music and how it reflects change in society, I felt myself having to give Camp Bieber serious consideration, dare I say respect. Especially upon the news about Justin’s upcoming 3-D bio documentary Never Say Never which is scheduled for release in February 2011.

Not that quickly produced biopics of whites-rockin-black-music phenoms are anything new (check Eminem’s 8 Mile or, hell, the Beatles mockumentary Hard Days Night). Aside from 3-Ding the teen pop king’s short, multi-platinum, heavily-video taped life, there’s not much to ooh about… Except when you consider the road Bieber took to the big screen. Yeah, I’m talking about the Internet. Numerous profiles and articles discussed his arrival via the Web, a great cyber spin on a Horatio Alger-style voyage to pop music mega-stardom. But two years into this kid’s career—millions of records (via downloads) sold, hundreds of millions of views on Youtube, the hysteria that’s been established, and now a film that many are predicting will beat Michael Jackson’s This is It at the box office—and we’re looking at someone who’s shifted the paradigm. A pop music superstar totally produced by the digital age. Bieber’s arrival is a sound metaphor for what the Internet offers—a world of instant. (Sean Kingston and Tila Tequila pioneered this but their light faded along with the Myspace wave they surfed in on).

Now, I’m the first to acknowledge that Justin Bieber’s R&B pop explosion is a matter of right race + black style equals world domination. Yet, when comparing his road to the music charts with Beyoncé, who took the Jackson route, or Lady Gaga who, after years of work, finally broke out using Madonna’s rulebook, or any number of Disney kids, you have to acknowledge Camp Bieber’s—mom, Justin and manager Scooter Braun— ingenuity at light-speed marketing and branding with technology. Since the dawn of MP3s and viral video, folks had been looking to break the traditional means of building a fan base, stardom, a record deal and solid celebrity… And they figured it out. Camp Beiber, with a click, bypassed grueling showcases, the mammoth House of Mickey Mouse, and the grinding Joe Jackson model for building teen idol-dom to make it Justin’s world…  In the process officiating Youtube’s power as the new MTV (circa 1983).

Of course Bieber is no Michael Jackson. Yet his affirmation of the Web video as pop idol maker is as game-changing as Mike’s development of music video theatrics. In fact, all one has to do is look up the current hordes of music artists using innovative ways—some even acknowledging their Post-Bieber inspiration—to go viral and into the pop stratosphere. (Shoot, have you checked out the rock band playing instruments on their iPhones aboard an NYC subway train.) But while there’s still a chance that Justin could fade from the charts (highly doubtable) as quick as a teen’s thumb can text, his rise to fame from a computer screen will no doubt be the thriller of this brave new world.