By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
You've heard of Justin Bieber. Duh.
You know that he's huge on Twitter (more than 3.3 million followers at last check) and you know that he's the biggest teen idol since — at least! — the boy bands of the late '90s. You may have read that he somewhat inexplicably was nominated for best new artist at the BET Awards or seen a video in which he doesn't seem to know what "German" means, and you're probably aware that there are apparently a lot of lesbians who look like him.
The Bieb has dominated pop culture over the past year, appearing on just about every TV talk show and being used as a punch line for anybody hoping to sound cutting-edge, but if you're outside his target demographic (quick, check your wallet for a driver's license) you may not actually know very much about the 16-year-old pop star. (Quick, name one of his songs. Or hum the chorus. Or try to remember if you've ever actually heard him sing.)
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With this timeline, we've attempted to trace the origins of the wonderfully bizarre phenomenon known as "Bieber fever"; both to inform and as a cheap ploy to expand our audience among screechy tween girls (next week, we watch the new Twilight with Greyson Chance).
March 1, 1994: A world changes irrevocably as Justin Bieber is born in the unsuspecting town of Stratford, Ontario, Canada.
1994-2007: Um, some other stuff happens, presumably involving learning how to walk, talk, read . . . All of kinds of stuff.
January 19, 2007: Bieber's mother uploads two poorly lit videos to YouTube, her son singing "So Sick" by Ne-Yo and "Basketball" by Lil Bow Wow at a local singing competition. Bieber came in second; no word on what the first-place kid is up to (crippling Lunchables addiction?). Mama Bieb had her son when she was 18, meaning she's actually only three years older than Ne-Yo. Weird, right?
October 2008: Usher, himself a former teen idol, signs the 14-year-old Bieber to Island Records. His family and handlers are apparently not deterred by the fact that earlier in the year, Usher released a hit single with a chorus consisting of "I wanna make love in this club."
March 28, 2009: @JustinBieber is registered on Twitter, with the singer subsequently popping up in the trending topics nearly daily. He's got more followers than CNN and the New York Times, with millions of folks reading nuggets of wisdom like this bon mot from June 26: "EPIC WATER FIGHT!!! NO ONE WAS SAFE!!!"
May 18, 2009: "One Time," Bieber's debut single, is released to radio stations brave enough to take a chance on a goofy white teenager. As this sentence is being written, the video's now at 130,222,367 views — eat it, Tay Zonday.
November 17, 2009: Bieber's first proper release, the seven-track EP My World, is out, but it's merely a tantalizing prelude for things to come.
January 18, 2010: "Baby" — if you've heard a Justin Bieber song, it's this one — is released as a single. This one is at over 200 million YouTube views, making it the second highest-viewed video in the site's history, with fellow zeitgeister Lady Gaga at the top spot.
March 19: A full-length! My World 2.0 debuts at number one selling more than 5 million copies worldwide in three months or so.
June 23: Bieber Fever reaches its natural evolution with the start of a North American tour, kicking off with a show at the 16,606-capacity XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Just in case you think you've accomplished something with your life.