When he's done in the studio, Bieber starts to pilot his Range Rover toward the ESPN Zone, but it's closed, so he decides to go to a Dave and Buster's arcade. "I know where it is and how to get there too, swag," he says. "No one will be there because kids still aren't out of school." Then he affects a cool pose. "I used to freak out at arcades, but now, I'm like, whatever." In the arcade, he walks swiftly over to the pool tables, playing a few games at an advanced-beginner level while an overhead TV plays music videos. John Mayer appears with guitar in hand, playing an acoustic version of "Free Fallin'." "Hey, I know that song!" says Bieber. "That's from Jerry Maguire."
Afterward, Bieber stops by his house to pick up his "swaggy" new toiletry bag from his assistant, for all his new adult creams and gels. Then he starts making his way to L.A., heading to the airport in an SUV with tinted windows. It's weird to be leaving Atlanta; he wants to see Selena, but L.A. represents a lot that he doesn't like – paparazzi, interviews with prying adults, meeting people that want something from him, people projecting their fantasies onto him. "Justin doesn't trust many people anymore," says Braun. He's much less trusting than he used to be, in general. "But it's weird," continues Braun, "because Justin trusts the fans. He feels like they know the real him."
In the car, Bieber talks for a while in a British accent, says that he wants to play Oliver Twist in his next movie, tells us the title of his next album (Believe) and shows off a chargeable case that he's bought for his iPhone. "You need a new BlackBerry," he says, inspecting mine. "Yours has a ball still. The new ones don't have that, and they're better." The British Bieber turns to Kenny. "At pool, she said something about playing with my balls. Quite funny."
Kenny laughs and turns to me, with a look on his face that's only partially friendly: "Hello, I'm Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC, and we're doing a special on older women who like younger boys."
Bieber laughs mildly and then starts fiddling with his two computers, one of which he claims is the only black MacAir in the world. He balances it on his knees, opening it up with the intent of typing something, but when he realizes that I'm seeing his wallpaper, a picture of him and Selena against an orangy sunset, he hurriedly shuts it.
At the airport, Bieber is shuttled through security by a special escort, and into a window seat in first class, with Braun next to him, and the rest of the crew in coach. "I don't mind flying on a regular plane – I don't think I'd want one of my own," he says. "No one can get up out of their seats while we're flying, so it's OK for me." He eats a couple of Twix and an apple, halfheartedly reads a chapter of a book for school, uses the plane's Wi-Fi to iChat, and builds some beats and guitar around the vocals he created in the studio earlier in the day. But once the plane lands at LAX, Kenny calls Braun from coach; the escort who is supposed to meet Bieber just called to tell him that there are paparazzi at the gate. They must have gotten a flight manifest. They are waiting for him.
Normally, the paps wait downstairs, by the arrivals, so the fact that they were right outside, at the plane's gate, freaks Bieber out. He puts on a baseball cap, drawing his blue hoodie over it, and then begins to retreat into his shell. Braun tries making light conversation with him, but his answers start getting shorter, and then, after he grabs his bags and starts walking out, he puts on his sunglasses. He walks as quickly as he can through the airport, with cameras after him, and rumpled businessmen pulling out their cellphones to take photos for their daughters, and the feeling of thousands of eyes on him.
This is what has given him his life. But how much longer will it last? "I don't think of myself as powerful," says Bieber. "If anything, my fans are powerful. It's all in their hands. If they don't buy my albums, I go away."
This story is from the March 3rd, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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