Teen sensation Bieber gears up for busy year
By Monica Herrera
NEW YORK (Billboard) - "He causes riots everywhere he goes, and my mom loves him almost as much as I do!" sputters a blond girl in a bubble-gum-pink sweater, flanked by two other breathless tweens. You'd have to be on a severe pop-culture fast not to know which star they're kvelling over, but in any event, they let his name be heard loud: "Justin Bieeeberrr!"
It's 10 o'clock on a Thursday morning, and of the hundreds packed into New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, roughly three dozen are kids who have managed to score VIP seats. Bieber is performing at Nickelodeon's 2010 "upfront" presentation to advertisers, where the youth-centric network is announcing its new slate of programing. After sitting attentively through pitches about "igniting fan position" and supercharging the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise, the Biebermaniacs, necks craned, phones and Flip cams in hand, angle to capture a frame of the most famous 16-year-old in the game.
"Your world is my world, and my heart is your heart," Bieber sings in a sweet tenor, perched on a stool and strumming the melody of his first hit, "One Time," on an acoustic guitar. Then he launches into his new single, "Baby," bounding through choreography, thwacking his drummer's kit, rapping Ludacris' guest verse and clutching his chest during swoon-worthy lines like "We will nevah-evah-evah be apart." Afterward, Bieber sticks around to change the lives of a few brace-faced girls, who hug the lip of the stage and clutch their Converses in hopes of an autograph.
"He-signed-my-shoes-and-my-arm-and-my-cell-phone," says Stephanie Mordoh, a breathless eighth-grader from Westchester who's here with two friends. "He's just so talented and amazing." Bieber poses for a few photos and fields some on-camera questions. On the Jonas Brothers-vs.-Justin Bieber inter-fan beef (their shared initials are partly responsible, as anyone under 16 will tell you), he calmly says, "Our fans seem to fight, and I don't know why. But I don't care, you know? It's whatever." Five minutes later, he's gone, whisked away by his handlers to the next appearance.
Since being plucked from his hometown of Stratford, Ontario, Bieber has grown from a 13-year-old with a popular YouTube account into a sensation touring with Taylor Swift and boasting sales and social-network stats that rival those of any Disney star. The difference between him and Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers, though, is that their careers were jump-started by TV shows.
Bieber's debut album, "My World," was released in November on Island through the Raymond Braun Music Group (a 50/50 joint venture between R&B star Usher Raymond and Bieber's manager, Scott "Scooter" Braun). It arrived at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 with 137,000 copies and has since sold 1 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a total likely boosted by iTunes' Complete My Album campaign. Four tracks -- "One Time," "One Less Lonely Girl," "Favorite Girl" and "Love Me" -- were released before the album and all charted, making Bieber the first solo artist to have four top 40 singles before the release of his debut album. All seven of the album's songs have charted since, for a total of 3.3 million in individual track sales.
Bieber will release "My World 2.0," his second album in less than five months, on Tuesday (March 23). Once again, four tracks already have been released to iTunes, one of which, "Baby," debuted at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100. Label executives declined to provide a specific sales projection, but Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJMG) plans to ship 1 million copies of "My World 2.0" in its first week of release -- a sharp increase from the estimated 300,000-400,000 copies shipped of "My World" in its first week. Continued...