You know there’s trouble at t’mill when a leading business magazine weighs in on the Justin Bieber-unravelling-in-front-of-our eyes-saga with the warning that the singing star’s “growing pains” of late may be damaging the brand.
"If Bieber's erratic behaviour continues," says Forbes , "it could take a toll on his bottom line. While fans will likely keep buying his music, his merchandise sales could suffer. And corporations might not want to be associated with him if he can't maintain his brand image."
Now, if you're a Charlie Sheen you can melt right down to a semi-psychotic mess, then bounce back as if nothing has happened. But if your fan base is between six and 10 years' old, you just can't PR your way out of trouble. By the end of the year, industry figures have it, Bieber will either be in jail or rehab – or will have transformed himself into a cult leader/death metal folk hero/hardcore rapper.
March was the cruellest month of Bieber. “Health problems”; arriving on stage two hours late (try explaining that to an eight year-old); lunging at a paparazzo with the syntactically melodramatic “I’ll fucking beat the fuck out of you”. There was the news that he travels with a pet monkey (shades of Michael Jackson) and the threat of prosecution for criminal battery after allegedly spitting on and using unparliamentary language at a neighbour in LA.
And it really isn't helping Bieber's case that he's taken to social networking sites to defend himself: "Lol! I'm 19 with 5 number one albums, 19 and I've seen the whole word, 19 and I've accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed of, I'm 19 and it must be scary for people to know that this is just the beginning," he posted on Instagram.
Music figures are now going public with their concerns for the singer. Metallica's manager, Peter Mensch, claims that Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, is "scared shitless" by what is going on in Bieber world. Apparently there are ongoing "crisis talks" with his record label.
Previous stars from the same pop mould (Donny Osmond, David Cassidy etc) lived relatively normal lives compared with the 24/7 spotlight on Bieber, particularly with the media sensing blood and every move and foolish utterance is recorded and uploaded to the world.
And whatever about growing up emotionally, Bieber is also trying to grow up musically. He desperately wants to ditch the tweens and reinvent himself as a contemporary r'n'b/hip-hop/"serious" act following the same career trajectory as, says, Justin Timberlake. He'll also be aware that his successor has already been anointed.
Meet Benjamin Lasnier, a 13- year-old Dane who has just signed a deal with Sony. This Bieber lookalike first came to attention with pictures he posted of himself on Instagram after being mobbed in his native Copenhagen. Lasnier doesn't have any musical talent, but that was never an obstacle for a lot of today's big pop stars.
One doesn't wish to be unkind, but given the track record of child stars and what's happening now to Justin Bieber, you can't help feeling that Benjamin's handlers would get a good discount of they booked the rehab now.