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Maybe Justin Bieber is Just an Introvert

If Beyoncé can be ‘Sasha Fierce’ on stage and fiercely private off, why can’t Bieber?

Justin Bieber is canceling all the meet-and-greets on his Purpose tour, and fans are pissed. Even non-fans are pissed, for some reason — how dare Justin Bieber, in 2016, do anything other than continue to redeem himself for past offenses?

via Justin Bieber’s Instagram

“I end up feeling so drained and filled with so much of other people’s spiritual energy that I end up so drained and unhappy,” he writes, a weirdly poetic way of putting it. Imagine having to meet hundreds of people, everyday, who are overjoyed to see you and who expect you to be grateful for their devotion. As a Not Famous person, I suspect the closest I ever come to this experience in my daily life is if I happen to take two Lyfts in one day. Even making polite conversation can be draining if you’re not a normally outgoing person. The way that people complain about having to make friendly conversation with an Uber driver — that’s the way Justin Bieber feels every single day.

And the Uber analogy isn’t even an exact one. Because people who purchase expensive VIP tickets in order to meet and snap a photo with Justin Bieber are paying for a service, and the more money you spend on something (especially if that is hard-earned money, money that took a long time to acquire), the more you feel as if you are obligated to something. In this case, that “something” means “meeting Justin Bieber,” and no matter how closely defined that activity is, fans are going to want their money’s worth — no matter what they expect they are owed.

According to Vanity Fair, the company that facilitates the $900 to $2,000 V.I.P. packages says “they are offering refunds, as well as an alternative of a V.I.P.-hangout option, where one can take pictures or videos of Justin (though not appear with him in said pictures or videos).” While that merely sounds like “having good seats at a concert and the ability to use your smartphone,” there might be some sort of hologram or Justin Bieber stand-up cardboard cut-out involved.

Enough has been written about famous kids who then grow up to famous adults to know that it sucks. Bieber’s not the exception, having been through enough “bad boy” phases in life (and apologized for each of them) by this point for it to feel like he’s at least 40 years old. But he’s not 40; he’s only 22 — with a career that’s lasted way longer than anyone could’ve expected. Because no matter how talented you are, pulling off that jump from pre to puberty has a very low success rate. And thanks to some smart (or lucky!) musical partnerships — Diplo, Skrillex, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd — Bieber’s 2015 album, Purpose, was not only a hit, but he’s still able to sell out stadiums.

Which is where most of the money comes from, anyway. Those IRL, real life experiences — either a concert experience, for someone like Bieber (who has a talent to display) or, for another type of modern day celebrity, let’s say a Vine or YouTube star, a meet-and-greet. Bieber certainly isn’t the first pop star to tack on a meet-and-greet experience onto ticket prices, but unlike a Vine or YouTube star, he has more to offer than merely a selfie. Unfortunately, teens, tweens and the like are accustomed to be able to pay for the pleasure of touching their idols. In a time when albums actually made money and musicians didn’t need to take time out to meet-and-greet their fans as a product, this wasn’t something fans expected to be able to attain.

Justin Bieber Belieber GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But even after 15 or so years in the spotlight, he writes, “The pressure of meeting some people’s expectations of what I’m supposed to be is so much for me to handle and a lot on my shoulders.” You don’t really ever get used to that fame stuff, do you? Especially when the person on and off stage is still you —it’s the character you perform as who the fans are there to meet.

In 2008, Beyoncé released a double album called I Am… and Sasha Fierce — where, she explained, Sasha Fierce was her alter-ego, “the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage,” she said. “When I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am.” She would later “kill” Sasha Fierce (“It’s all pieces of me, and just different elements of a personality of a woman, because we are complicated.”) and take on another alter ego, “Yoncé,” with her album, Beyoncé. Whether or not, “Yoncé” in an alter ego (as many publications assumed) or just a nickname is unclear, but she isn’t the first self-described introvert to give her on-stage persona separate names: David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust, Garth Brooks had Chris Gaines, Marshall Mathers had Eminem, Prince had the unpronounceable symbol.

Justin Bieber has always been Justin Bieber.

This isn’t a “Leave Justin Bieber Alone” plea — he’s clearly doesn’t want you to leave him alone. He wants you to buy his albums, to attend his shows, to favorite his Instagrams. But the guy gave us three of the best pop songs of 2015 — “What Do You Mean?”, “Sorry” and “Where Are Ü Now” — if we’re expecting anything else, maybe it’s time to stop asking for selfies.