Will Justin Bieber’s Comedy Central Roast Revive His Career?
I called it two years ago.
In February 2013, Justin Bieber was photographed wearing a gas mask while shopping in London. Over the next few weeks, his antics extended to lashing out at a photographer, being publicly dissed by off-again girlfriend Selena Gomez, appearing semi-naked at a Polish airport, facing battery accusations and complaints about his driving, allowing Lil Twist to host a rager at his mansion, relinquishing ownership of his pet monkey and getting banned from a nightclub in Vienna.
More than two years since he first donned a gas mask, Justin is actively taking steps to rectify his public image. The latest and most publicized stop on his apology tour is his Comedy Central Roast, finally airing on Monday night (March 30). But will it be enough to undo the damage of the past 24 months?
Let's Start at the Very Beginning
The fable of Justin Bieber's rise to fame is romanticized into a fairy tale. Raised by a single mother, the incredibly talented singer busked on the streets of Stratford, Ontario. Fateful videos of a young JB singing landed on YouTube and led him to a life-changing record deal. It's a story so fantastic, so one-in-a-million, that it was branded into Justin's biography. The title "Believe" was given to both his third studio album and his 2013 concert biopic. His fans adopted the name "Beliebers" and a movement was born.
Justin's early public image was shaped by numerous facts: Those incredible vocal cords, that iconic swoop of hair and the kid's larger-than-life personality. Sure, he was a 15-year-old singing about first love, but he did it with the swagger and bravado of a much more mature man. (He even had a swagger coach.) The entire package produced a cocky but charming, dangerously talented young star.
What Comes Up Must Come Down
Fast forward to 2013. At only 19 years old, Justin had three albums, two Grammy nominations and three recognitions by the Guinness Book of World Records. With the whole world watching, it's no surprise that the pressure on Justin began to build.
Justin's series of missteps in February and March were, unfortunately, only the beginning of his troubles. In the following two months, he made headlines when Swedish police reportedly found pot on his tour bus, he was caught speeding in Dubai and he was even straightened out by Miley Cyrus herself. Taylor Swift openly showed her disgust when bestie Selena Gomez got cozy with JB at the Billboard Music Awards.
'I think it’s just cool to be able to laugh at yourself,' Justin explained. 'I’ve done some things that may not be the greatest. I just want to be able to laugh about it and just own up to some of these things.'
Numerous celebs even spoke out against Justin. Former SNL cast-member Bill Hader noted that Justin was "diva" when he appeared on the show. Jon Bon Jovi called Justin an "a--hole," while Mark Wahlberg, a former teen pop star himself, recommended that the singer "take a vacation."
And if there was any doubt about the public's opinion, a poll conducted in April 2013 found that Justin was the eighth most-hated celeb in Hollywood, beating out Chris Brown and Taylor Swift.
Of course, these indiscretions seem minor compared to Justin's arrest in early 2014 or the video that leaked of a 14-year-old Bieber parodying his own song "One Less Lonely Girl" and dropping the N-word.
You get the picture. All of the bad press and poor choices overshadowed how talented Justin is. Worse yet, he seemed, for the most part, unapologetic. If there's one thing the public dislikes, it's a privileged celebrity with no remorse.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the whole situation is that Justin is a very charitable celebrity. He's a long-time supporter of Pencils of Promise, which funds schools in underdeveloped countries, and in July he was honored with the Champ of Charity award at the Young Hollywood Awards. Oh, and did we mention that he broke a Make-A-Wish record in August 2013? The majority of his philanthropic efforts are overshadowed by his negative actions, which is so disappointing.
Apology Tour 2015
And that brings us to 2015. Justin kicked off the year by debuting his sultry Calvin Klein campaign. While he garnered lots of attention for his ripped bod, the singer used the spotlight to highlight his emotional growth. Step One: locking down a Comedy Central Roast.
If the public hates spoiled celebs, then they love a chance for said celebs to hear exactly what the world thinks of them. For years, Justin's image was tightly connected to his ego. He didn't always take criticism well and when he did mess up, his apologies didn't come off as sincere. Seeing him volunteer to be humiliated on TV was the first step in rectifying his image.
Step Two: Making some much-needed appearances on The Ellen Show. Justin stopped by the talk show in late January to talk about his upcoming roast. In a sincere address to the audience, the singer referenced his past mistakes and why he wants to be roasted.
“I think it’s just cool to be able to laugh at yourself,” he explained. “I’ve done some things that may not be the greatest. I just want to be able to laugh about it and just own up to some of these things.”
That evening (January 29), Justin posted a heartfelt video that lent more insight into the situation.
"It’s been a minute since I’ve made a public appearance, and I didn’t want to come off arrogant or conceited — basically how I’ve been acting the past year, year and a half,” he explained. “I felt like people were judging me, and I really want people to know how much I care, how much I care about people and how I’m not that person to say, ‘I don’t give a f---,’ you know, I’m not that kid; I’m a person who genuinely cares. Although what’s happened in the past has happened, I just want to make the best impression on people and be kind and loving and gentle and soft. Although people can call me a softy, that’s how my mom raised me.”
While Justin's fans may argue that his sincerity never faltered over the years, those who aren't die-hard Beliebers will likely disagree. Justin himself admitted that he came off as being conceited and while it took him two years to get to this place, he's finally figured out how to be candid and speak from the heart.
But Will It Work?
The last step in Justin's move for contrition will be the roast itself. The March 30 event will be the public's chance to see Justin come face-to-face with his mistakes. Roasts have a reputation for being relentless — and that's exactly what the people want.
During the height of Justin's legal drama, whenever he maintained that he is a good person, his mistakes seemed to contradict his actions. Now he's taking steps to address his behavior — like when he went on Ellen — and his actions seem to match up. Big ups for you, Bieber!
While the Comedy Central roast is likely to be the home stretch of JB's unofficial apology tour, ultimately it will only matter if his actions henceforth continue to reflect his personal growth. That means continuing to act humble, keeping out of trouble and focusing on his career.
Of course, there will always be those who argue that Justin's career is still a successful one, and that's valid. However, since his arrest in January 2014, the singer hasn't released a new album. (Journals, the full-length project he dropped in late 2013 didn't chart in the Billboard Top 200 during its first week.) He's stepped out of the spotlight musically, with the exception of "Home to Mama," and his reputation faltered.
It's not easy growing up in the spotlight and we don't discount the immense pressure under which Justin lives. He's a role model for millions and millions of Beliebers and though everyone makes mistakes, he can set the precedent for how to move forward with grace. We're rooting for you, Justin!
Justin Bieber's Comedy Central Roast airs at 10PM ET on March 30.
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