In researching my new novel, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, about an 11-year-old pop star, I watched a number of interviews with musicians. Most performers, like the media-friendly kid in my book, are happy to be getting airtime and don't want to alienate their fans. But then there are those who, for whatever reason -- an off-putting comment, a generally grumpy demeanor, the fact that they're opening that night for Sinbad -- are a little less agreeable. Sort of like ...
#6. Justin Bieber vs. Mojo in the Morning
Justin Bieber's recent spate of pot-smoking, torso-flaunting petulance is either a full-blown meltdown or the behavior of a pretty typical teenager. But it wasn't long ago that Bieber dominated the world by being as pleasant as it's possible to be when millions of crazed Beliebers document your every move.
But in this interview with Detroit radio show Mojo in the Morning, the cracks began to appear in the Bieb's facade. He first gets upset at 2:45, when Mojo tries to pay him a genuine compliment: When Mojo first heard Bieber's new single, "Boyfriend," he thought it was Justin Timberlake, whom he admires. Bieber gets defensive. "That's crazy, because our voices sound nothing alike," he says. "Saying I sound like someone else is not really a compliment." One assumes that Bieber might have been equally indignant at a comparison to John Lennon.
Timberlake is a sellout, Biebs is from the streets.
Mojo assures him that he meant it as a tribute and tries to smooth things over, but the damage has been done. At 6:40, Mojo jokingly asks if Bieber is worried about Harry from One Direction hanging out with his mom, since this Harry fellow apparently likes older women. That might seem like an awkward line of questioning for any grown man who's not a drill instructor to take with a teenager. But as Mojo explains later, Bieber had made the exact same joke about Harry in a previous interview.
That doesn't stop Bieber from getting pissed. "I think you should worry about me around your mom," the 18-year-old retorts. Mojo takes the opportunity to let him know that his own mother is actually dead, at which point Bieber hangs up on him. Never say never when it comes to hypocrisy!
#5. Bob Dylan vs. Time Magazine
On Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of the U.K., captured in the documentary Don't Look Back, the raspy crooner spends a lot of time messing with the insatiable press, sometimes goofily. But in a terrible mismatch, Time magazine sent Horace Judson, a historian of molecular biology, to interview the voice of his generation. The folksinger -- a label he disdains -- goes on an extended, semi-articulate rant against Time and the mainstream media for peddling falsehoods. It's sort of like a college freshman who's just discovered Noam Chomsky and come home for Thanksgiving to tell his family how disgustingly bourgeois they are. Judson remains unflappable as Dylan gets more inflamed, boasting that he's as good a singer as early 20th century Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.
What was Judson's impression of the concert, which he went on to attend that evening? "My opinion then and now," he later said, "was that the music was unpleasant, the lyrics inflated, and Dylan a self-indulgent, whining showoff." And yet he loved Dylan's Christian phase, so go figure ...
#4. Vanilla Ice vs. MTV (with Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, Denis Leary, and Chris Kattan)
In 1999, MTV produced a special called Twenty-Five Lame in which they counted down the 25 worst-ever music videos, as voted on by fans. The top 10 videos would be banned forever from the channel, with the symbolic destruction of a videocassette by hammer, lighter, or blender. They invited Robert Matthew Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, to destroy his own entry, "Ice Ice Baby," at No. 9.
Before we get to what happened, let's take a moment to appreciate Vanilla's caricatured embodiment of late '90s fashion.
Dennis Leary remained undouched.
Goatee and extra-long sideburns, backward baseball cap, oversized Dr. Evil T-shirt, and baggy shorts with sneakers. All that's missing is some No Fear apparel and an oversized surfboard bearing the inscription "It takes two hands to wax a Big Johnson."
After being forced to watch the video, Vanilla asks for something more potent than the hammer he's been given, and Jon Stewart unwisely hands him a baseball bat. At 1:25, the rapper not only attacks the cassette, but metamorphoses into an out-of-control toddler with advanced motor skills, trashing the entire set and check-swinging at Stewart's head while issuing awkward, disingenuous apologies. He also attacks the cardboard cutout of Gerardo, rapper of "Rico Suave." Repeated attempts at appeasing him with Chris Kattan's shouts of "Vanilla! No, Vanilla!" fail to quell his oddly apologetic rage -- a strange mixture of anger and regret matched only by that of moviegoers who had paid to see him star in the 1991 film Cool as Ice.
Chris Kattan was never seen again.