There is nothing easier in the world than hating Justin Bieber. For so long, he has been the prototypical example of child-star gone bad. I mean, look at him! Those horrible tattoos, the smug face, the ever-changing K-pop icon haircuts – the list goes on. Bieber hasn't done much to charm anyone (other than teen girls) anyway: from back talking court officials, to neglecting his pet monkey, to peeing in public – I could keep going. Is redemption even possible for someone so loathsome?
If a few recent happenings in the pop culture zeitgeist are any indication, it's looking like the tides are turning for the petulant pipsqueak. His latest mega-popular jam, alongside fellow bro heroes Diplo and Skrillex could have easily become a frat-boy power-anthem – created by a veritable trinity of insufferable and inexplicably popular white dudes. Instead the song is a shockingly avant-garde dance track: impossibly ear-wormy and full of heart.
The track even got investigated by the New York Times, who seemed to be taking it, and its creators, rather seriously. Whether this speaks to the NYT's out-of-touch-ness is a question for another time.
While “Where Are U Now” continues to climb charts (despite being months old at this point), Bieber's public appearances have changed tone too. His attempt at seeming more personable have pretty much always failed in the past. Comedian Hannibal Burress compared Bieber to filth during his Comedy Central roast a year ago. "They say that you roast the ones you love, but I don't like you at all, man. I'm just here because it's a real good opportunity for me," Buress said in a segment so harsh it ended up being edited out. "Actually you should thank me for participating in this extremely transparent attempt to be more likable in the public eye,” he continued. “And I hope it doesn't work."
But a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon has the Biebs showing some real vulnerability:
Reflecting on his weirdly tearful VMA performance, which many assumed was entirely faked, Bieber had this to say: “It was just so overwhelming for me, everything, just the performance. I missed some cues so I was a little disappointed at that, and just everyone ... just their support. I was honestly—let me breathe for a second—I just wasn’t expecting them to support me in the way they did. Last time I was at an awards show, I was booed.” Whether or not this was a highly media-coached exchange (it probably was) hardly matters. Bieber is being forced to recognize his past errors, recognize his current mistakes, and is actually moving forward anyway. Nothing could possibly be more endearing.
But do a few cute moments mean we're ready to forgive Bieber? Will we continue to condemn him anyway? Is it a crime to punish someone so unlovable anyway? Bieber will have to work hard to maintain the recent good-will he's acquired, but he might be on the up-and-up after all.