Restless hearts, busted bank balances and dumped boyfriends: Beliebers in the city are preparing for the arrival of their messiah with bated breath
Vrutika Shah & Anjana Vaswani (MUMBAI MIRROR; April 30, 2017)

In about a week from now, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber is expected to materialise in Mumbai. The 23-year-old superstar is scheduled to perform a one-night show on May 10 at the DY Patil Stadium as part of his Purpose World Tour. Arjun Jain, head of event management company White Fox, which is managing the concert, claims that 75% of the tickets – priced between Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 -- have already been sold, and expects around 60,000 fans to flood the stadium. If you are a parent, or over 25, you’ll never get it, and are, possibly, oblivious to a momentous event that will soon take place in the life of your young child, nephew, cousin, or neighbour. But they, the Beliebers, are waiting with bated breath for the arrival of the phenomenon.

Annie Anthony, 20, is one of them. A few months ago, Anthony, 20, broke up with her boyfriend. It was not just another break-up, one of the many that litter the bumpy road to adulthood. Anthony broke up with her boyfriend because of Bieber. “He was not a fan. That was good enough reason for me.” Anthony, who is studying to be a pilot, plans to head to the airport with her brother Aaron around May 8 or 9, when Bieber is expected to land in his private jet, so they can catch a glimpse of the singer.

Waiting for Bieber

Aaron, a student, says he has copied all of Bieber’s much talked about hairstyles. “I did the Bieber flick, and I had his most recent one with the sides shaved and long hair in the middle. I grew it out until it was long enough to form a manbun and after chopping it off, I saved that hair in a plastic bag for memory’s sake.” Other Beliebers are doing other things to welcome their idol to India. The Indian Belieber Crew (IBC), which is behind fan site jbtsinindia.com, is creating a 750-foot long scroll that will be studded with fan art and messages. The Crew was founded by 20-year-old Naveen Manjhi, who hails from Bhopal. The music producer says that he got drawn to Bieber after the release of ‘One Time’ in 2009.

But he would only discover the term Beliebers a year later, when Bieber tweeted it out. “Before that, I was just a fan,” Manjhi says. “Fans only listen to the songs. Beliebers listen to the music and support his success and in his defeats, they help him.” In order to promote the concert, Manjhi has organised a number of Bieber rallies in cities across the country, including Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. “He [Bieber] has been coming in the media from a young age. There are some mistakes he has made and that’s why people don’t like him. We want those who hate him to realise that he is not like the bad news that comes in the newspapers.”

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It is fashionable, even among youngsters, to dismiss Justin Bieber. But it takes a special talent to sell 75 million records in eight years, especially in an era in which record sales have been dwindling. Last year Bieber’s Purpose album registered sales of 413,000 and was ranked second only behind Adele’s 25. And, with time, his music has evolved. Bieber might have leapt from being a YouTube sensation in 2010 with his hit song Baby, but his career really started taking off in 2008, when R&B superstar Usher took the then 13-year-old Bieber under his wing. His debut studio album, My World 2.0 (2010), was a happy mix of bubblegum pop and teenage themes of puppy love – a must for any bonafide teen pop star. It also had a bit of R&B swagger, which could be the result of Usher mentoring him. The album, and even his pre-pubescent voice, was well-received. However, towards the end of 2010, Bieber faced one of the biggest threats to his career – puberty. His light, slightly nasal voice began to crack, and it broke down while he was performing live at the American Music Awards. In the end, it was only a minor hiccup. Bieber made a somewhat smooth transition, and even with his newfound deeper voice, he did not lose his tween appeal. He carried on releasing chart-topping albums such as Under the Mistletoe (2011) and Believe (2012).

Fast forward to a few years down the line, a now grown-up Bieber – all muscles and tattoos – was more famous for his reckless persona. From peeing in a bucket to tweeting that Anne Frank would have probably been a Belieber to dating Disney princess Selena Gomez, he had ticked all the stereotyped boxes of what a young carefree popstar would do.

But, it was in 2015 that things started to change for Bieber -- musically. His fourth album, Purpose, was a step in a different direction – one that leaned heavily on bass and synth sounds and had lyrics that were aimed at a more mature audience. Of course, one has to thank mega-producers Skrillex and Diplo for leaving their fingerprints all over the album. The trio won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording – a first for Bieber – for the song Where Are Ü Now. The fact that Bieber, who has over 93 million Twitter followers, is not critically acclaimed does not matter one bit to his fans. “Justin represents faith and love, and the fact that nobody is perfect,” says Kavya Gokhru, a 21-year-old student.



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There are those who are baffled by Bieber mania, of course. Worli resident and qualified virologist Aparna Shivlani is one of them. “I think he’s talented and was always cute,” says the mother of two daughters, aged 14 and 16. “When he became popular, his voice was a little feminine and he was this little kid, really. But with Beiber, part of the attraction must have been that he makes all those girls adore him feel absolutely safe.” Shivlani, though, says that, despite all of it, there are still certain things about Beiber she can’t get. “My niece – she’s 21 now – told us about a Justin Bieber concert she had attended in Dubai. She said he was two hours late and when he showed up, he said that he had lost track of time because he was playing video games. And my daughters and my niece were laughing they thought that was so cute and funny!”

Besides tens of thousands of teenagers, several Bollywood actors and star kids, among them Aryan, son of Shah Rukh Khan, and Jhanvi Kapoor, Sridevi’s daughter, plan to attend the concert. Arjun Jain of White Fox says that several prominent business families have also purchased front row seats for the concert. And yet more fans such as Class IX student Ria Patel are streaming in from other cities. Bangalore-based Patel counts herself as one of Bieber’s true blue fans. “I’m one of those people who’ve been there from the beginning when so many belittled his talent, saying he sounded like a girl; now, they love him because they feel he’s matured. But I like him as a person – I love how he is with people, and of course I love his music and the way he looks.”

Jain says that there will be no live acts apart from Bieber’s at the show. “But we will have party buses transporting people from different locations in the city to the stadium. And there will be about 3500 security staffers to ensure that everything goes smoothly.” Jain, who is 28, describes himself as a “hardcore” Bieber fan and says it was his dream to bring the singer to India. He’s even met Bieber, though just for five minutes, during the Monaco Grand Prix. Asked why he became a Belieber, Jain’s answer could very well serve as an epigraph for the Bieber phenomenon. “Cool kid. Good looking. Knows how to sing. Knows how to impress ladies.”

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A Belieber’s Journal

I was 16, and recovering from heart-break – and going through a Linkin Park phase — when I discovered Justin Bieber. I first heard of him when his song ‘Baby’ was doing the rounds. Frankly, I didn’t like it all that much when I first heard it, but something about his hair and the innocence in his eyes drew me in. And, I knew I was hooked.

Looking back now, the early years of obsessing over him are a bit of an embarrassment to me now. I couldn’t stand him being criticized, I hoovered up every bit to information about him, and I got my dad to get me perfumes and every kind of Bieber merchandise available. Come to think of it, I haven’t changed much — I still cut a cake every year on his birthday— but I guess I have stopped responding to people who pan his music.

His Mumbai concert is special for me in many ways. When the news was confirmed – incidentally, it was first published in Mumbai Mirror – I went blank, and did a wild jig in my room. There are two reasons why I was overjoyed. One was, of course, the fact that HE was coming here; the other was because I write fan fiction, and the first of the three hundred odd pages that I’ve written start with Bieber coming down to Mumbai for a concert and the both of us meeting and him asking for my number. It’s been a while since I wrote that first chapter, of course, but I wouldn’t really mind if fiction became fact just this once. — VRUTIKA SHAH