An Exercise In Humility: Bieber Vs. The Black Keys

Justin Bieber Vs. Patrick Carney
Since the 55th annual Grammy Awards aired earlier this month, many have been getting a laugh out of the ongoing saga of Justin Bieber and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. Now, usually I’m the only person in the room going on about how despite the fact that the general public likes to shit on Bieber for being an untalented little snot with too much money and a subpar vocabulary, it’s still important to understand that he is a feat of modern marketing. You don’t have to like his music because they’re not writing it for you, and as long as you’re not a 14-year-old girl, you really don’t matter. This particular time around, not so much.

Overexposure can be a critical game changer in the pop world, especially in the digital age, and mega scale pop stars like Bieber have got to know when to dial it back. There’s a fine line between cashing in on all the revenue streams your target audience provides and maxing out the willingness of both the public and your peers to put up with you.

This little spat between Bieber and Carney is a matter of apples and oranges. Bieber is a product of the pop music machine. The Black Keys have been a touring band for 12 years, have recorded 7 albums, and have only recently begun to break through. They’re simply two different things and they don’t adhere to the same set of rules at all.

The Carney comment that set the whole thing off? “Grammys are for, like, music, not for money … and he’s making a lot of money. He should be happy, I guess.” Big deal, all that meant was that while the cash flow that Bieber’s camp is seeing certainly denotes that he is a massive success, it doesn’t necessarily equate to him having one of the best pop music albums of the year does it?

No one is denying that Bieber is hugely successful at what he does. In fact, we haven’t seen a pop music phenomenon like this since Beatlemania hit in the 60’s, but pop music is about the formula. If your going to work the formula from all angles the way his team does, then you need to recognize when you’re out of your league.

Jesus kid, you really showed your age on this one. When you play with the big boys, you gotta act like one. You just don’t go around promoting a live stream at the same time as the Grammy broadcast cause you think you can show them up, and you certainly don’t offer to slap around a 30-year-old man with real facial hair after his band wins 3 Grammys in a single night. If you are as big of a deal as you think, then you let your work speak for itself. If you’re going to be running around town with a big ‘ol sense of confidence, you can’t get your panties in a knot and let the whole world know that you think you got stiffed. You’ve got to learn to hold your tongue and exercise a little humility.

I’m sure this will all be over momentarily, but Carney’s sense of humor about the whole thing has been incredible. Not only is he a grown ass man “feuding” with a teenage boy, he’s pointing out how seriously disconnected these Belieber kids are both musically and culturally from what happens outside of the realm of Justin Bieber, one rosy tweet at a time.

The Black Keys have never been my personal favorite; I think they write killer rock radio songs that I know all the words to but that they’re boring as shit live. That said, in this severe rock drought we’re still having, they were one of the only current bands out there that managed to write a real deal rock and roll record last year so those Grammys were well deserved.



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