Bieber Baby, What Will You Be? - Dundurn
Jun 10, 2024

Bieber Baby, What Will You Be?

Three days before Mother’s Day, with just enough time for the news cycle to gestate the bombshell drop via Instagram, Hailey and Justin Bieber announced that they are having a child.

If People, Us Weekly, Teen Vogue, NBC & ABC News, TMZ, the Toronto Star (and the Toronto Sun, working together at last!), Harper’s Bazaar, and even the BBC are to be believed, this was *the* celeb news of the day.

It marked Justin Bieber’s ascendence into the hallowed halls of celebrity papas. Like Michael Jackson dangling a 9-month-old Prince Michael II (“Blanket”) over a balcony in Berlin, this moment also marked the Bieber Baby’s first foray into the mouth-foaming world of celebrity fandom.

This spotlit family is on a journey, and we’re right there along with them. Whether we want it or not.

My main memory of Justin Bieber is a grainy YouTube clip of some kid strumming a guitar on the streets of Stratford. I dug it up when he became a bonafide pop star, peering with wonder at such a postmodern origin story. And I remember his haircut, which was pretty popular for a while. Then there was the time he started working out and got tattoos and folks wondered if he was “okay.” Oh yeah, and he did a thing with Skrillex, once. That percolated through the noise to raise an eyebrow.

Suffice it to say, I was not the right age or orientation to be a Belieber. And yet even me, a celebrity luddite, cannot help but compare recent milestones to the various epochs of Beiber’s public existence.

The difficulty of pegging meaning to pop cultural icons & artifacts is that they are ever-changing signifiers. This is the combination blessing/curse of the cultural critic. In an act of criticism, it is possible to be fantastically succinct and efficient, almost acrobatic in how swiftly you can hogtie together otherwise unrelated subjects – because, even if people haven’t seen the exact work that you’re discussing, you can safely assume that your reader shares a conceptual vocabulary through participation in the wider net of cultural products.

In other words, you clicked on this link with the word “Bieber” in the title. So you have some context for this conversation. And yet, you bring with you a life’s worth of previous associations to the man, the music, or the icon.

So you get this entire tapestry of art history to draw upon. And it’s a living history, as well Bieber’s bairn belies. Being a Bieber-enjoyer in 2024 is a very different thing than it was in 2015, or 2009. Despite an eternal mandate to remain commercially relevant, Bieber changed over time.

And so did you. Your association with Justin has transformed alongside the currents of your life, to greater or lesser degrees, depending on a bundle of variables too manifold to qualify in a piece this long.

Stop and think about how different you are from the first time you heard the name “Justin Bieber.” Seriously, take a moment. Let the weight of those days wash over you. Think about how many twists and turns your life has gone through. In the darkness beneath the tattooed and muscled exterior, the dark side of that celebrity moon that we, the public, cannot see, so too, I assume, has he.

Which is why it’s not impossible to imagine that Bieber could become a good dad. Raised by a hard-bitten single mom in smalltown Ontario, there’s a distinct possibility that a decade and a half of outrageous wealth and the waterfall of attention from adoring fans during his adolescence did not scrub clear those foundational memories. When he thinks back to pre-2009, what does he see? How hard his mom worked? How she supported his musical talents? How it felt to strum on the streets of Stratford?

All good parenting needs is that seed of empathy. Everything else can grow from there: putting yourself second, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, seeing the magic & wonder of the world from your child’s eyes — and nurturing it.

As the Hailey & Justin Bieber family embarks on this mysterious adventure, marking another milestone in their and our shared lives, it’s fun to imagine the limitless possibilities for this soon-to-be little person. Who will the Bieber Baby be?

We won’t have to wait long to start finding out. Given a celebrity family’s relentless PR mandate, I’d expect regular updates from the Bieber’s winding trail. With Father’s Day around the corner, let’s see if we get another installment in this unfolding narrative…

Want more Father’s Day fun? Join Cian Cruise at Westboro Books (Ottawa) on Sunday, June 16th, 2024 for a fun book signing of his pop-culture look at fatherhood, Dad Bod!

Cian Cruise has a degree in film studies and philosophy and works as a freelance writer, strategist, and consultant. His cultural criticism has appeared in Hazlitt, Maisonneuve, Playboy, Vulture, and Little Brother Magazine. Cian lives in Almonte, Ontario, Learn more here.