This will be a familiar scenario to most: you’re browsing Netflix, a seemingly bottomless pit, until you reach it. The bottom. There is so much there that I cannot even begin to describe the vast amounts of absolute trash I’ve found. Thankfully I love me some trash. In the interest of my more sophisticated audience, I will let you in on the secret world that is the non-acclaimed music documentary. In this series I will explore the best of the Biebs, 1D, Katy Perry, and whatever else Netflix has to offer me. In this instalment I watched Justin Bieber’s aptly titled doc Never Say Never. Challenge accepted.
So this film is like a biography, tour diary, and live show in one. It was clearly made for the fans and there is nothing wrong with that. It looked at a very recent past and therefore it is actually quite interesting to watch in 2018, now that we’ve had many more years of Bieber.
The film starts with a compilation of viral YouTube videos like sneezing panda and then links in a video of Justin Bieber singing Chris Brown’s “With You”. This is obviously a bit awkward to see now that Chris Brown is kind of not a PC person to refer to, but I guess back in 2011 we weren’t so bothered with what he did behind closed doors. It is clear what is being implied: Bieber came up with the YouTube generation and was a viral hit. In the background there are shouting girls and a voice stating “you haven’t made it until you’ve sold out the [Madison Square] Garden”. Bam. Within the first minutes we know what will happen in the next hour and 45 minutes. I guess we could stop here?
What comes next is a look at his early life. We meet Justin’s mum Pattie, who was young when she had him and raised him with the help of her parents. Young Justin liked sports and God. He also turned out to be a drum prodigy. It does not become clear when he decided to ditch the drums and start singing. He clearly still plays and is a talented instrumentalist, something that many glance over all too willingly. We’ve not yet heard Justin himself speak into the camera at this point in Never Say Never.
Instead we meet the crew. Many links are made to family ties. One person is like Justin’s big sister, the other a big brother. There is also an uncle, a dad, and a mum (vocal coach Mama Jan). Justin finally speaks into the camera, and does so with the ever so charming words “I’m going to change my pants now so you have to go”. Also a lot of praying happens throughout this film, in case you were wondering if Biebs was a good Christian boy. I reckon this is mostly for the American audience. I don’t really care for all the big ups to God, but He’s clearly a large influence in Justin’s life so it’s only right he gets to feature in this film too.
We now delve into how Justin Bieber became the sensation he is now. He started busking in Stratford, Ontario around the age of 12 and competed in a local talent show. Although he didn’t win, videos of him started circulating online and Justin got many fans this way. Some dude in Atlanta called Scooter Braun (for real) thought he was promising and I guess also saw this as a chance to get ahead in life himself. He was not a major player at the time but was already active as a talent manager. It turned out that people weren’t really into the idea of an unknown teenage singer with no Nickelodeon or Disney backing, but Scooter was determined. In the end it was not so much Scooter himself but Scooter’s link to Usher that got Biebs a deal, but someone has to be the middle man. Usher sticking up for Justin is very cute to watch. Justin clearly looks up to him and Usher almost looks like a proud dad (here I go with the family ties!) talking about him. The next step is basically Usher saying “Hey, let’s get you in a room with L.A. Reid!”. L.A. Reid then calls Justin “The Macaulay Culkin of music” but for some reason that’s a good thing?
Pattie turns out to be an ace mum and packs up to move to Atlanta with Justin after he signs a deal with L.A. The studio then does a bit of a Jay-Z and puts Justin on the shelf. Although it’s not really like that because the speed with which Justin turns around and pulls a Kanye is insane. Basically he does one performance of an original song and he’s in the studio. He then plays this song at what seems to be every radio station in the country plus some malls and social media does the rest.
About 45 minutes in there is an intense Bieber hair appreciation moment. Snoop Dogg says he really should consider pigtails so girls can play with his hair. It’s inappropriate and random but Snoop Dogg can say anything really without sounding like a creep.
What follows is Bieber Fever soundtracked by Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mounting King”. It’s everything you would expect and more.
Time for heart-melting lovely moments! The team, including Justin and Pattie, are shown giving away free tickets to lucky fans on the street. We also see randomly selected girls being serenaded on stage during each night’s performance of “One Less Lonely Girl”. All of this in very sweet and makes me fall in love with Bieber and co. a little, as one should while watching this film. Yet there is a flip side that the film fails to really get into. What about Bieber himself? We are shown literally thousands of happy faces, but Justin is just working. He also has this massive team but there is no tour therapist. How did no one see it coming that Justin would act out? Drug use and reckless driving is not even that bad seeing the kind of life he was made to live since he was a little boy.
We do get a glimpse of this dark side, but only a very filtered version where it is mainly about what a strain a tour like this is physically. Justin gets overworked and has to reschedule some shows, it is implied that MSG might be at risk, although anyone watching knows that he will play that show as we’ve already been shown loads of clips from it.
Everything obviously comes together and the show goes on. It starts with Justin doing his “never say never” speech, which actually makes no sense in the traditional way but in his version kind of means the same as “don’t let the haters stop you from doing your thang”.
There are about 20 minutes left that is just the Madison Square Garden show. This would be interesting had they not shown so much of it already. This was a waste of time and I was already typing up my report whilst this was playing in the background.
Overall this film was very decent. I learnt a lot about Justin Bieber and gained a lot of respect for him and his team. I found out about some songs I liked which can be found in this article and I enjoyed the experience a lot more than I expected. I appreciated the appearances of the likes of Usher, Miley Cyrus, and Jaden Smith. I liked that they did not dwell on insignificant aspects of his personal life and really focussed on how he became Justin Bieber the artist. There was also a lot of fan love, mostly teenage girls, and the way this was dealt with was very sweet and innocent. Although there were definitely layers missing from this narrative, this film wasn’t made to explore those themes. Strange as this might sound, I’m happy I watched it. If you made it all the way through this article, I guess you don’t have to anymore. But by all means, indulge! I guess you can never say never…