Every few years it seems a new pandemic sweeps the nation. Usually occurring on or around television sweeps weeks, diseases like SARS and swine flu become hot-button topics that dominate news coverage as well as most other forms of popular media. Formerly innocuous water cooler conversations become monopolized by coworkers' imminent fears about the impending world crisis due to the seemingly incurable nature of the latest syndrome.
But the most recent mainstream malady is one of the more frightening in recent memory -- particularly because it has managed to hang around for more than one news cycle. The condition in question? Bieber Fever: the uncontrollable obsession with mop-haired pop singer Justin Bieber. And the scariest part is that according to the alleged authority on the matter (Urban Dictionary), scientists have yet to discover a cure.
Perhaps this fixation is what possessed a couple dozen local teens -- all of whom claimed to be Mr. Bieber's biggest fan -- descended upon Frisco's Stonebriar Centre Mall to vie for a chance to meet the bowlcut wonder next month in Los Angeles at the premier of his upcoming 3D concert flick Never Say Never.
Contestants were encouraged to dress, dance, and sing like Bieber in order to wow a modest crowd that gathered in the court area between the Sears and JCPenney, and a pair of judges that included a KISS-FM on-air personality who refers to himself only as "Torrez." I know what you are thinking, and yes, apparently Sears does still exist.
To make things even more excruciating, the contest's organizers decided that contestants could only sing one of three Bieber tunes: "Baby," "Never Say Never" and "U Smile." And they did. Over and over and over; or roughly the same number of times these songs are played on KISS-FM any other day.
Fortunately for the sanity of all parties involved the rules also designated that we only had to be subjected to the first 60 seconds of the three tunes. Although even that didn't stop a couple of the girls from busting out into freestyle a capella raps which both completely startled and confused the contests' emcee, but also immediately brought to mind images of the old cartoon cliché in which the likes of Daffy Duck would be yanked off stage left by an oversized vaudevillian hook.
Sadly only one participant even attempted to give himself the Bieber makeover. And though at the contest's outset I had him pegged the clear frontrunner, it became painfully clear he had no shot when he opened his mouth and sounded nothing like
a girl the prepubescent Bieber.
The most uncomfortable aspect of the afternoon, other than realizing I was that single, creepily bearded guy suspiciously lurking around an event geared towards tween girls, was how much the host kept trying to interject sexuality into the proceedings. Between joking that the winner would have a chance to possibly marry Justin Bieber, reminiscing about frenching her Simon Le Bon poster back in the day, and casually joking about the eventual winner inexorably birthing a future litter of "Bieber babies" it was enough to make even the guy with the creeper 'stache and sporting the Michael Jackson tee cringe.
In the end it was this awkward brand of sexuality that helped crown the champion, as the eventual winner also happened to be the girl who was accompanied onstage by a Justin Bieber cardboard cutout which she uncomfortably tried to allure with her rendition of "U Smile," even going so far at one point as to removing her scarf and seductively placing it around the Biebs' corrugated neck. Although to be fair, she did sound the most like Justin. In fact, I overheard one of the judges whisper that in her opinion she almost sounded as girly as the real thing.
But the day wasn't a total wash -- while there may not be an official cure to Bieber Fever, being subjected to two hours worth of not-quite-on-point teens singing the first verse of "Baby" over and over just might be as close as we have to a remedy.