Unlike Miley, bad boy Bieber no put on

NOT A SELL OUT: Justin Bieber's finding it hard to fill venues in Australia, with his gig shown here in Brisbane not selling out.
NOT A SELL OUT: Justin Bieber's finding it hard to fill venues in Australia, with his gig shown here in Brisbane not selling out.

Their commitment almost makes you want to "beliebe". Justin Bieber's delirious fans - aka the Beliebers - lined up outside Sydney Airport from 3am on Thursday to catch a glimpse of their hero, the world's biggest male pop star.

Bieber's entourage eluded them, but seven hours later they got the sign that made them feel that much closer to their teen hunk hero, when Bieber tweeted at 10.33am: "Sydney."

That one word was retweeted more than 30,000 times.

Despite all hysteria and all the big numbers - a $150m fortune at just 19 years of age, ninth most powerful celebrity in the world according to Forbes.com and 47.3 milion Twitter followers - Bieber sold out only one of his eight Australian shows, and that was in Adelaide.

You can blame that partly on the same grim economy that has the festival sector in trouble, but Bieber's own image troubles are surely partly responsible.

It's rare a week passes when "Bieb the dweeb" is not in some kind of hot water. So far this year he's been lambasted in the press for abandoning his pet Capuchin monkey at Munich airport, threatened to "f***ing beat the f***" out of a photogapher in London, apparently insulted the memory of Anne Frank by writing that she would have been a Belieber in the Anne Frank House guest book, and been filmed and photographed in some most undignified states - including (allegedly) visiting a Brazilian brothel, looking stoned and urinating in a bucket.

It only took Bieber one day to get in trouble in Australia, when he was busted painting graffiti on a wall adjacent to a Gold Coast hotel, which enraged the local mayor.

So is his career headed into that same bucket of filth, followed by a long stay in celebrity rehab?

Australian radio and television presenter Yumi Stynes doesn't think Bieber is headed for a meltdown - he's just a teenage boy growing up in the spotlight.

"That is confronting for young fans and their parents. [They must be thinking] 'Did you really need to urinate in that bucket?' Stynes says.

"But if we all had cameras trained on us as we were growing up we would have been caught doing some reprehensible things, especially if we had unlimited resources."

The result is Bieber polarises people. Australia's Channel V presenter and programmer Billy Russell says the release of a new Bieber video is an event, but it splits the channel's 16 to 24-year-old demographic.

"One half of the audience will love it and the other half is furious we are dedicating a whole day to it."

Stynes thinks there's a lot of jealousy aimed at Bieber: "He's genuinely talented, a really good singer and dancer and he's pretty - that seems to annoy people."

Stynes and Russell see parallels between Miley Cyrus and Bieber - both young stars trying to shed the uncool stigma of child stardom.

But where Miley has shocked fans at key moments with big TV audiences, Russell believes Bieber's day-in-day-out bad-boy behaviour means fans are not being sold a fake image.

"All that writhing around on stage with the big foam finger, people see Miley's efforts as being calculated... Bieber seems almost clueless and for that it's more natural.

"I'm not saying his behaviour is excusable, but it doesn't look like it was conceived in a boardroom."

Russell thinks Bieber stands a very good chance of developing into a credible grown-up pop artist.

"It's a matter of whether he can survive this phase where he is going a little off the rails. But most of us look back on ourselves as a teenager and say 'gee I was a little turd'. I think a couple of years from now he'll be embarrassed about what he's doing."

Russell and Stynes agree there are signs in all the right places that Bieber is maturing as a musician.

"It's a shame people roll their eyes and think of the child star without really giving him a go," Russell says.

"His 2013 record Believe was a fantastic pop record and he's being taken seriously by some big names in R&B like Diplo and Drake."

As for Bieber's live shows, Russell expects something special.

"It's easy to lump him in with One Direction but they are so different. One Direction take pride in not taking things too seriously and that is part of their appeal.

''Justin Bieber has another level of performance, from the lighting to the sound and dancing and staging and effects he will take everything very seriously.

"Every single element will be a spectacle. In terms of solo male artists he is the undisputed prince of pop and I'd expect him to make a prince of pop kind of statement."

Sydney Morning Herald