You don’t tell people that you are travelling to a different country to attend a Justin Bieber concert. Since Bieber is pop music’s hated enfant terrible and a tabloid darling, a “serious” journalist like me would not normally want to be seen dead at one of his concerts. When I did break the news to my friends, one of them questioned my sanity and threatened to ‘unfriend’ me on Facebook. Why does he piss people off so much, I wondered? He isn’t the worst singer in world history, certainly, so is it because someone not-that-good is getting to live the good life? Is it a collective sense of ‘You don’t deserve what you’ve got, boy’?
Justin Bieber performed at the Calvin Klein Jeans music party in Hong Kong recently. I had started tweeting about the event days previous to it, and in no time I got 80 direct messages from a bunch of fans who were “ready to do and give me anything” if I would take them along for the invite-only concert. This was my first hands-on experience with Bieber’s fandom, and while you might hear about how popular he is, you realise the mania only when you get sucked into it. A certain fan has been travelling to each of his concert venues for a year now, trying to meet him and give him a pendant filled with her blood. She was in Toronto earlier that week, staking out his family house.
This persistent woman then stalked me on Facebook, promising some un-Christian behaviour if I could “sneak her in”. By the time I boarded the flight for Hong Kong, I had 346 direct messages on Twitter, my tweets had been RTed 250 times, I had 50 messages on Facebook and about 25 posts on my wall. My phone was really pissed off with this extra barrage of app activity, and chose to die.
“Justin is a modern provocateur, something that we at Calvin have always appreciated.” I am in conversation with Kevin Carrigan, global creative director, Calvin Klein platinum, Calvin Klein white label, Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein Underwear. He is a sharply dressed, amiable man who has twinkling eyes and a warm laugh. I ask him what Bieber brings on board for the brand. “I don’t think a little bit of polarisation is a bad thing. A little bit of controversy, we have never shied away from controversy. Justin also brings youth and a fan base that is so global… it just felt like the right kind of provocative, controversial collaboration that we are known for.” The Calvin Klein Jeans promo material is unapologetically sexy. Bieber is objectified like hot meat, dangling in front of hormonal women. What on earth makes them forget that it is a school night and he should be in bed already?
I got my answer to that question when I reached the glitzy venue of the party. School girls in Hello Kitty scrunchies were chanting his name outside, while we lounged over cocktails and champagne, waiting for him to take the stage. The women inside looked oh-so chic and the men sharp, smoking cigars, but when he finally jumped on stage and started gyrating to If I was your boyfriend, I could feel a chemical change in the crowd around me. For a change, a man was being unabashedly leched at by a crowd, some of who were screaming “Take your shirt off!” and “I want to see you naked!” I turned around to see who they were and spotted a bunch of fifty-plus women, cackling in glee, whistling at him. One of them popped a Chinese fan under her dress and started fanning her you-know-what – I wish I hadn’t seen that.
While I was trying to get over it, Bieber announced that he had torn his pants and that he was wondering whether to change on stage. The crowd went berserk, and two women desperately tried to elbow me out of the way so that they could get a good shot of his crotch, if he did plan to undress. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and he didn’t. Still, Bieber knows how to please his fans, now, does he not? While talking about Calvin Klein Jeans, he mentioned how they kept “his junk in place” and to demonstrate what he meant, he, well, grabbed his junk. So did he take his tee off? Well, the tease that he is, he almost made us believe that he wouldn’t. He waved goodbye and the lights went down – only to blast back on, with a sweaty Bieber trying to tear his T-shirt off.
Someone behind me fainted. Another girl was in tears because she got to touch him when he bent down to slap some hands. I got elbowed in the face because a bow-tied kid (who had looked harmless) wanted a better shot of his abs, and then the fellow kept gushing about how he could “lick whipped cream off those”. He said some other stuff too, but this is not Playgirl. As for Bieber, he’s definitely an entertaining bad boy – and bad boys seem to have all the fun.