Justin was looking forward to doing all the things a sixteen-year-old can do. First of all, he would be able to get his driver’s license and, he hoped, a car. But easily more important to the teenager was that he would now be allowed to date.
“My mother told me I could not date until I was sixteen,” he said in a People magazine interview. “She thought I wasn’t ready yet because I was too immature. But she said I would have her permission when I turned sixteen.”
Justin knew that after working really hard for nearly two years, he was ready to blow off steam and make his sixteenth birthday a memorable one. He talked to his mother about it first. Pattie had to admit that her son’s ideas for his party were extreme. But she also had to admit that he was in a position to make all his dreams possible. And who was she to deny him? Justin had come to
recognize pop stardom as a privilege and was always appreciative of what fame had done for him. He also gradually realized that, as long as he was not being totally unreasonable in his demands, he could pretty much get what ever he wanted, whenever he wanted it, just by asking.
His requests had never been what one would consider outrageous and so, with his birthday in sight, his big dreams suddenly took flight.
How big those dreams were became known on the Internet and other media outlets in mid-February, when the particulars of Justin’s party invitations, sent out to old friends, new friends, and important people in the music industry, were made public. What was planned as a three day party held at a private Malibu estate, would begin with the arrival of guests and a lavish birthday dinner on
February 27. February 28 would feature a private movie screening of The Book of Eli. March 1 would be the actual birthday bash, which would include a backyard pool-side barbecue, karaoke, sumo wrestling, laser tag, basketball, and air hockey, among other activities. The event would also offer guests such luxuries as an on-call chef, a gym, the use of a tennis court, and any number of video games.
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the invitation included a waiver and release for those under the age of eighteen, stating that participation in this party may involve serious injury or death. But the reality of Justin’s party was that it was going to be kid-friendly: no alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs allowed. Needless to say, word of the party spread like wildfire with fans trying to crash it at any
cost. However, security was tight and only those with an invitation and proper ID made it in.
Pictures from the party quickly leaked out and what they showed was a happy Justin turning sixteen and showing signs of shedding his preteen image. He was all smiles by the pool, often surrounded by young girls in sexy two-piece swimsuits. The shyness had dissolved and his smiling face was a sure sign that he was getting older and more worldly.
Easily one of the high points of Justin’s three-day party was the arrival of Usher, who brought down the house with his birthday gift, a brand-new Range Rover. Justin was beside himself with excitement. He was now old enough to drive, and he was old enough to date. Now, if he only had the time to do any of that.
Following his Malibu party, Justin flew to Toronto for a more intimate birthday party with his family and longtime friends. It was a different kind of affair. Nearly everybody there had known him before he had become famous and so the attitude was more relaxed and laid-back.
Despite his notoriety, nearly everyone had memories of what Justin had been like growing up, the things he liked to do, and where he hung out. Justin appreciated having this kind of grounding, a connection to the time before the whole world knew his name. But just as quickly, it was back to the new world that had become his world.
In keeping with the way the My World songs were released, the first cut from My World 2.0, “Never Let You Go,” was released to iTunes on March 2 to the expected positive reviews and a tidal wave of hits. The Boston Herald said, “The promises of forever will undoubtedly delight the young girls who dream of spending eternity with pop’s newest heartthrob.” Rolling Stone reported, “The ballad is fully realized, mixing love struck lyrics with big, lovable choruses.”
For Justin, it was then back on yet another red-eye flight for another promotional jaunt on the other side of the world.
The first stop was Berlin, for The Dome 53 radio program on March 5. Justin was more than a little jetlagged but his spirits were raised when he was informed that back home he had been nominated in three diff erent categories in the annual Canadian equivalent of the Grammys, the Junos. He was in the running for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year, and New Artist of the Year.
Then it was over to London, where he appeared on the top-rated talk show Alan Carr: Chatty Man. And it was shortly after leaving that show that Justin, who as a pop star was already a hero, suddenly found himself a hero in a much more real sense.
When Justin left the studio, he was immediately confronted with a familiar sight— a wall of screaming girls pushing hard against a barricade and security attempting to protect him. He was fine with that until he happened to look down and spot a young child, perhaps no more than three, who had somehow managed to wriggle to the front of the crowd. The child looked confused and a bit frightened. Suddenly the crowd pushed particularly hard and the child fell down. The crowd was looming over the
child and would most certainly trample it. Justin did not have to think about what he did next. He reached dow and lifted the child up into his arms just as the crowd surged in, saving it from injury or much worse.
The next day he was off to the pop u lar morning talk show GMTV. During the interview he was asked whether or not he would ever consider dating a fan. Until now, that question was irrelevant, since he was not allowed to date, period. But since he had turned sixteen and his mother had given her son the okay, it was now a question worth contemplating.
“I don’t know,” he said on the show. “I think that it justdepends on what the situation is. I’m not going to limit myself.”
Justin was again highly visible on the charity front early in March, when he returned to Canada to help out Haiti. As Canadian singer- songwriter K’naan had already had a hit single with the song “Wavin’ Flag,” it was suggested that a cover, with the proceeds going to Haiti relief, would be a good idea. Canadian stars rallied around the concept. Under the banner Young Artists for Haiti, Justin, along with such celebrity stalwarts as Nelly Furtado, Drake, and Avril Lavigne, among others, recorded the song
during a quick session and happily watched as the song raised an incredible amount of money for Haiti relief.
Justin returned to the States and then, apparently more as a lark than anything else, appeared on the QVC Shopping Channel show Q Sessions to sing a few songs and do an awkward interview in an attempt to drum up presale orders for My World 2.0. That it came across to many as a total embarrassment did not seem to bother Justin or his handlers.
