Drew Magary’s “Man Up, Bieber,” his profile of Justin Bieber in the June issue of GQ magazine, is the stupidest thing written about pop music in recent memory. Magary, best known as a contributor to the excellent sports blog Deadspin, has no feeling for or interest in contemporary pop, a liability when profiling one of the world’s biggest singers. In a piece that sprawls over 3500 words, Magary scarcely mentions music at all—except when pining for the heyday of Metallica and Pete Townshend. He endlessly insinuates that pop is soulless factory product for kids, and therefore unworthy of discussion or analysis. As for Bieber: He’s a great big sissy. The result is a kind of hack anti-masterpiece—an unbroken sequence of rockist clichés, padded out with lame jokes, frat-dude machismo, and lots of dull-witted swipes at Justin Bieber’s hair, cars, and jewelry.
It’s the kind of article you might expect to find in the pages of a third-rate lad mag. But GQ? Historically, GQ has been one of the finest general interest magazines around—sharp and open-minded about pop culture, with a tradition of smart, deep-dive profiles, and some superb critics on its masthead. So why commission a Bieber profile to a writer so condescending towards the subject–and so uncomfortable with anything his bros might call “girly”?
Maybe Magary’s piece is just a sign of the times: In a pop-dominated music world, kicking sand in Justin Bieber’s face is the only fun left for rock dead-enders.
Here’s an annotated list of Magary’s worst groaners:
1. “I have been told specifically that I will be able to punch Justin Bieber in the face… I can’t wait to draw some Canadian teenybopper blood.”
What a tough guy. Magary begins his piece by announcing that GQ has sent him to Los Angeles to “make a man” of the 18-year-old Justin Bieber. The premise is clear: Bieber is a teenpop star, which means he’s a wuss. “I told everyone I knew that I had been handed the precious mission of turning Justin Bieber into a gin-swilling, donkey-punching man of the world… when I was done with him, he would be Justin Beaver: teenybopper turned porn-star assassin.” Etc. etc.
2. “I’ve been waiting two and a half days, and I was looking forward to teaching this kid a lesson about punctuality.”
Like many journalists, Magary had to do some waiting around before his celebrity interview. Another writer might have met his word count by saying something—anything—about Bieber’s music, but Magary won’t, or can’t. So he filibusters by bellyaching about all the waiting around.
3. “I am standing on the patio outside Conway Studios in Hollywood, where Bieber is recording his new album, and I have been waiting for him for hours. Fifty-one hours, to be precise.”
4. “To keep me occupied, I was escorted into the studio, where Kuk Harrell, Bieber’s vocal producer, was working on Believe without him. Harrell is an incredibly nice man who looks like a black version of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, so I was happy to sit around and stare at his hair for a while.”
Black people—and their crazy hair—are so much fun to look at. The hours fly by…
5. “Never mind that Bieber has already made more money and been offered a finer selection of quality tail than you or I ever will.”
“Quality tail”! Bros before hos! Readers familiar with Magary’s oeuvre will recognize the tone. From the book jacket of Magary’s “satiric” non-fiction sports book Men with Balls: The Professional Athlete’s Handbook: “This book will be all you require to cast aside your boring life as some jackass who cruises around bookstores hoping to score grad-school trim.”
6. “Finally, after I sat in my hotel room for another day and ran through as many imaginary conversations with the Beeb as any of his 12-year-old fangirls…”
The ultimate indignity! Girls are so stupid. Everyone knows that.
7. “[Bieber is] like Luke Skywalker, if Luke Skywalker had his own perfume line.”
Gay-baiting, pt. 1.
8. “Once Bieber is out of the car, he begins calling out for Ryan Aldred, a close friend and his former stylist. His voice is so high, it sounds like a ringtone.”
Gay-baiting, pt. 2.
9. “[Bieber is] trailed by his security director, a half man/half bear with an Israeli accent named Moeshe Benabou, whose Mossad-level neck-snapping skills are slightly undermined by the fact that he’s carrying around a tiny designer leather backpack, like Mickey Rourke holding a Chihuahua.”
Gay-baiting, pt. 3. It’s a bit rich, sneering about designer accessories in the pages of the metrosexual bible, Gentleman’s Quarterly.
10. “There goes my last chance at making a man out of Bieber. I’m out of options. I’m stuck here with an 18-year-old, and we can’t drink, we can’t smoke weed, and we can’t leave the premises. We’re gonna have to talk.”
It sucks when a journalist has to, like, do journalism.
11. “He also bursts into song a lot, at random intervals, no matter who’s around… If it were anyone else, this would be annoying, but this is Justin Bieber, so every improvised song fragment is intended as a present to whoever’s around him.”
It sucks how singers are always, like, singing. Inexplicable!
12. “I have been warned by several people, including some people in his own camp, that Bieber has a very short attention span. This is correct. He is amazingly distractible.”
Dr. Magary prescribes Ritalin and bedrest.
13. “I’m told this is the first time that Bieber has ever been alone with a reporter for a one-on-one interview, which is not true but still makes me feel like a pederast.”
When in doubt, insert child-rape joke.
14. “Whenever I stop talking, there’s nothing but silence. Vast, horrible silence. Lots more floor-staring. I ask Bieber if fame ever cramps him.”
Um… don’t ask predictable questions and maybe he’d answer you?
15. “We talk music, and he mentions his love for pre–‘Black Album’ Metallica—‘One,’ ‘Fade to Black.’ ‘Those are my jams,’ he says. At last, we’ve got something in common.”
Justin Bieber can breathe easy: Drew Magary has validated his musical taste.
16. “Bieber likes to listen to his music at roughly 9,000 decibels.”
17. “They all crowd around Bieber, marvel at his gold chain that’s long enough to rig a mountain bike, and nod their heads to the beat. Bieber also starts nodding his head. Soon everyone is nodding his head.”
KIDS TODAY, I say! The head-nodding menace must be eradicated! Soon they will be moving their legs and hips in a rhythmic fashion!
18. “There’s a glimpse of a thoughtful person in there, someone who knows he’s a caged animal…He wants to be a real artist. He wants respect. But the way his life is built around him is going to make that very difficult. There’s too much riding on his ‘brand’ for him to get dinged and knocked around and punched in the face, to suffer—and to bounce back from—the kind of traumas that make a child into an adult. My mission was to make a man out of Bieber. The label’s mission is to make a man out of Bieber. The only person who isn’t ready to make a man out of Bieber is Bieber.”
Unflinching. He kids around a lot, but Magary doesn’t shrink from the hard truths.
19. “After forty minutes, Bieber’s done. That’s it. I have been told repeatedly what a hard worker he is, but in two nights—Bieber only records at night—I’ve witnessed him work for a grand total of forty minutes.”
Pop music—it’s so easy!
20. “Bieber is, of course, wrong, but it’s easy to see why he sticks up for [Kim] Kardashian. For one thing, they once did a photo shoot together, which naturally makes them best celebrity friends forever.”
Celebrities are so shallow and asinine. Unlike celebrity profilers.