Justin Bieber and Rolling Stone are two sides of the music industry dollar. A kid of above average talent with supermodel good looks, on the cover of the world's leading fashion/culture mag servicing the pop music industry, is so predictable in 2014 it's de rigeur.
"It can be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team! And if we tell you the name of the game, boys, we call it riding the gravy train..." __Pink Floyd, Have A Cigar, from Wish You Were Here
I was a charter subscriber to Rolling Stone in 1968, when it was a revolutionary music clearing house, on newsprint. I was a subscriber throughout my tour in Vietnam, though I got about 4 issues because the postal clerks or somebody would usually take them.
At times during my life I have been a journalist (BA U Oregon 1986, MA OK State 2000) who plays. I am now a musician
who writes, and I've been on the covers of music mags like Blues Revue
and Big City Blues
I'm a qualified media critic. I know what goes on in a news or infotainment magazine, and why. RS has been the second for many years.
The magazine (for that's what it is now) has become as the greatest writer in its history, Ben Fong-Torres, predicted, though Fong-Torres could not go so far at the time as to predict that it would happen to the very newspaper he was writing for.
Fong-Torres said (this is a close paraphrase) that "the substance and trappings of revolution will inevitably be co-opted and commodified by commercial enterprise."
And so it is. The "news hole" (the amount of space devoted to material which is not outright commercial advertisements or PR for various artists) is actually very small. RS is now a pop music industry brand no more revolutionary than Billboard, except that it sells what passes these days for cutting-edge fashion.
Jan Wenner has stuck to his tried-and-true demographic (his personal continuity has been a big factor in RS's duration of commercial success), head-bangers from 13(or younger) to 35. Some of them think, especially the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Most do not; reflection can be very scary.
But they do BUY THINGS, and (youth being hell-bent-for-leather) with less reflection than their older counterparts. With Fukushima looming, the NSA spying, and the general level of bad news overwhelming, a pair of $85 blue jeans can help ease the pain.
"Well, I woke up this mornin' and I got myself a beer, (2x) the future's uncertain but the end is always near." Might as well party down until the money runs out is the attitude.
To these he can sell stuff. But here is an example of the Stone's devolution: they used the face of Robert Kennedy Junior to sell issues when it became clear that the 2004 presidential election had been stolen.
They did NOT even say the name of the man who actually did the research to determine that this was so. Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips, whose book, Witness to A Crime: A Citizens' Audit of An American Election ( Canterbury Press, Rome, NY 2008), is the story of that hijacking of American democracy, and contains a DVD of all of the primary evidence, was never quoted.
I strongly suspect that if anyone actually had Justin Bieber's trust enough to sit down with him in calm privacy and talk, they might find out that Justin is terrified, just as terrified as his peers must be, that his parents' and especially grandparents' generation are wildly veering from crisis to crisis, and all of it at far-greater-than-sustainable-yield resource consumption rates. I have a 21-year-old daughter, and I fear this world heading for disaster may not allow her to have the full range of experience that has been my fortune.
I expect that at some unguarded moment-- maybe some fragment of time when he was thinking about Anne Frank-- Bieber has looked into the abyss.
He undoubtedly turned his face resolutely away, but I think he's just as scared as anybody, and the irony must sometimes hit him that here he is, worth $100 million and can't take a legal drink yet, an international A-List celebrity, and yet he doesn't have any more influence than some 14-year-old who bought one of his DVDs over whether his Prime Minister involves his nation, Canada deeper in the Ukraine through NATO.
Or over anything. I can well imagine that Justin Bieber probably figures he should just party down, that amount of money will never run out. And after all, Rolling Stone
and half a dozen more will be there to chronicle the process.