This week, let's talk about shame.
Unless you've been driving around with electrical tape over your car windows, you've undoubtedly seen protesters picketing area businesses with PVC pipe-framed signs reading, "Shame on [Company X]."
Protesting might not always make a difference, but sometimes it feels gloriously cathartic to point a finger at things that disgust or disappoint you. As I watched the Billboard Music Awards last week, I found myself wishing I had a sign handy so I could support those who booed as Justin Bieber accepted the inaugural Milestone Award for "musical ingenuity and innovation."
Bieber is many things -- young, rich and gifted with a head of hair so famous that it has its own Twitter profile (@Bieber_Hair) -- but he certainly isn't ingenious or innovative. But the 19-year-old pop star disagreed with the audience's vocal disapproval.
"I think I'm doing a pretty good job," he said. "It should really be about the music, it should be about the craft. ... I'm an artist, and I should be taken seriously. This other bull should not be spoken of."
I'll go ahead and add "artist" to the list of attributes Bieber can't realistically lay claim to, but to be fair, I think the booing and shame were a bit misdirected. After all, it's not his fault that by-the-numbers pop music and mediocre talent can be obfuscated by layer upon layer of studio production.
If we were to set up your "Shame On You" sign in the proper location, it wouldn't be on the lawn of Bieber's multimillion-dollar home in Hollywood Hills, Calif. It wouldn't even be at the studio of his executive producer, Scooter Braun.
No, if you want to point out the parties responsible for Bieber's success, for him becoming a global pop titan, you're going to need a lot more signs.
You see, the BMAs are decided by chart performance, not a committee of judges. In this case, the guilty parties are the 3.2 million people who downloaded Bieber's song "Boyfriend" from iTunes last year and the radio stations that endlessly pushed it out over the airwaves with other paint-by-numbers pop songs.
I agree with Bieber that music awards should be "about the craft," but ultimately, they just perpetuate the self-satisfied glorification of shallow, stale pop. It's important to remember that the Bieb isn't forcing people to listen. The public is doing that all itself, and personally, I think that's a shame.
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...