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Maharaja Bieber? Not true, say Indian Beliebers

As criticism of Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber's reported list of requests grows ahead of his first performance in India, Lounge asks his fan clubs and organisers what they make of it

A gathering of Justin Bieber fans in Mumbai. Photo: Aniruddh Chowdhury/Mint
A gathering of Justin Bieber fans in Mumbai. Photo: Aniruddh Chowdhury/Mint

At the start of this week, Justin Bieber’s tour rider for his 10 May Mumbai concert went viral. From reported plans to ride a chopper to the venue and asking for a convoy with a Rolls Royce, 10 luxury sedans and 2 Volvo buses for his entourage of 120 to “a special Indian Yoga Casket" containing aromatic essential oils, jasmine, mogra, rose and camphor incense sticks, the internet was amused by the list.

Bad rap

Bieber was mocked—in a tone that is often reserved by pop culture commentators for celebrity excesses. This hasn’t gone down well with the 23-year-old’s fans in India.

On 29 March, Mint carried a feature on the Beliebers in India and how they were preparing for the momentous event. In a follow-up, we asked them about the much-ridiculed rider. Not only do they think it is damaging to Bieber’s image, they point out that many of the demands aren’t really by Bieber but are offers by the event organizers.

“It is difficult to believe that he made all those requests. When he comes to know how it is playing out in the media, he will be upset," says Naveen Manjhi, the creator of Bieber’s Facebook fan page in India, Indian Belieber Community. According to Manjhi, who has travelled from Bhopal to attend the concert in Mumbai, there are no past instances of Bieber making requests of this nature. Other fans corroborated this.

Bieber’s fans, who self-identify as ‘Beliebers’, might be the last people to take an objective view of their hero. But they might be right in this case. The music website, which lists tour riders by bands and musicians, takes note of Bieber’s relatively modest list for a concert in 2010. “No booze or hashish or condoms. The singer just wants concert promoters to outfit his dressing room with mixed nuts, potato chips, herbal teas, some Vitamin Water, and deli, vegetable, and fruit platters," it says.

Justin Bieber.

What Bieber really wants

Tour riders by rock stars and pop idols have often been bizarre—Metallica asked for an unlimited supply of bacon and Van Halen banned brown M&Ms from their dressing room. But Bieber, after a reckless child-star phase, has tried to create a safe image for the past 3 years.

An executive who has worked closely with the project at White Fox India, the organisers of Bieber’s India tour, said on condition of anonymity that many items in the list are being arranged by the promoters of the tour (who include hotels and “transport partners") without Bieber having asked for them.

This person said the Rolls Royce and Z level security, for instance, aren’t Bieber’s demands. Neither is the one for naming of five new dishes on Bieber songs—that presumably is being arranged by the hotel hosting the Grammy award winner. “A lot of what is in the list is being done by promoters as a gesture to be good hosts. It isn’t a rider as it is being interpreted," said the person.

The source of the confusion

The problem, it appears, lies with the press release sent out by White Fox India on 3 May—which in turn was sent around by a tweet by music journalist Arjun S. Ravi. The press release doesn’t make a clear distinction between Bieber’s tour rider and the things being provided by organisers. It uses ambiguous language such as “these are some of the special requests being catered to in his 1000 sq ft suite".

Since there is no official statement from White Fox India to clear the air, you can’t really rule out the possibility that Bieber could well have demanded each of the items on the list (including the plain old Dove body wash). It is possible that the organisers went overboard in their effort to amp-up the hype over the concert and leaked out details they weren’t supposed to, leaving Bieber, and most certainly his fans, red-faced. But what difference does that really make? The stage is set and the gig at the DY Patil Stadium, with a capacity of 50,000, is sold out. And that, as Bieber would have sung, is “All that Matters." .

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