Photo Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS; Chris Trotman/Golden Boy/Golden Boy via Getty Images
Justin Bieber's rise to fame at age 14 was swift and spectacular. Five years later, he's begun his descent into troubled ex-child star territory -- and the rest of the music world is weighing in. Sting, for example.
"Fame and ego and money can do terrible things. I know it's a cliche, but you still see people going through it," the former Police frontman told The Guardian on Thursday. "Look at Justin Bieber -- it's like he's in freefall. I just hope he survives it because a lot of people don't."
Seems like Sting, 61, has been thinking about Bieber a lot. So has Elton John, 66, whose new song, "Diving Board," was inspired by The Biebs.
"It’s about Lindsay Lohan, Justin, all these kids who are out there now not knowing what the hell is going on," the pop legend told Events magazine. "They get lost in the idea that they are famous for who they are, not what they are. I feel sorry for these kids. ... I worry that they will just get swallowed up."
Hmm... seems that Bieber has hit a nerve. Why are the elder statesmen of pop music so concerned about the dumb antics of a 19-year-old kid?
To answer that question, we need to look at their own pasts. Sting rose to fame very quickly after he formed The Police in 1977; unlike Bieber, however, he was in his mid-20s, with years of day jobs and club gigs under his belt. John was also in his 20s when he made it onto the pop charts, though his transition was not as smooth as Sting's; he struggled for years with drug and alcohol addiction.
Somehow, Bieber reminds both Sting and John of their younger selves. Maybe it's simply his attitude: Bieber seems to think he's invincible, that he can get away with anything. The older pop stars must have felt like that once. And maybe they look at Bieber and see what might have happened to them, had they made different choices -- or been too young to know any better.
Then again, maybe John and Sting were exactly like Bieber. We don't know, because there was no TMZ stalking them with cameras, no around-the-clock tabloid press to speculate about their drug use and love lives. Maybe it was easier for them to move on and grow up, because they didn't have to do it 100 percent in the public eye. The main difference between their generation of celebrities and the new generation is that the old generation had some privacy. Perhaps their concern for Bieber is a way of mourning that loss.
The nice thing is that it seems like genuine concern. It's easy to scoff at Bieber's childish, unprofessional behavior (like Jon Bon Jovi did this past spring). But Sting and John aren't claiming superiority; they're sympathizing with him. We hope Bieber is actually listening. Maybe there should be some kind of Big Brothers Big Sisters program for young stars? We can think of more than one celebrity who could use a mentor like Sting right about now.