IT’S 4:20 p.m., just hours before Justin Bieber’s Manila concert, and a small group of journalists have gathered in an air-conditioned tent backstage at Mall of Asia’s Concert Grounds. There is no sign of Justin Bieber.
There’s a bit of a problem—they called it a wardrobe malfunction—and soon, Justin’s bodyguard Kenny Hamilton was standing in front of the press, apologizing for the delay.
He displayed a flair for comedy, and after a quick “I love the Philippines,” he made his exit.
Ten minutes later, Justin Bieber walked into the room. Dressed casually in a checkered shirt, knee-length denim shorts, and Vans, he looked relaxed and completely unperturbed by the evening’s event and the screaming fans outside the tent. For a little over 16 minutes he answered questions about his life, his music, fame, girls and his love for pranks.
How do you feel about people who don’t take your music seriously because they think you’re too young?
I’m 17. I’m young. I’m not an adult yet, so people are gonna think that I make music for young people, but my music is for everybody. I definitely make songs for people my age but I’m pretty sure everybody can relate to love. It’s a universal thing, it’s not just for young people. I think it’s all about what kind of music you like. I think my music will grow with me as a person and as I grow older.
Do you think your popularity is being put to good use?
I think that I’m able to influence people in a positive way with my music. A lot of people who are going through hard times listen to music. It’s just great to hear different stories, like there was a girl and she was in the hospital going through chemotherapy, and listening to my music helped her get through it. That’s a great thing in itself—that the music is able to inspire people. I think that’s the best part of it.
You’re a prankster. Can you share some of your most memorable pranks?
Lately I’ve just been stealing people’s Twitters and getting on them and writing things about myself. I pranked Kenny and I wrote “Justin Bieber is amazing” on his Twitter. That’s always fun.
Do you have any pranks lined up for us here in Manila?
No, I think you guys are in the clear.
How does it feel to be mentored by Usher?
Having Usher as a mentor is amazing. He’s contributing a lot to my career, just helping out and guiding me in the right direction.
Who do you look up to in the music industry?
I look up to a lot of different people. Drake, he’s a new kind of young star, but I look up to him in the way he’s been handling himself. He’s like a big brother to me. Just a lot of different people, people close to me, making it a family kind of relationship. I think that’s really important.
Can you share any embarrassing moments in concert?
Two years ago, I was opening for Taylor Swift and I performed in Birmingham—
and I broke my foot onstage. I was performing in front of thousands of people and I had to hop around through the rest of the song. I finished the song, but it was still pretty embarrassing.
What’s your favorite video game?
Lately, we’ve been playing NBA 2K11 on PS3. Me and my DJ, we had this tournament and it was best two out of three and I won a hundred dollars, which was good.
Do you have a strategy on how you’ll keep yourself hot when you get older?
Yeah. I think over everything, and what matters most is music. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why I do this. It’s all because of music. Basically, I relate my emotions to everybody through music. Throughout my life, I’m gonna change, things about me will change and my music will change, but overall it’s all about the music.
Your backup singers are Filipino. Did they teach you any Filipino words?
They taught me some, but they were bad, so I can’t say them. What’s a good word to say? Mahal kita? What does that mean? I love you? Oh okay, good.
How do you choose who to collaborate with?
It depends when I want the record to come out. I usually collaborate with people I like. Like Kanye West, Chris Brown, Rascal Flatts.
What are the things that make you happy?
I like to play basketball on my off-days, that makes me happy. I like just being with my friends. The other day we went to the Night Safari in Singapore. That was really cool, I had a lot of fun there. We’ve had a lot of off-days in the past couple of days so we’ve just been chilling and sleeping. I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep.
What do you do to get psyched before a performance?
We have a performance almost every night or every other night, and we always pray before we go onstage. But to get me in the game—every night is just special to me. I don’t think that one night is more special than the next. I love the Philippines, but I also love Japan. They’re all gonna be the same to me, they’re all gonna mean as much.
I just focus and think about all my fans, that it’s their one opportunity to come out and see me perform, so I always give them the best show no matter how I’m feeling. Lately, I’ve been feeling really sick. I have this throat congestion thing, I don’t know really how to explain it, but it doesn’t feel good. But I always give fans the best, and try to perform the best that I can.
Can you share some of your success secrets?
If it’s working, don’t change it, because that usually messes everything up. Be relatable to your fans, so other people can feel like they can relate to you, they can know how you’re feeling. I think that’s important. Make sure you’re having fun while doing it, because if you’re not having fun then it’s not gonna be worth it.
How do you deal with the feeling of being treated like a god at 17?
I don’t really think about it like that. My fans are really devoted, they’re really special, and I really enjoy it. This has been a crazy roller coaster ride. Sometimes I get overwhelmed because it’s crazy having a lot of cameras in your face and a lot of people always around you, but I’m having a lot of fun.
When you hear stories like cities are closing down or there are traffic jams all because of you, that must be something …
It is. It’s crazy, it’s crazy for me to think that I’m the cause of traffic jams and cities being in a craze. It’s crazy, it’s amazing that so many people care about me and my music so much that they wait outside the hotels or they wait in places to catch me. It’s incredible. It’s definitely amazing.
What’s your advice for songwriters?
Write what you’re feeling. Write it in a poem, that usually works. Sometimes you write songs and you have a guitar but I think that if you just write a poem, that usually works for me.
What is your favorite song of all time?
I like Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee.” I like Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” and “Dirty Diana.”
Are you interested in collaborating with Charice Pempengco and Manny Pacquiao, who also sings?
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go in the ring with Manny Pacquiao.
What about Charice?
Charice is very sweet. I met her very briefly on Oprah. She was really cool, she was really nice. I wish her the best.
Do you feel that you’re a role model?
I think I have to be a role model because there are so many people listening to me and watching my every move. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m going to try to just be the best I can be. I’m not gonna do anything that I wouldn’t normally do. But I think that I’m a good person in general, and I think that people will see that. But I definitely don’t want to put on a show. Whatever comes naturally to me is what I will do.
What qualities do you have that more guys should have?
I think guys should be nice people—especially to women. Be nice to women.
Have you ever dated a Filipina?
I talked to a Filipina girl … she was Filipina and Mexican.
Would you ever consider dating a Filipina?
Yeah. For sure. In the future.
Miley’s coming to Manila soon—
what’s a nice thing you can tell her about the Philippines?
The nicest thing I can say about the Philippines? There’s a lot of beautiful beautiful women here.