Mind The Age Gap; The Moment BBC Radio 2 Gave Justin Bieber A Chance

December 16, 2013

A wonderful colleague and friend of mine is obsessed with the British rock band Queen, and I mean passionately obsessed – there’s nothing about the music of Queen that he doesn’t know. He’s also very fond of a bit of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles (to name but a few). His love of the beautiful sound of vinyl makes me smile. It reminds me of when I used to sit by my parent’s record player, pull the Sergeant Pepper album out of it’s colourful sleeve and try to persuade my mum to let me play with the cut-outs on the inside (she always said no).

My respect for his knowledge knows no bounds, it’s a knowledge obtained solely from the love of music. By now you’ll have built a picture in your mind of this person, you’re probably guessing he’s in his 40’s or maybe 50’s. But you’d be wrong. He is 20.

Admit it though, you were surprised. It’s odd that we pigeon hole music into such narrow age groups. For example, I often surprise people when I tell them that although the music of Rage Against The Machine is up there as some of my absolute favourite music of all time, I also love Justin Bieber’s music, so much so I attended one of his concerts on 27th February this year.

People often find it hard to understand why I, as a 33-year-old, would give his music a second glance. I respond that I give ALL music a chance, old or new, because to be so narrow-minded could result in missing out on something incredible. Justin’s music is brilliant, it’s well-crafted and I simply enjoy it. The reasons behind why an individual loves any music can be rooted in nostalgia or perhaps conditioning, but mostly it’s simply what brings us joy, or satisfies a need. Even the most depressing heavy metal can please in this way because a listener might associate with its content at a specific time. Just because it’s noise to one person, doesn’t mean another can’t hear the melody.

With this in mind, I was pleased to hear BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show DJ Chris Evans giving props to Justin the other day on his show. This was a huge breakthrough. Up until this point, UK Radio in general (with some occasional exceptions) have been quick to jump on the hate band-wagon. Listen to the clip here (from 02:17:58 through to 02:30:15):


Chris begins the segment by playing clips of a kid playing the drums from an early age and doesn’t reveal it’s Justin until afterwards adding: “That was Justin Bieber and that’s how wrong you can get people”. He later goes on to play a clip of Justin busking on the steps of the Avon theatre in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario and goes on to say at 02:29:10 “This is how good he really is, this is how misunderstood people can become”

For those outside of the UK and therefore perhaps unfamiliar with Radio 2, it’s ‘Service Remit’ reads:

“The remit of Radio 2 is to be a distinctive, mixed music and speech service, targeted at a broad audience, appealing to all age groups over 35.

It should offer entertaining popular music programmes and speech-based content including news, current affairs, documentaries, religion, arts, comedy, readings and social action output.”

“Over 35” rather excludes me, I am an avid listener of Radio 2 and have been for over a decade! Moreover, does that mean that any artist well-below the age of 35 should not be considered for airplay? Well, the fact the station have been playing One Direction on heavy rotation for the past month suggests a shift in direction (if you pardon the pun). So why the hesitation to play Bieber’s music? Is it the tabloid headlines? Yes, he’s made some mistakes in his personal life, but many of the stories were pure fabrication and regardless, if we’re going to exclude artists from airplay based on headlines alone, where does that leave a large majority of musicians who have seen a fair few scandals in their time?

It’s fair to say that a lot of people have never seen the philanthropic, truly dedicated, hard-working side to Bieber because those stories don’t sell newspapers. Therefore, sadly, it’s inevitable they will be holding pre-conceived notions of what he’s truly about. But when I choose the music to accompany my mood, I don’t think about anything OTHER than the music. That’s it. I don’t care about how old the artist is (I couldn’t even tell you how old Billy Joel is and I love his music more than life itself). I don’t care where they live, who they’re sleeping with or how much money they’ve made.

So I want to say a huge thank you to @achrisevans and his team on @BBCRadio2 for that show on Thursday 12th December 2013. ┬áHe is the reason I still have faith in the station I’ve grown up with because he made it about the music and nothing else.

-Lucy Jenkins



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