It all started out well: Canadian teen-age idol Justin Bieber landed in Oslo for a promotional appearance and then proceeded to show up at a suburban skate park, thrill girls when he wandered into their classroom, and later tape a local TV talk show. But then things went very wrong.
At a relatively small, “exclusive” concert in a theater that’s part of the University of Oslo’s student union, Bieber spilled water on the stage after performing his first number. When he got a towel and bent down to dry it up, some of the overly eager fans who have made Bieber a sensation started grabbing at him. He asked them to stop. They didn’t listen. Bieber threatened to cut off the concert. The shrieking girls apparently didn’t believe him. But then Bieber quickly followed through on his threat. He stalked off the stage, throwing down the towel and claiming “I’m not doing the show.” And he didn’t return. On Friday morning, state broadcaster NRK felt it necessary to announce that Bieber had left the country.
Reaction flew instantly around the world during the night, via social media, and many both inside and outside Norway were angry. Bieber fans blamed the Norwegian girls for offending their idol, deluging them with hate mail and, reportedly, even some death threats. Other fans who’d managed to be part of the audience were telling NRK Friday morning that they were shocked by Bieber’s behavior. As some so-called “Beliebers” defended their hero and digitally assaulted the Norwegian girls in many different languages, others made fun of Bieber, suggesting he was spoiled, had too short of a fuse, overreacted to the type of fans who have given him superstar status and that it was “just as well” that he cut off his concert.
Bieber himself later apologized, also using social media to blame his behaviour on some recently “long days” and a lack of sleep. He didn’t mean to be “mean,” he claimed, but chose to end the concert after just one number because the audience closest to the stage didn’t listen to him. He promised to make up for ending the concert.
While fans and promoters were left to wonder how that might happen, Norway’s national commercial television station TV2 was furious over Bieber’s behavior and called it a “clear violation” of the agreement they’d had with him. While his appearance on their TV talk show Senkveld (Late Evening) had gone well, NRK reported that it was TV2 who had “invited” Bieber to Norway and arranged the concert, which was supposed to be aired nationwide in mid-November.
‘Not the fans’ fault’
Now TV2 is left with a very short concert indeed. “This was not the deal,” TV2’s communications chief Jan-Petter Dahl told NRK on Friday. The talk show will air as planned, he said, “but we were supposed to broadcast a half-hour concert on TV2 on November 13, and we don’t have material for a half-hour. We’ll have to discuss what to do now.” Gjermund Moastuen of Universal Music Norge apologized for Bieber’s decision to walk off the stage but said it was” too early” to determine whether a contract violation had occurred.
Dahl refused to blame Bieber’s Norwegian fans for the cut-off concert Thursday night that ended in tears and disappointment. Many of them have since been harassed online and Dahl called on other fans to cease and desist. “These are young girls, they are true fans, they were standing in the first row and did what many others surely would have done,” Dahl said. “What happened wasn’t their fault.” He claimed TV2 was “taking care” of the girls, had already had long conversations with them to help mend their broken hearts and would have follow-up meetings as well.
One local music journalist who was covering the concert, Karen Brynildsen of Topgirl, told NRK she was stunned by the Bieber’s behavior. “I thought he was finished with the ‘jerk’ side he’s shown the past two years,” she told NRK. “This was really bad behavior towards his fans.” She claimed he acted like “a real diva.”
Dahl said it was too early to say exactly how TV2 would react to what they claim was indeed a contract violation on Bieber’s part. “If a star of his calibre decides to do something like this, there’s not much we can do,” Dahl told NRK. “This was completely out of our control.”