The true Beliebers

It's a question that has troubled many parents for nearly two years. Just what is the appeal of pint-sized Canadian pop star Justin Bieber? Is it his singing? His dance moves? His squeaky-clean looks? Perhaps his Christian upbringing? All of the above?
If you've just asked "who is Justin Bieber" you're clearly aged over 18 and don't move in the orbit of the tween and teenage girls who form Bieber's core fan base, aka the Beliebers.
Bieber's face, often framed by his distinctive brushed forward fringe, stares out from a startling range of merchandise from which there is no escape. He's on magazines, T-shirts, posters, quilt covers, blankets, hats, necklaces, shoes, bags, bobby pins, pencil cases, cups, balloons, straws and dinner napkins. There are even Justin Bieber masks for fancy dress parties.
Taylor White, 12, of Marangaroo, likes Bieber because "he is hot and he has good songs".
Girrawheen teen India Ewins, 15, her sister Holly, 10, and their mum Sarah Saville like Bieber for his music, looks and also think he's a good role model.
TV news reports in recent days have shown dozens of teenager girls screaming when interviewed about their idol. But it's not just tweens and their big sisters who have caught Bieber fever, symptoms of which also include crying and trembling at the mere thought of being in Bieber's presence. Surprisingly, he also has lots of younger fans.
Five-year-old Marshall Lalor, of Swanbourne, loves dressing like the superstar. "I like Justin because he's a great dancer and he looks cool," he says. "I like his shoes too." Marshall's seven-year-old sister Lucy is similarly enamoured. "I like Justin because he's really talented and sings songs that I love to sing."
Many parents like 17-year-old Bieber because, unlike so many of today's pop and rock stars, his songs sell puppy love and not sex - and there's no bleeping to cover up swear words.
Bieber is a phenomenon. In the recent 3-D documentary/concert film Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, home video footage reveals Bieber was displaying musical talent as a toddler, particularly on the drums.
His mum, Pattie Mallette, had Justin when she was 18 and raised him with the help of her parents after separating from partner Jeremy when Justin was a baby.
Mallette began posting clips of her son singing tracks by Usher, Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder on YouTube in 2007 for out-of-town relatives who missed his performances at local talent shows.
Bieber was 13 when he was discovered on YouTube in 2008 by former So Def marketing executive Scooter Braun, who is now his manager.
Braun admits in the film he was "obsessed" with finding Bieber and eventually tracked him down via a grand-aunt in his home town of Stratford, before going to Atlanta for talks. Several record companies passed on signing Bieber because they felt he needed the Disney or Nickelodeon industry machine backing him. How wrong they were. Bieber already had a readymade and huge fan base on the internet.
Even the man who was to become his mentor, R&B superstar Usher, initially blew Bieber off. "When we flew into Atlanta, Scooter drove us to the studio and Usher was there in the parking lot," Bieber recalled in a posting on his record company's website. "That was my first time out of Canada so I went up to him and was like 'Hey Usher, I love your songs, do you want me to sing you one?' He was like 'No, little buddy, just come inside, it's cold out'."
When Usher watched Bieber's videos and heard his voice, he realised his mistake and took Bieber to see Antonio "L.A." Reid, the Island Def Jam label boss who played a pivotal role in the careers of Usher, Rihanna and Pink.
"I sang for him and his people and he really wanted to sign me then and there but I still had a meeting with Justin Timberlake who also wanted to sign me," Bieber said.
"It turned out Usher's deal was way better. He had L.A. Reid backing him up and Scooter had a lot of really good connections in Atlanta. I always tease Usher now and remind him how he blew me off the first time we met."
"I was convinced Usher had delivered a gift," Reid revealed in Never Say Never, which has surpassed Michael Jackson's This Is It to become the most successful concert-themed movie at the US box office.
In October 2008, Bieber officially signed to Island Records but there was still hard work ahead. Now living in the US, he travelled all over the country in 2009 playing to small but growing crowds in malls and theme parks and singing a cappella at radio stations to convince DJs to broadcast his songs including first single One Time.
His management was clever not to alienate the internet fans who helped Bieber become a worldwide, chart-topping success. He joined Twitter and has more than 9.3 million followers hanging off his every tweet, with more than 26.5 million Facebook fans.
Baby, his second single, is the most watched and discussed YouTube clip of all time with more than 500 million views. Collectively his YouTube videos have been watched more than 1.5 billion times. His cyber success is backed by worldwide album and single sales of more than 10.25 million and 24.27 million, respectively.
Bieber is nominated in 11 categories in this month's Billboard Music Awards, including top new artist and top male artist.
Everywhere the young superstar goes, riotous scenes follow. In April 2010 he was due to make an appearance outside Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal for breakfast show Sunrise. After thousands more fans than expected showed up the show was cancelled on police advice and disappointed fans had to make do with Baby being sung inside Sunrise's Martin Place studio.
And it was while he was visiting the birthplace of Beatlemania, Liverpool, in March that Bieber was warned by police not to approach his hotel balcony or face arrest for inciting a riot.

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