A Close Reading of Justin Bieber's "I'm Not Going to Rehab" Instagram Rant from Yesterday
The above is a screenshot of a post that appeared on Justin Bieber's Instagram feed yesterday, as something of a response to the media backlash following a couple weeks' worth of Justin Bein' Justin (read this handy-dandy guide to the Bieb Breakdown on Gawker to get up to speed). This happened because occasionally, celebrities like to use Instagram as a format to release public statements, and also because Justin Bieber has been acting like he is on drugs.
Because yesterday was what we in "The Business" would refer to as "A Slow News Day," I took some time to break Bieber's statement down, Rap Genius-style:
Everyone in my team has been telling me, "keep the press happy" but I'm tired of all the countless lies in the press right now. Saying I'm going to rehab and how my family is disappointed me.
Literally no legitimate news source has reported that Bieber was going to rehab; there have been (as far as I can tell) well-founded reports of Bieber occasionally smoking pot and drinking lean with Lil Twist, which while funny and juvenile is no actual cause for alarm. In fact, if you google "Justin Bieber Rehab," you now are confronted with a slew of reports that Bieber is not going to rehab, which reminds me of the time that Mike Piazza held a press conference to announce that he wasn't gay.
if Anyone believes i need rehab thats their own stupidity lol I'm 19 with 5 number one albums, 19 and I've seen the whole world. 19 and I've accomplished more than I could've ever dreamed of, i'm 19 and it must be scary to some people that this is just the beginning.
This is pretty classic #COKEDREAM material, as frequent Noisey contributor The Kid Mero might call it—Bieber's justification for not being addicted to drugs is that he's done lots of amazing and impressive things that normal people haven't done, so therefore he's not on drugs. Are you kidding me? Having five number-one albums is actually a perfect reason to be on drugs! Here is a list of musicians who have a comparable number of chart-toppers who were also on a metric fuck-ton of drugs: Eminem, Elton John, David Bowie, Billy Joel, THE BEATLES. Famous musicians have LOVED being on drugs ever since being on drugs became a thing! David Bowie was so high in the '70s that he can't remember recording Station to Station, and that album's so classic that even Justin Bieber has probably listened to it. In fact, Justin Bieber is probably listening to it right now while he's not going to rehab.
I know my talent level and i know i got my head on straight. i know who i am and i know who i'm not My messege is to to believe. My albums could be about anything but my messages have been to never say never and believe, not to believe in me but to believe in yourself ..
If I actually had to guess what was going on with Justin Bieber, it'd be that he is partying slightly harder than your average 19 year-old college sophomore who goes to a state school, and because of the pervasion of social media and to-the-minute Internet news cycle (as well as serious misconceptions about how bad weed is), that slightly-harder-than-average partying has become warped into this perception amongst some that dude is a drug-addled party monster. Of course, this also comes with the caveat that Bieber has developed what seems to be a planet-sized ego and can't spell the word "message" correctly. Also, Justin Bieber is confusing "message" with "title" here. The title of his documentary is Never Say Never, and the title of his most recent album is Believe. The messages of them are "Inspirational, 100% Positively-Spun Documentary" and "Well-Executed 21st Century Global Pop with an R&B Twist."
I'm writing this with a smile on my face and love in my heart. Letting u know first hand how I feel rather than have these story linger.
There's not a ton to unpack here, but the editor in me is cringing at the grammar in these two sentences. HOW DO YOU TYPO THIS HARD, DUDE? DO YOU NOT HAVE AUTOCORRECT TURNED ON?? Also, this was an excuse for me to post a picture of Bieber in his favorite gas mask.
I'm a good person with a big heart. And don't think I deserve all this negative press I've worked my ass off to get where I am and my hard work doesn't stop here... All this isn't easy. I get angry sometimes. I'm human. I'm gonna make mistakes. In gonna grow and get better from them.
First off, Justin Bieber's press isn't that terrible. He's pretty much universally accepted as one of the most talented entertainers under 20, and his music is reviewed fairly positively. He mainly seems mad that he does dumb shit and then gets caught, which is fine. I had the exact same problem in high school, just on a way smaller scale. And just like my parents would catch me doing all sorts of wild dumb bullshit and still love me, Justin Bieber needs to understand that no matter how many shirts he refuses to wear in the freezing cold or how many times he partakes in #sundayfunday, everyone is still going to listen to his music and probably enjoy it. A lot.
Bieber is difficult to place on the continuum of young stars growing up and turning up. Smart money puts him slightly above Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus, but (for now) below Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan (To whom he recently compared himself in a previously, now-deleted Instarant, saying, "To those comparing me to Lindsay Lohan, look at her 2012 tax statements :)," which is icky and terrible but whatever). The thing is Justin Bieber's partying seems to be of a different brand than that of Timberlake or Cyrus: Justin Timberlake managed to convince us that he and Britney Spears weren't getting it in on the reg and the worst incident that ever got out was that one time he was so stoned that he cried because he got Punk'd, and Cyrus just seems like she's totally owning being a former pop culture punchline and has managed to invert her persona to something totally positive, at very least figuring out how to party with Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J. Bieber, meanwhile, seems to be making that classic young-person mistake of thinking that partying has some other inherent deeper meaning, as if being really fucked up is some sort of signifier of being Troubled But Serious, something that Justin Bieber seems to crave. It's definitely dark, just in a stupid way.
Through all his talent and attempts to be taken seriously as an adult, there's still something awkward, even innocent (but still stupid and dark, just go with me here) about Bieber and his ascension to the Plane of Party. It's like watching someone who's not exactly used to wearing a suit wear one anyway. And even though it looks good in the conventional sense, there's still something kind of off about it. Justin Bieber is very clearly in this same place with his entire existence. After years of being able to do no wrong, he's finally realized that he can be a little bad. And he likes it; it's kind of awesome to realize that while you might be a cog in this gigantic system that you don't completely understand, if you stop doing your job the entire machine will definitely explode. And as Bieber pushes his boundaries and rebels and makes intensely unfortunate sartorial decisions, he'll realize that there are more productive ways of telling everyone to fuck off than doing drugs and acting weird and grow out of it. Or, he won't and will become another Great American Tragedy. Either way, he should really edit before he Instagrams.
Drew Millard is VICE's foremost Justin Bieber expert. He is on Twitter - @drewmillard