Justin Bieber's odd behaviour once again overshadows his music
Currently on the Canadian leg of his tour, pop star now refusing to take pictures with fans
Back in his homeland for the Canadian stops of his sold-out tour Purpose, Justin Bieber is not exactly the picture of a man with a plan. Unless that plan is to further alienate his famously devout, long-suffering fan base.
In a note posted on Instagram on Tuesday, the singer announced his refusal to indulge fan photo requests any longer, adding that the constant demand on his time made him feel like a "zoo animal."
This comes on the heels of a string of episodes and proclamations that have put Bieber's critically hailed new music on the back burner and odd behaviour front and centre.
There were the odd choices of the esthetic kind: a face tattoo in the shape of a cross, blond dreadlocks that had people decrying cultural appropriation, and, just this week, a barefoot walk in a Boston park while feeding squirrels and climbing a tree.
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Earlier this year, he cancelled fan meet and greets, citing that they always leave him "feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression."
These actions could be a cry for help from a young man with emotional problems. Or, they could be the extravagances of a petulant pop star ungrateful to the hands that feed him. But whatever the motivation, the effect is the same: we are once again not talking about Bieber's music.
Purpose and rehab of image
From the standpoint of his career, Bieber should be feeling on top of the world now. Purpose helped him attain what once seemed impossible — the respect of critics. Drenched in EDM influences and funkified by collaborations with DJs like Skrillex and Diplo, it won him a Grammy while producing eminently singable hits Sorry and Love Yourself.
It was an artistic rebirth of the kind any one-time teen idol would dream of, but especially one who, just a year prior, was the very image of a spoiled brat on the verge of implosion.
In 2013 and early 2014, Bieber suffered through a self-inflicted annus horribilis. He managed to get arrested for DUI and careless driving in Miami. He urinated in a bucket in a restaurant kitchen and sprayed water while shouting expletives at a photo of former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Police even raided his home near Los Angeles after a neighbour's vandalism allegation.
So if he managed to bounce back from those setbacks, surely Bieber can find his purpose again, right? In theory, yes, except Bieber's current comments, like "I wanna be able to keep my sanity" and "I end up so drained and unhappy" give his recent malaise a more worrisome tone.
In pictures taken at his father's Toronto engagement party earlier this month, Bieber, once known for his mischievous smile, looks stone-faced and glum. And in a recent interview, manager Scooter Braun said the pop singer's crisis of 2013 and 2014 was far worse than people realized. Another emotionally rough patch, which Bieber appears to be going through at the moment, can't be good news so soon after that one.
Whatever the motivation, Bieber and his team may want to take his current string of eccentricities seriously. Because now he has more to lose: both his hard-won respect in the music industry, and his fans, who are now being directly affected by his actions.