While “Bieber fever” heated up at Rockefeller Plaza Friday, tween idol Justin Bieber showed a talent not only for whipping a crowd of largely tween girls into a collective frenzy, but for doing impressions as well — specifically, of TODAY’s Matt Lauer.
Lauer spoke to the 16-year-old pop sensation just moments before he took the stage in front of thousands of teen and tween fans and their parents, many of whom had camped out for two nights for the chance to see him. Grinning, Bieber announced: “This is my Matt Lauer impression.” Then he crossed his legs, as Matt himself is wont to do during interview segments.
“I don’t know why I do that,” Lauer told Bieber as both sat cross-legged.
Bieber smiled and responded, “It’s fun, it’s cool!”
Life is indeed cool for Bieber right now. In three years, the Ontario, Canada, teen has progressed from posting music videos of himself on YouTube to becoming a mammoth music phenomenon. His debut album yielded seven hit singles, and his follow-up, released in March, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, making him the youngest artist to reach the top since Stevie Wonder in 1963. In the process, Bieber has inspired the aforementioned “Bieber fever” — he’s literally mobbed wherever he goes.
Lauer asked him if he ever gets tired of the fan adulation, and the pushing and shoving that goes with it.
“Most of the stuff is good; I get to travel the world and live my dream,” Bieber replied. “But there’s definitely downsides, like I’m away from my family and friends.
“It’s pretty crazy that now I go out and I’m always asked for autographs and stuff,” he added. “But it’s kind of what I signed up for.”
Still, plenty of perks come with being one of the hottest music stars on the planet. One was a birthday gift last March from Bieber’s mentor, singing star Usher, who gave the 16-year-old a brand-new Range Rover — even though Bieber doesn’t yet have a driver’s license.
Given his hectic schedule, Lauer asked, has Bieber even had a chance to get behind the wheel?
“I was just in Atlanta and I was driving it around,” Bieber replied. “I have my permit, my mom was sitting right in the back. It wasn’t too cool.”
“Could you do me a favor?” Lauer inquired, tongue in cheek. “Could you tell [Usher] I’m going to turn 53 on December 30?”
Stoking the fever
Meanwhile, Bieber’s handlers aren’t waiting until he’s in his 50s to make the most of his fame: His new album, “My World 2.0,” was released just five months after his debut one. Many artists wait two years or more between releases.
While Bieber admitted the quick release was designed to “keep the buzz going” and that “I kind of do what I’m told,” he looks forward to the day when it’s his talent, not just the tween idol hype, that helps him make his mark.
“I want to be an artist that doesn’t just come out with one song and they’re done,” he told Lauer. “I want to have longevity, have my fans grow with me, and not just be a teen artist but kind of move up and be an adult artist.”
But for now, Bieber is basking in the glow of adulation — and showing that, beneath the superstar glitter, he’s a teenage boy at heart. After getting his autograph, TODAY’s Natalie Morales asked him what he thought about while performing on the Plaza.
“I think about all the girls here,” Bieber said.