Norway’s Bieber fans ‘unique’

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As giddy groups of sometimes-screaming teenage girls counted down the hours before the first of three Justin Bieber concerts in Oslo Tuesday evening, speculation was swirling as to just what makes Bieber’s Norwegian fans so much more fanatic than their fellow “Beliebers” around the world. The answer may lie in their high level of social media expertise, their grasp of Bieber’s messages of faith and love and, not least, their parents’ fairly thick wallets.

Loyal fans of Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber started flocking around Oslo's Grand Hotel during the weekend, days before the first of three concert dates this week. Police were standing by, also at several other locations where Bieber's fans were gathering, in efforts to maintain crowd control. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Loyal fans of Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber started flocking around Oslo’s Grand Hotel during the weekend, days before the first of three concert dates this week. The crowds expanded greatly on Tuesday, the day of the first concert, on rumours he was staying there, and the fans’ use of social media was clearly evident. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The biggest concern on Tuesday was whether thick fog in the Oslo area, and not least at the main airport at Gardermoen, would delay Bieber’s arrival if he hadn’t snuck into town already. His fans, though, were already in place as pre-concert Biebermania continued to rise: They were either braving the cold in line outside the Telenor Arena just west of the city, flocking around hotels where they thought he might stay, or sitting on “Bieber Express” busses that were rolling into Oslo from cities all over Norway including Fredrikstad, Lillehammer, Stavanger, Haugesund, Bergen and as far away as Trondheim. Others were flying in, many accompanied by their mothers.

They’d started gathering outside Oslo hotels several days before his scheduled arrival in Oslo on Tuesday. One 16-year-old from Lillestrøm told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) she’d booked rooms at three different Oslo hotels just so she could be assured of getting inside if he turned out to be a guest at one of them. All told, she’d used all her recent birthday and confirmation money in an attempt to get close to Bieber.

‘Cracked the code’
Asked why young Norwegians are so wild about Bieber, 13-year-old Erle Gjestad of Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten that “he’s a good singer and he looks good.” As her girlfriends giggled, Gjestad added that “he shows a lot of thoughtfulness towards his fans and he does a lot of good. He goes to hospitals and visits fans who are dying. That sort of thing.”

Justin Bieber wasn't "created" like so many other pop artists, claim his Norwegian fans. They discovered him themselves, via social media, starting around three years ago when this photo was taken. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Justin Bieber wasn’t “created” like so many other pop artists, claim his Norwegian fans. They discovered him themselves, via social media, starting around three years ago when this photo was taken. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Gjestad and her friends are also impressed over one other important factor in Bieber’s background: “It’s the way he got to be known,” she said. “He wasn’t ‘created,’ he was discovered.” By them, via the social media like You Tube and Twitter that have continued to play a huge role in Bieber’s fame and fortune. He still actively uses social media to communicate with (some might say cultivate) his fans, with 16-year-old Kaja Øverås telling newspaper Dagsavisen that she and her friends all “feel like we really know him personally.” Bieber (or his staff) maintains such contact that fuels feelings of intimacy for his fans. As Øverås says, “it’s like his song ‘Never say never:’ He gives us hope that one day we’ll see him or even meet him. It can happen, never give up.” That’s the message of “Believe,” she says, also, perhaps, in a broader context. Scrawled over the wall of the bedroom of two teenage sisters in Askøy outside Bergen, for example, are the words “Believe you can make a difference.” They do, and they were heading to Oslo for Bieber’s concert.

“Justin Bieber has cracked the code for social media,” said Cecilie Staude, an assistant professor at Norwegian Business School BI, and Norwegians both young and old are highly adept at using it. The population went online early, had mobile telephones even earlier, and most Norwegian youth have grown up with so much use of social media that some worry about poor penmanship. Many rarely write by hand, while their fingers fly over keyboards.

Affluence sets Norwegian fans apart
Norway’s strong economy, high standards of living and the overall affluence that allow most young teens to have their own mobile phones, iPads and other gadgets also play a role in their fanaticism, as does their ability (or their parents’) to pay the high sums attached to Bieber concert tickets. Some paid more than NOK 3,000 (USD 500) for standing room up front and a brief “meet and greet” session with their idol. Most teenagers in other countries, not least in crisis-ridden southern Europe, simply can’t afford that.

Tomm Berger, who led preparations for Bieber’s visit for the local police districts, is convinced Norwegian fans are much more enthusiastic than fans elsewhere. After the mass pandemonium of Bieber’s short promotional visit to Oslo last year, he and colleagues traveled, for example, to London to see how their counterparts there organized security during a Bieber concert. The Norwegian police were amazed at how calm and orderly Bieber’s British fans were compared to the Norwegians. “They sat in their seats, they respected barriers,” Berger told Aftenposten. Fans at a recent concert in the Netherlands were also much less excited than the Norwegians.

There also are far more Bieber fans per capita in Norway than anywhere else, reported Dagsavisen. And they should be allowed to just scream as much as they want, advised some commentators, while debate still flew over whether their absence from school should be be condoned. View it as part of youthful rebellion, suggested Geir Rakvaag in a commentary in Dagsavisen: “They’re entitled to do things and think in ways their parents simply don’t understand.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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