Reading this, you may believe that I’ve just opened a big ol’ can of uncool on Popdose. After all, what 40 year old Springsteen fan in his right mind would devote a column to Justin Bieber, for Christ’s sake?! Well, I am the writer who expressed his affection for a certain Bryan Adams power ballad, a song that is the target of disdain for most of the staff at Popdose. I’ve received my fair share of ridicule for that particular post and I’m sure some will be shot my way after today’s entry. However, I’m not afraid to admit that I like the song, “Baby” by Justin Bieber. The Beeb. His teeny bopper, heartthrob music is the hottest thing to happen to tweenage girls since the Jonas Brothers, which is how I became familiar with the song.
My daughter, Sophie, loves this song. There have been times when I’ve witness her walking through the house singing it to herself, with or without her headphones on. Then there have been the occasions when, passing by the closed door of her bedroom, I’ve overheard the muffled sound of my daughter duetting with the high pitched voice of young Mister Bieber. I can only imagine that she’s holding her karaoke microphone, pretending that she’s on stage; or perhaps she’s just dancing. I don’t know. In those moments, her bedroom is her inner sanctum- no parents allowed.
I know I shouldn’t like this song. It’s electronic back beat and innocuous lyrics are just the kind of music I would have made fun of back in my 20’s. But with each listen, the song continues t grow on me, especially Ludacris’ rap in the middle (love that line “she woke me up daily, don’t need no Starbucks”). Remember when you were a kid and you secretly started liking a song you once hated because someone cool or your current crush really liked it? That doesn’t end when you become an adult. You get married, have children, and the music the family listens to- especially your kids- suddenly becomes stitched to the continuing quilt of your growing psyche. It’s like one of those burs that get stuck in the sole of your show after traipsing thorough a weedy field. But while those burrs are an annoyance, that song actually gives you joy and makes you teary eyed when you think of your daughter. The only annoyance is that the melody gets stuck in your head and, as a grown man, you find yourself drawing strange looks from people because you’re walking around singing “baby, baby, baby OHH” to yourself.
What, that doesn’t happen to you?
I’m glad that Sophie likes Justin Bieber. I’m glad she finds his innocent catchy pop soul fun and that she seems to think that he’s cute (although she’d never tell her dad- ewww). It means she’s normal. It means she’s discovering music on her own, through the radio, TV and (most importantly) through her friends. Sure, she’ll always have a soft spot in her heart for Springsteen thanks to her father. But just like I have affection for Sousa marches because of my dad, Sophie will most likely look upon some of my favorite music with nostalgia and a reminder of the man who raised her. The most important music in her life, the good and the garbage, she’ll find on my own. That’s what my little girl is doing now, although she’s not that much of a little girl anymore.
Sophie worries a lot, about her parents, school, our house, her friends, and cousins; she worries a lot about her brother. Just eleven, these serious matters bear down on Sophie, no matter how many times Julie and I try to convince her that she should leave the worrying to us. But when I hear her listening to Justin Bieber it signals to me that she’s not being weighed down by the economic worries of our household or the constant reminders of cystic fibrosis; it signals to me that she’s still a kid, finding joy out of discovering music and imagining herself as a pop star.
In twenty years, when Justin Bieber is a former teen idol trying to build an acting career by starring in buddy comedies with the latest Saturday Night Live star to score a movie career, and his song, “Baby,” is being used to hawk Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, I’m sure the song will pop up on television, sung by the squarest of singers on the planet, and I’ll stop in my tracks. Then, as I do now, I’ll purposely stop outside Sophie’s room where I’ll be able to hear my daughter singing along with Justin Bieber behind a closed door when she was eleven. That’s when I’ll wipe the tears from my eyes and walk away singing “baby, baby, baby OH” to myself once again.