Well, this is awkward timing.
Smack dab in the middle of a controversial, roller coaster month for Justin Bieber–in, which, among other things, he bought a monkey, got accused of assault, threatened to ‘fuck up’ a paparazzo, wore a gas mask shopping, cancelled a show, lost said monkey, and never, ever wore a shirt (okay, maybe once)–comes news of a far more wholesome variety: Teen Vogue has announced the troubled singer as the cover star of its May Music Issue, WWD is reporting.
It’s an unexpected move for the magazine, which typically tries to feature ‘good role models’ and stays well away from controversy, lest it alienate its core reader (or its reader’s parent).
But as WWD notes, Teen Vogue is likely betting on Bieber‘s recent erratic behavior–and subsequent shocking headlines–to sell at newsstands. The magazine is releasing not one, but two Bieber covers, each of which coincides with the headline, “Justin’s Crazy Year.” Uh yeah, to put it lightly Teen Vogue. Inside the magazine, Bieber says of the rumors surrounding his strange behavior, “I don’t need to address every speculation. Remember when Cam’ron dissed Jay-Z? Jay-Z didn’t even respond. Why didn’t he respond, because he’s Jay-Z.” Right, Justin. You’re just like Jay-Z.
But will Teen Vogue‘s gamble pay off at newsstands?
Bieber’s track record isn’t great–in 2011 he tanked on the cover of Vanity Fair, and sold five percent below average for Rolling Stone. His second Rolling Stone cover in 2012 nose-dived again, becoming the magazine’s second worst selling cover of the year.
And then there’s his out of control behavior, which has already managed to alienate many of his fans. Will it do the same to Teen Vogue readers? In 2010, the teen magazine featured Miley Cyrus on its cover amid a scandalous few months for the singer (she had just been voted ‘worst celebrity teen role model‘ on another teen site, AOL’s jsyk.com). The cover proved controversial with many Teen Vogue readers commenting on how ‘disappointed’ they were with the magazine. The issue’s newsstand reception was lukewarm, selling a middling 142,000 (the best-selling issue that year sold 181,000; the worst, 108,000), which was probably less than Teen Vogue hoped, considering the backlash.
It seems a strange PR choice for Bieber too–isn’t the whole point of his out of control behavior to shed his teeny bopper image? Then what is he doing on the cover of Teen Vogue?
“Teen Vogue is a giant step in the wrong direction,” says Jo Piazza, author of Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money (and a Fashionista contributor). “It’s time for Bieber to do a Timberlake and position himself as an adult star if he wants to extend the longevity of his brand. His poor branding moves coupled with his recent erratic behavior could send him down the Lohan path to obscurity if he isn’t careful.”
Only time will tell how this plays out on newsstands. But maybe Teen Vogue should have used one of the other acts featured in the music issue–One Direction, or Rihanna–for at least one of the covers as a plan B.