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Justin Bieber's God, Girls and Boatloads of Swag

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The hair of the Biebs is a whole article in itself. It's a pleasing hue, made up of all the colors found in hay, and as luxurious in person as it appears onscreen. The hairdo-ness of it, with the bangs hanging low on his forehead, seems to bother him a little, and one of the members of his team says he's been talking lately about cutting it off. Every five minutes, he shakes it off his forehead, like a wet dog trying to shake off water.

The hair is part of what's attractive about him to women, though – for women, he's somewhere between an adorable baby and the male version of Scarlett Johansson circa 2003, back when she was a bodacious, well-coiffed nymph. Bieber may love sports and rap, but he knows how to turn on the charm when he has to; in fact, when he's late to meet me another time, he appears with a fancy candle, a stuffed animal and a card signed "love, me" (the "o" in "love" is shaped like a heart). "I like all girls," Bieber has said, "I like a girl with a nice smile and who's funny," and "as far as looks, my taste is dark hair. But I don't limit myself. I like girls with blond hair too. I like everything!"

Until recently, there was a great deal of mystery over Bieber's dating status, but the paparazzi caught him kissing Disney TV star Selena Gomez in St. Lucia. Bieber seems to feel weird about having to hide his girlfriend, and it's clear from the few things that he says about Gomez, always with a guilty look as though he knows someone is about to rap on his knuckles, that he is desperately in love with her. "Justin is absolutely girl-crazy," says Braun. "Not that he goes after tons of girls, but if there's a girl that he wants to see and he feels that we're not respecting that, he will make our lives hell to see her." Bieber says that he knows that some people have sex without love, but says that's not for him either. "I don't think you should have sex with anyone unless you love them." When asked if he believes in abstinence until marriage, he looks a bit wary. "I think you should just wait for the person you're . . . in love with."

It's funny, Bieber has seemed younger than his 16 years all afternoon, but when I start asking him questions about his beliefs, even if he's not well-educated ("I hate school" is all he will say on the matter) he transforms into an adult, one with a firm grasp of logic and decisionmaking. He says he doesn't read the newspaper, isn't sure which political party he would support if he could vote ("I'm not sure about the parties, but whatever they have in Korea, that's bad"), and thinks it's possible that the 1969 trip to the moon was a conspiracy, because he saw something about that on the Internet. But he also nods solemnly when I ask if he's for or against the death penalty (jury's out on that one for him), and quickly responds when asked if he believes homosexuality is a sin. "It's everyone's own decision to do that," he says. "It doesn't affect me and shouldn't affect anyone else."

Bieber is a heartfelt Christian, but he's nervous talking about it, and makes sure that I'm a Christian too before he opens up. He says that if he could be one character from the Bible, he would choose Job, because he lost everything and stayed faithful to God. He also believes in angels, and thinks he might have been touched by one once, in the form of a kid at Christian camp who gave him a "really good-smelling" sweater and then disappeared, never to be seen again. "I feel I have an obligation to plant little seeds with my fans," he says. "I'm not going to tell them, 'You need Jesus,' but I will say at the end of my show, 'God loves you.'"

He also says that he's going to heaven. "It says in the Bible that you go to heaven as long as you have God in your heart and ask for forgiveness of your sins," he says, with a smile that could warm the coldest heart.

He's definitely against abortion, too. "I really don't believe in abortion," he says. "I think [an embryo] is a human. It's like killing a baby." Even in the case of rape? "Um," he says. "Well, I think that's just really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason." He looks confused. "I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."

And that's it. Bieber's pretty pro-love: "I don't agree with war either, necessarily," he says. "I think everyone should just get along. I don't understand why people attack. What's the point of killing people –power? If no one cared about power, then no one would have wars. Canada doesn't go around attacking people."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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