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Justin Bieber appears at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday to talk about his documentary film Never Say Never. ((Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press))

The ring tone on Joanne Fraser's cellphone is Justin Bieber's U Smile and she's bought all the Bieber-related paraphernalia you can imagine. "The nail polish, the bracelets, the posters, the cardboard cutout, the blanket, you name it."

But Fraser is not your average Bieber fan. She's a 32-year-old photographer from the small southern Ontario town of Picton.

And the paraphernalia isn't really hers. At least not completely. Asked if the pop sensation-branded items are for her 13-year-old daughter, Brooke, or herself, Fraser laughs. "A bit of both," she says.

Fraser became enamoured of the mop-topped 16-year-old when her daughter introduced her to his videos on YouTube , the website where the Stratford, Ont.-raised teen was discovered.

Even Fraser's obsession with the teen idols of her own day, New Kids on the Block, didn't come close to rivalling her interest in Bieber. "I wasn't this obsessed," she acknowledges, sheepishly. "I wasn't as bad."

So why does an adult obsess so much over a teen idol? A large part of Fraser's interest in Bieber has to do with his positive influence on her daughter and other teens.

"He's wholesome, he's cute and he's from a town in Ontario, so it shows these kids they can actually do something beyond the small towns," Fraser says. "He loves his parents. He's very respectful and I wouldn't want my daughter looking up to anybody else really."

Online omnipresence

Bieber may seem like just another teen idol, says pop culture expert Scott Henderson, but the teen with the signature mane shouldn't be dismissed outright.

"There is mockery out there, an adult disdain, or the older teen disdain, but I think it's significant for young people," says Henderson, associate professor in communication, pop culture and film at Brock University in St. Catharines. "They believe that Bieber is the greatest musician who has ever existed. So be it. I think it's belittling to young people to simply dismiss their beliefs."

In Toronto on Tuesday to promote his upcoming movie, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, the soon-to-be-17-year-old addressed the haters, denying he's a manufactured sensation  and calling himself a "regular teenage boy" living out a dream.

Like other professors, Henderson has studied the phenomenon that is Bieber. He first learned about the singer when his teenage daughter joined an anti-Bieber Facebook group.

More important, Henderson notes that Bieber, or the Biebs as he is fondly known, is an undeniably huge brand — and as such, one worth paying attention to.

"I couldn't hum you a Justin Bieber tune," Henderson says. "I'm not even sure if I've heard one all the way through but I know lots and lots about Justin Bieber."

Even if those who wouldn't recognize the chorus of the smash hit Baby  might have seen Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, 80, gravely reading excerpts of Bieber's memoir,  First Step 2 Forever: My Story, glimpsed Bieber's face on the cover of Vanity Fair or noticed his appearance on crime drama CSI.

It is even harder to ignore Bieber in his natural habitat: cybersphere.

Last month, a San Francisco-based social networking index, Klout, declared Bieber the most influential person in the social media universe. Klout used a complicated series of algorithms to calculate tweets, LinkedIn connections, Google mentions and other social media factors. Bieber rated the highest possible score at 100, while the Dalai Lama came in at 90 and Lady Gaga at 89.

"Whether we know his songs or not, we still know him," Henderson says. "We can't kind of escape that omnipresence."

Pop confection

Ken McLeod, a University of Toronto assistant professor in music history and culture, notes that while Bieber may not be his cup of tea, the teen's music isn't so bad.

"I don't think it's musically inept," says McLeod, who first learned of Bieber through his music, not the entertaining videos and blogs so often posted about his latest adventures. "I don't think it's particularly brilliant either. I think it's OK."

This may not be a ringing endorsement for the music, which he describes as "Eminem-meets-New Kids on the Block," but his point is that Bieber is what he is.

"I don't see why people are so upset," McLeod says. "It's the latest, greatest pop confection. And so what. … It's the nature of the industry."

McLeod notes that some musicians even appear to take Bieber's work seriously, covering his songs as drastically rearranged but 'heartfelt love songs.'

Others, like University of British Columbia commerce student Rebecca Abel, openly declares their "love of the Biebs." In her marketing-focused blog, Abel details lessons to be learned from the meteoric rise in Bieber's fame.

"Clearly his management and PR teams are doing something right," she gushes.

It is, after all, Bieber's successful use of online engagement that distinguishes him from previous teen idols.

The story goes that his mother, Pattie Mallette, posted videos to YouTube of her son singing covers. One of the videos was spotted by an American talent agent, and music industry heavyweights Usher and Justin Timberlake then battled to sign him. The rest is history.

His swift rise was, no doubt, also helped by his Twitter presence. He even taught late-night host David Letterman on Monday's show about the "Twitter device" and gently explained to him why he uses it.

"It's just cool to let the fans know," he told the perplexed host.

Bieber would know. He's written more than 7,200 Tweets later and has nearly seven million followers.

But if his adept use of the web, his wholesome charm, his not-so-bad music and his marketing prowess aren't enough to light the smallest spark of interest, Fraser has another reason to pay attention.

"You should support your own, really," she says. "If he's Canadian, support him. He did something great with his life."

Or perhaps just enjoy the Bieber stories for their pure entertainment value.