Bieber fever, a disease scientifically proven to be more contagious than measles, has afflicted many Indians. Bollywood celebs have been found squabbling over who would get to perform at Justin Bieber’s concert, the media is twisting over the pop sensation’s tantrumy demands (including a yoga casket), and teens are queuing up at the Mumbai airport even before the singer lands in the city.
The Baby and Girlfriend hitmaker is scheduled to perform at the DY Patil Stadium in Nerul on Wednesday before a crowd of 50,000 Beliebers, the name given to his fans. That is not all. During his stay in Mumbai, he will also reportedly open the upcoming season of Karan Johar’s television talk show Koffee with Karan, an honour so far reserved for Indian celebrities.
It has been a decade since Bieber, now 23, found success by uploading songs to YouTube. His first album, 2010’s My World 2.0, cemented his style, which was described by The Guardian as “part R&B crooner, part rapper, part ‘ooh baby’ popstrel” and “all beardlessly, brilliantly charming to girls of a certain age”. In the years since, he has sold close to 100 million records, become the most popular male celebrity on Twitter, and the sixth highest earner under the age of 30.
While his fan base following his first album veered towards a more female demographic, his second album Purpose, released in 2015, was aimed at a wider audience. Purpose sought to change his image, from a perceived androgynous appearance to a grungier style. At the same time, he began collaborating with EDM artists – such as Skrillex, Nas, and Diplo – and produced music with edgier lyrics, which helped warm him to male fans.
In Mumbai, Bieber will visit his material from Purpose, and perform other favourites alongside 25 dancers, during his 90-minute set. This will undoubtedly delight his fans, who have paid between Rs 5,040 and Rs 76,790 for a ticket. For those who were unable to afford the trip or cannot muster the strength to stand in the blistering sun, we have compiled a hassle-free option: a playlist of Bieber’s music covered by Indian performers.
It is easy to see Bieber’s influence on fashion in these videos. The musician, who swapped his boy-next-door image for tattoos and rough denims, has popularised high heels and crop tops among men. Rajiv Dhall, an American multi-instrumentalist of Indian origin, is an admirer of Bieber’s style: in his cover of What Do You Mean, Dhall is dressed like his idol, in an oversized singlet and a cap worn back-to-front.
A highlight of the Canadian singer’s sophomore effort was the dance-pop song Sorry, created in collaboration with EDM artists Skrillex and Blood Diamonds. Its lyrics “Is it too late now to say sorry/Cause I’m missing more than your body,” suggested that the song might be about his relationship with pop singer Selena Gomez, but Bieber denied the rumour. YouTube cover artist Badal offers a Hindi/Punjabi version of the song, keeping the earworm quality of the original intact.
Following Sorry was Love Yourself, a sparsely-arranged bitter look at an ex-girlfriend. Originally written by Ed Sheeran, the other voice dominating airwaves, the single was eventually gifted to Bieber. The original video has a couple dancing through their house but the song works equally well in the video below, with the performer pining for his lover on Indian rooftops.
Though Bieber’s songs have found admirers among rock legends such as Eric Clapton, they have been brutally parodied for their overproduced quality and banal lyrics. In the original version of Boyfriend, Bieber sings, “If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go, I can take you places you ain’t never been before, Baby take a chance or you’ll never ever know, I got money in my hands that I’d really like to blow.” The Indian version offers a riposte to the bombast: “I’d like to be your boyfriend but you’d never know. I’d like to take you to a temple or a Bollywood show, but I’m probably dead because my parents always say, ‘Don’t look at girls till you’ve graduated, okay?’”