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Justin Bieber: Mannish Boy

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Soon it's time for Bieber to get ready. His hairdresser, Vanessa, makes him strip off his shirt and sit in a makeup chair while she sprays his pompadour. Meanwhile, his stylist steams his T-shirt and tells him about the gloves he'll be wearing today – very soft, because they're fetish leather. "Fetish leather," Bieber repeats vaguely. He asks who the other guests are, and someone says Mila Kunis. "Mila Kunis is here?" he says, literally hopping out of his chair. Then everyone clears out so he can call his grandmother.

Pretty soon it's time for his performance. Bieber is singing his single "Boyfriend," a Timberlake-y jam designed to bridge the gap between chaste tween-crush object ("I could be your Buzz Lightyear") and swagged-out ladies' man ("Chillin' by the fire while we eatin' fondue"). (Speaking of which: Has he really eaten fondue? "I've had the chocolate kind with, like, strawberries and stuff," he says. "Not the cheese kind. Who eats the cheese kind unless you're old and from Paris?")

Bieber, dressed in some sort of blue-jean-vest/leather-jacket hybrid, performs the song for the squealing studio audience, with Leno and Kunis watching just off-camera. At one point he does a pelvic thrust, and Kunis' jaw actually drops. Afterward, he's lingering in the hallway when one of her handlers walks by carrying the bear from the movie Ted, which she's here to promote. "Is that for me?" Bieber asks excitedly. She says that unfortunately it's the only one – but she can make sure he gets one later if he wants? "Yes, please," he says.

 

When Kunis appears, though, Bieber suddenly slips into suave mode. "Hey, what's up?" he says, going in for the hug. "Did you like the performance?"

"Oh, my gosh, it was so great," she says. He blushes. Then, "Can I ask you a favor?"

"Of course," Bieber says, looking eager. She takes out her phone. "Could you take a picture with my roommate?"

This new album is supposed to solidify Bieber as an adult-size, not-just-tween pop star with adult-size fans. ("I'm not, like, 'over' tweens," Bieber says, in a tone that suggests he's so over tweens.) The goal is a career like Michael Jackson's or Justin Timberlake's – massive child stars who successfully became even huger grown-up ones. But both Jackson and Timberlake were in their early 20s when they released their mature breakthrough albums (Off the Wall and Justified). Right now, women like Kunis still look at the barely legal Bieber the way Bieber just looked at Ted; it's still the preteens who are buying all his tickets and nicknaming his (as he puts it) "genital area." ("It's 'Jerry,'" Bieber says, laughing. "My fans are crazy.")

In the parking lot, a few dozen of the little crazies are amassed for a pre-planned acoustic Bieber bonus performance. But talking to Braun outside his dressing room, Bieber has some reservations. "So I don't know how you expect this to really, like, go down," he says.

"We did it the first time we were here," says Braun. "You'll be out in the parking lot, we'll open the Sprinter van, the kids will stand back, and you'll do a song."

"But I feel like all the kids out there, it's gonna be madness."

"It'll be fine," says Braun. "They listen to you."

Bieber frowns. "They don't, really."

A few minutes later, Bieber is in the van, powwowing with his musical director – a floppy-haired young Canadian named Dan Kanter – while the girls outside elbow to get close. ("The next car we get, we're doing it like the pope," Moshe says. "Bulletproof glass.") Kanter asks him what he wants to sing, and Bieber looks at him like he's crazy. "'Boyfriend,'" he snorts. "What else would I sing? 'Baby'?" "Maybe you should do 'Crazy Train,'" Kanter says. He starts strumming the chords, and Bieber joins in. "Crazeh!" he howls. "That's how it go-o-oes . . . " It sounds pretty great. Kanter switches to Metallica's "Fade to Black," and Bieber starts singing the lead-guitar part – da na na na na na na do do doooo. "I used to fall asleep to that song!" he says. Then he switches to "One," stomping his foot on the floor in time. "Hold my breath as I wait for death!" Kanter cracks up. "I love this kid."

In the end, though, Bieber just does "Boyfriend." The girls sing along to every word.

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Photograph by Mark Seliger
Justin Bieber, Mannish Boy: The 2012 Cover Story
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