"I don't think he's going to stand the test of time."
Those are some serious fighting words for Belieber Nation that came from Sharon Osbourne last month at the National Radio Conference in Sydney, Australia.
The Grande Dame of Heavy Metal said further, "For me, Justin is ... I've met him, I've worked with him, I did a TV commercial with him. He's a really great little guy. But that's his problem -- he's a little guy. His fans are growing up, they're 18, 19-year-olds now. And that means the little girls of [breasts] and lips, you know they're young women. And he still looks like that little boy! He needs some hair, or something."
The Osbourne-Bieber feud still lingers in a Justin Bieber news search right along with love trouble with Selena Gomez, vomiting milk on stage, losing the re-tweet record to Barack Obama and his blow-up over a gay sex doll made in his image. It must be hard for him and his fans to even keep up.
The Osbourne comment drew a pair of hurried tweets from the teen star -- "doubt me....i like it" and "Not worried sharon" -- along with plenty of rage from the Beliebers, such as this comment posted on hollywoodlife.com: "she needs to be quite justin fame will last FOREVER and its her lost if she don't think so!!!!!!!! :(." And this slightly more coherent one: "If it wouldn't be for Ozzy, Sharon would be a nothing. She is capitalizing on her husbands fame. She should keep her big fat mouth shut."
Having revived Ozzy's career and masterminded Ozzfest, Ms. Osbourne, also a former judge on "X Factor" and "America's Got Talent," knows plenty about the workings of the music biz. And as the daughter of a prominent music promoter, she's seen plenty a pop star come and go.
Is she right on this one?
It's too early to say because the 18-year-old Canadian heartthrob is still in the puppy love phase with his fans. Although it seems longer, he's only three years into his career, which launched with his first singles in the summer of 2009. Going by sales, his most recent album, "Believe," sold more in its first week (374,00) than his previous studio album, "My World 2.0" (283,000). It was the top debut of 2012 until Mumford & Sons came along with "Babel" (600,000) and then Taylor Swift blew everyone out of the water with "Red" (1.2 million).
Mr. Bieber's second tour, which opened in Glendale, Ariz., in September and comes to the Consol Energy Center on Tuesday, has sold out every date so far and will run through May, spending most of the early part of 2013 in Europe.
In some rare cases, teen-pop stars have been able to sustain careers well into their 20s and beyond. After all, Frank Sinatra was a teen pop star at one time, and that turned out well. Michael Jackson debuted with his brothers in the Jackson 5 in 1969 and grew up to be the King of Pop, his solo career thriving from 1971 into the mid-'90s.
The more natural course for these type of teen-pop phenoms is to kiss the top of the charts for three to four years (sometimes more for groups), as the tween fans turn into teens. Bobby Sherman thrived from 1969-71, Donny Osmond (1971-73), Shaun Cassidy (1977-78), Leif Garrett (1977-79), New Kids on the Block (1988-92), Backstreet Boys ('96-2000), 'N Sync (1996-2002) and Jonas Brothers (2007-09).
On the ladies side, there are quick flashes (Tiffany, the Spice Girls, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus?) and those who were able to refashion themselves and mature in their careers, such as Diana Ross, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and, surprisingly enough, Britney Spears, thanks to her hitmaking machine.
On the talent scale, Mr. Bieber is worlds away from the lofty Sinatra/MJ stratus, and even the most fanatical Belieber would be hard-pressed to argue that he's in Justin Timberlake's league as a singer, dancer or writer.
With the "Believe" album and tour, Mr. Bieber tries to make his case as a more mature artist, while also keeping it clean for the little girls. When the album came out in June, he said on NBC's "Today" show, "I think it's about just proving people wrong and making good music and performing better than everyone else in order for me to cross over, or else I'm going to be another teen heartthrob. I want to be remembered."
Overall, that effort has been reasonably well received by critics. Entertainment Weekly wrote that "Bieber isn't just maturing, he's evolving." Rolling Stone praised his deeper-sounding voice, while also noting, "Bieber doesn't have the soulful vocal snaps of a Justin Timberlake or the shock-and-awe charisma of a Britney Spears."
The tour hype has been less favorable, as critics, shunned from the complimentary tickets generally offered by artist management, have been casting it as style over substance. The Dallas Morning News noted that the bells and whistles "serves as a way to divert attention away from the star's artistic shortcomings." The Calgary Herald wrote that "the almost two-hour concert was so synthetic and filled with fake moments that it was difficult to actually discern what was being sung live and what was Memorex ..."
Like so many pop idols before him, Mr. Bieber also has the benefit of screaming girls to cover up some of those shortcomings.
Bieber Fever could rage on until One Direction hits the States again next summer, or until the Next Big Thing comes along. Or it could blossom into something else, as the kids go off to college. One thing Bieber has in his favor is the support of his mentor Usher. He released his first album at 15, and now at 34, he's still topping the charts and making the ladies scream.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg First Published November 18, 2012 5:00 AM