“…and in my hour of darkness,
He was sitting there in front of me,
Killing Beatles classics,
Justin B, Justin B….”
You know, 2011 was bad enough; did we have to end it with Justin Bieber soiling the memory of the greatest pop group of the last century, trying to wear Paul McCartney’s tender tribute to his mother like a child stumbling around in his father’s work boots? Truly, this smacked of Dick Clark’s revenge for The Beatles never agreeing to appear on American Bandstand.
There have been some unfortunate covers of popular songs over the years as younger singers tried to appropriate the genius of those who came before—Celine Dion screeching through Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” and Britney Spears cooing the Stones’ “Satisfaction” come to mind. But those were largely examples of artists miscalculating their own ability to bring something new to a standard. Bieber pounds away at his little white baby grand, eyes closed, feigning sincerity for a song he seems to be tossing off as an afterthought—does he give a rat’s patootie who “Mother Mary” is? And does he have any glimmer of what “the broken-hearted people living in the world” ought to agree on? Nah.
Like all good lyrics, those of “Let It Be” carry an air of universality—any thoughtful listener can assign some memory or sentiment to them. And there have been some truly lovely cover versions (including Aretha Franklin’s, which was actually released before the Beatles record came out in 1970). But Bieber, after some introductory nonsense about dedicating the song to New York and “all you’ve been through” (a decade after 9/11, does a ConEd utility worker really need Bieber’s slim little shoulder to cry on?), launches into the song with all the consciousness of a parrot I once saw on The Tonight Show that knew all the words to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
In fairness to Bieber, it’s just possible he finished strong. On New Year’s Eve I got a load of 15 seconds of him and turned it off. The best way to begin 2012, I decided, was to let it be.