Already, the mania has outpaced Bieber’s ability to control it, the adoration sometimes morphing into something more sinister. When he joked that he was dating Kim Kardashian, she began receiving death threats. While signing autographs in Paris, he skittered away from the crowd cradling his arm after it was struck by a metal barricade that barely restrained a violent surge of fans. During an onslaught at an airport in New Zealand the day after his canceled Australian show, tweens tore at his clothing and sent his mother sprawling in their frenzy to reach her son. He dealt with it over Twitter. “Finally got to New Zealand last night,” his post reads. “The airport was crazy. Not happy that someone stole my hat and knocked down my mama. Come on people … I want to be able to sign and take pics and meet my fans, but if you are all pushing security wont let me. let’s keep it safe and have fun.”
All of which has led Justin’s team to become protective, not just of his person but also of his psyche. “I sometimes feel like I’m a counselor and he’s my camper, you know?” Dan says. “Bon Jovi isn’t, like, pillow-fighting with his guitar player before he takes the stage.” To maintain some degree of normalcy, Scooter has fired people who acted too deferential or pandered to Justin. “I feel bad. I put him into this position,” he says. The team tries to keep their working relationships light. There’s wrestling and video games. Friends are invited along for portions of the tour. Pranks are encouraged. Once, having stolen the number from Scooter’s phone, Justin called the singer Akon, pretending to be his illegitimate son. “He’s like, ‘Daddy, why don’t you love me?’ ” Scooter laughs. “It really scared the shit out of Akon.”
When the Queensbridge field starts filling with fans, Justin retreats into his trailer. Much time is spent trying on different outfits and e-mailing the photos to Ryan Good, Justin’s stylist (a.k.a. “swagger coach”), who is at a wedding in Florida. Good gives his approval to black jeans, a black T-shirt, a white vest, and maroon high-tops. The Yurman piece also gets the thumbs up.
WE SKIPPED PROM TO SEE U JUSTIN!!
By now, Justin is used to living out of a suitcase. In the past two months, he’s only been home once. Tomorrow morning, they are flying to Boston so that Justin can open for Taylor Swift. The next day, they’ll head to London to perform at Wembley Stadium for 70,000 people.
Dan is still in awe of all this. “In my yearbook, the last line of my paragraph blurb is, ‘Wembley Stadium one day.’ Seriously.”
Scooter laughs. “Mine actually is, ‘Scott “Scooter” Braun: Someday I will find a 12-year-old on the Internet, randomly, in the middle of the night after coming back from a long night of drinking, and I will stare at that little boy for two straight days until I find him.’ Now if I would have wrote that, anyone would have thought, That’s weird. But now— ”
“It still sounds a little weird,” says Mike Alexander, the director of Justin’s international marketing.
Scooter shrugs. “It sounds weird, but no one seems to have a problem with it. The whole world is celebrating me seeing a little boy on the Internet in the middle of the night. How lucky is that? Pretty effin’ lucky.”
Before Justin takes the stage, the team assembles in a trailer that’s a near-perfect approximation of a suburban living room.
“Can you guys hear me?” Justin calls out into a wireless mike. A roar rises from the direction of the field indicating the affirmative. “We’re gonna pray, all right?” Scooter lunges for the mike. This is a corporate event, he reminds them, and therefore secular. The youth pastor Justin met in an Atlanta church who has been traveling with the team plows ahead anyway. “Father, we come before you, acknowledging you for this day, for this opportunity. Thank you for each member of this team, Father. Thank you for the performance. May you bless each and every person, Father, and may they see you in us as we perform. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
“Amen,” repeats Justin.
“Let’s go,” says Scooter.
It’s unclear what the crowd heard of the prayer, because as soon as Justin exits the trailer, all else seems to be forgotten in the hysteria that erupts. Justin climbs up the stairs at the back of the stage. When he emerges up front, the first notes of “Baby” sound out across the East River.
“Happy New Year, everybody!” Justin calls out, smiling broadly. Then he catches himself. “Whoa, whoa, guys, start over. Start over.”