Tonight I saw Justin Bieber. This was not just any concert-- rather, this was an vent to celebrate the release of Justin's fourth studio album, Purpose. I spent my night in the third row. I usually don't talk about where I sit at shows because I genuinely don't think that my seat at a show matters all that much, but this time was a little more important. I was up close and personal with this figure who has been in my life for a while now and I've never been close enough to him to know that he truly exists. I've seen him in concert twice before but from the nosebleeds, and when the guy looks like an ant in the distance, I somewhat still didn't think he's real. But tonight, I saw him up close. And he's a real person. He's a small guy, just like I had always pictured him being. And he's more attractive in person, which I also expected. But this post isn't about me finally seeing Justin Bieber up close and personal. This is a post about pop music, the stigma behind it, fangirl culture, and more.
To begin the exploration of these ideas, I'm going to hop in my handy dandy time machine and go back to August 21, 2009. (I'm good with remembering somewhat useless dates. But don't ask me any important dates in American history-- probably won't remember those.) My best friend at the time introduced me to Justin Bieber's debut single "One Time" that day.
"Allison, you have to hear this terrible song I heard on the way here. This kid sounds like s girl."
Cue "One Time."
"Wait... I actually really like this."
So half an hour later, I ended up at a Ben & Jerry's with wifi and bought the song on iTunes. From there, I was whipped by this young kid from Canada and suddenly my life would never be the same.
That year, 8th grade, I didn't have a lot of friends. But the ones I did have were people I met because of Justin Bieber. My new best friend at school became my best friend because of our bond over Justin. That was really cool. And then I took it a step further and joined Twitter, where I ended up becoming friends with kids around the country who loved Justin as much as I did. And it was incredible. In school I didn't have a group of friends, but the Bieber fanbase became my circle, my family. People at school didn't understand this. They didn't understand me, they didn't understand why I cared so much about some dumb pop star, they didn't understand why I would rather talk to random kids on the Internet than kids at school. I got picked on all the time for being the "Bieber Freak" and I tried not to let it get to me. It didn't, and I'm glad that I can look back at these days and laugh at myself. But at the time, it really sucked. People thought it was pathetic that I was "wasting all my time" essentially worshiping this kid who had no idea I existed. But the truth was, I didn't need him to know I existed. He'd already given me ten times more than anyone at school could have, and that was hope that things would get better, and true friends that loved me even at my Bieber-est. I was mocked relentlessly and called a "fangirl."
Lets slow down here.
So what, exactly, constitutes a fangirl? If you pull apart the word, it breaks down into two words in very plain English: fan and girl. I really don't think I need to define either of these words, but together they simply mean a girl who is a fan of something. Simple and beautiful definition.
So where does this negative connotation of the word "fangirl" come in?
(Disclaimer: I am just as guilty as most people when it comes to improper use of this word. However, I am actively trying to use the word in the right connotation so as not to shame the fangirl.)
Fangirls are thought to be utterly insane. The ones who wait outside hotels in hopes of catching a glimpse of their idol. The ones who defend an artist to the death, even when what they did was obviously wrong (sorry Beliebers, there's no way to defend a DUI no matter how hard you try). The ones who lock themselves in their rooms when their idol enters into a relationship. Yeah, these traits are a little extreme, but the majority of fangirl tendencies can be chalked up to passion.
Isn't that what everyone tries to preach? Find your passion?
So why would you shame a teenage girl for finding her passion in a musician? Or a book? Or a movie? Being a fan who's a girl who really, really digs something doesn't bear grounds for shaming. Kids like what they like. As an early teen, I spent hours of my day watching Justin Bieber interviews, but how is that any different than the kid who spent hours of his day playing the latest Call of Duty game? I dropped $104 on a Jonas Brothers concert ticket once and got shamed by people who would spend the same amount of money on sporting events.
The point I am trying to get at here is that when you find your passions, don't let others look down on you for them. Be passionate about something. Whether your passion is gardening or card games or One Direction, find what you love and don't let anyone get in the way of that.
Through my passionate love for Justin Bieber, I found a true passion for music. I was introduced to great people and fantastic artists, and if it weren't for my Bieber Fever in the 8th grade, I likely wouldn't be where I am, as a junior in college studying Music Business with a decent chunk of experience under my belt. My Bieber Fever indirectly led me to my passion for music and the music industry. I was discredited for my "fangirl" tendencies six years ago, but now those tendencies have led me to understand the pop music market in better ways than I could have ever imagined I would be able to. And pop music is fantastic. I don't care who you are or how tough you think you are, you cannot tell me with 100% honesty that pop music / Top 40 sucks. The incredible thing about pop music is that it's so versatile. There's something there for everyone. While you may not love One Direction, you may enjoy "Take Me To Church" by Hozier. You might not be the biggest fan of Katy Perry but maybe you really enjoy "Royals" by Lorde. All I'm trying to say here is that just because something is considered "mainstream" doesn't mean it's bad. This past week, the aforementioned notorious pop sensations Bieber and 1D both released pop albums. And they're both really good. Both albums draw influence from other genres, 1D from indie-folk-rock styles and Bieber from r&b, but overall, they're pop albums. And they're great. It'd be silly to overlook what could easily be one of your new favorite songs just because it's performed by some "girly teenage pop artist."
Let's take the stigmas and reputations away and let the music do the talking.