The QVC appearance was just another way of getting the word out that the release of My World 2.0 was a mere three days away. Not that any reminder seemed necessary at that point. The Internet had been abuzz for some weeks in anticipation of the album’s release. Some Web sites were literally counting down the weeks, days, and hours.
The second iTunes release, “U Smile,” was made available March 16, three days before the album’s release. Most critics seemed to understand the song’s old-school sentiments but Entertainment Weekly summed it up best when their critic called the song “a shimmery slice of blue-eyed soul.”
The album was unveiled with much hype and hoopla on March 19. Fans again lined up hours in advance for the chance to be one of the first to buy it. Copies were flying out of the stores. Insiders were not surprised. It would have been a colossal disappointment if the CD had not been successful. Once the dust settled, it became evident that the album was a smash-hit.
My World 2.0 debuted at 1 on the Billboard charts, selling 283,000 copies in its first week. That mark made Justin the youngest solo male act to top the charts since 1963, when a twelve-year-old Stevie Wonder accomplished the feat. When the album sold more copies in its second week than it did in the first, it made Justin the first artist since the Beatles to debut at number 1 and then sell
more copies the following week.
Like before, reviews were mixed, but the overwhelming majority seemed to get what Justin was all about. People magazine said that the album was a combination of “yummy rhythm-and-blues-flavored pop and a sweet soulful voice.” US magazine said the album offered “hard to resist rhythm-and-blues-flavored pop and uniquely grown-up vocal trills.” Entertainment Weekly praised Bieber’s “rhythm-and-blues swagger which reminded [the writer] of the early days of Usher and Justin Timberlake.”
Needless to say, everybody connected with Def Jam was thrilled at how quickly and how well the album had performed. The record label’s head honcho, L.A. Reid, had long championed Justin and would take every opportunity to praise his client. In a press release from the time of My World 2.0’s release, Reid exclaimed, “Justin is nothing short of a phenomenon. It’s so rare to find any artist
this young with such pure star quality, such a dynamic presence, and such musical gifts.”
Justin wanted to celebrate the release of My World 2.0, and rather than have the typical music industry party, he preferred to have some old-fashioned fun. Strings were pulled and soon Justin and a close circle of friends were celebrating at the Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley in New York City. Things were going along fine until the inevitable crowd of fans showed up and overran the bowling
alley. Everything was still more or less under control, but Justin’s security, having gone through the chaos of a Justin appearance too many times to count, decided to pull the plug on the event early. Justin had always stated that all he wanted was to be a regular kid. But on nights like this, he knew those days were gone forever.
Justin continued to be active through the remainder of March, appearing in concert at a Houston rodeo with Selena Gomez. Despite the already strong support for Justin in Texas, there was some question as to how young fans in a state known for being conservative would react to the flash of his performance. There was no reason to worry. As soon as Justin swaggered onstage, waved to the
crowd, and started to sing, the power of his performance instantly cut through any preconceived notions. Justin had easily taken Houston.
In a surprising bit of irony, Justin accepted an invitation to perform at American Idol’s annual charity show, Idol Gives Back— the irony being that he had now reached the age when he could have auditioned to be on the show. But he did not have to because his career had exceeded even the wildest dreams of American Idol contestants. Justin also discovered that he was now a media darling
at a major- league level. Top network shows, including ABC’s Nightline and CBS Evening News, featured lengthy interview segments with him. It was amusing to watch veteran journalists such as Katie Couric, who were more familiar with interviewing politicians and European royalty, try in vain to approach Justin from a fresh angle or ask a probing question. Although fun to watch, it was largely
a futile effort because the story had long been out there, and the likes of Tiger Beat, Bop, and Teen Vogue had covered it pretty well.
The View was particularly captivated by Justin, so much so that they had him on two back- to- back shows. Viewers could watch the all-women panel laugh their way through asking the typical teen-fan kind of questions. It might have been a tad condescending but Justin didn’t mind. Although he was young, he knew the score. The View was a show that was hurting in the ratings and figured that Justin’s appearances would goose said ratings for a couple of days. Barbara Walters was an old pro and knew the score. She would not say it publicly but she needed Justin more than Justin needed The View.
Elsewhere, there was some serious talking going on. Justin had already shown his ability on the concert stage countless times. The people guiding his career felt it was time for him to take the next step, which meant a mammoth headlining tour. It was easier said than done. A lot went into putting together that kind of tour. So while Justin continued on as before, the ins and outs of his concert tour debut were in motion.
And then there were those driving lessons. It was something that had been kept under wraps. But
sometime before turning sixteen, Justin began pestering his parents, as well as every adult in his entourage, to teach him how to drive. At first, his request was laughed off , buteventually he had to be taken seriously. Pattie did not have the stomach for the task and so the job of teaching Justin how to drive fell to his father, Jeremy.
As Justin’s new life dictated, Jeremy would occasionally go on the road with his son. An already close relationship was made even closer as Jeremy got to experience firsthand the excitement surrounding his son’s celebrity.
When it was suggested that Jeremy should be the one to teach Justin to drive, he was all for it. On those rare occasions when there was some down time on the road, or when Justin could slip back to Canada for a day or two, Jeremy and Justin would fi nd a secluded spot and Justin would get behind the wheel.
How those driving lessons went have been kept secret but what is known is that Jeremy is a patient man and Justin, while anxious, took the lessons seriously. What is also known is that by the time Usher presented Justin with the Range Rover, Justin was reportedly more than capable of driving it. Now only one thing remained.
Finding the time to take his driver’s test.