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The Globe and Mail

Lately, Justin Bieber seems more interested in offending fans than in making music

Justin Bieber performs at the rogers Centre in Toronto, December 1, 2012.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

Justin Bieber is way beyond ready for his closeup. The kid's ready for his nosedive.

On more than one occasion, the pride of Stratford, Ont., has made public his grandiose intent to become the next Michael Jackson, the deceased performer known for several timeless pop songs but surely more famous for his bizarre behaviour. Bieber hasn't put in any bids to buy the Elephant Man's bones yet, but in recent weeks, he seems far more interested in offending his fans than in making pop music.

Case in point: This morning's news that Bieber has cancelled a scheduled concert in Portugal on Tuesday night. According to TMZ, the cancellation is due to "soft" ticket sales, estimated to be around the 60 per cent mark. It's the Bieb's prerogative to prefer playing to a full house, but what about those Portuguese fans who already bought their tickets? Maybe the next time around, kids. (Hopefully they'll at least be getting refunds.)

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Or consider his recent behaviour during a run of U.K. concerts. The British tabloid press documented Bieber's every move, starting off with lurid speculation about his alleged new "girlfriend," the 17-year-old English model/singer Ella-Paige Roberts Clarke, whom he allegedly "wooed" with a Rolls-Royce date.

But instead of keeping a dignified low profile, Bieber appeared hellbent on ratcheting up the tabloid coverage at every opportunity. Over the past several months, Bieber has been photographed smoking blunts, threatening paparazzi and constantly throwing gang signs in a supposed effort to boost his street cred. But oh, what a time our boy had across the pond.

First we had the photo of a Bieber sulkily marching through his London hotel lobby sans shirt and with a good deal of his boxer shorts in clear view. He's a Canadian gangster, yo.

And so it went for over a week. Bieber began one show at London's O2 Arena two hours late, which understandably garnered freakish press coverage and admonition from audience members (most notably from a former cast member from the popular Brit soap Coronation Street). Blaming technical issues, he later apologized on Twitter.

When Bieber and his posse beat a hasty exit from a London nightclub on his 19 th birthday, he went out of his way to tweet about how the club "wanted to give the press another reason to why we didn't stay at their weak ass club so they wouldn't look bad for me walking in and right back out." Because he's, like, Justin Bieber.

And to wrap up his busman's holiday, Bieber was reportedly leaving his London hotel and in the rush to get to his SUV he bumped into a surly photographer who told the pop star to basically beat it back to the States, but in slightly less polite language, obviously unaware Bieber is not American. Bieber reportedly attempted a half-hearted lunge at the man, and allegedly threatened to assault him (while safely positioned behind two of his hulking bodyguards).

Of late, Bieber's public persona is worrying, and not just because it isn't very Canadian in style. Whether by design or not, his weird behaviour in the U.K. generated unsolicited feedback from even weirder sources. The actress Olivia Wilde commented on his shirtless lobby walk; reality misfit Jack Osbourne tweeted that Bieber was going to "unravel" before our eyes; and Justin's former girlfriend Selena Gomez saw fit to diss her ex in a video posted to her YouTube page.

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Bieber's sole defender in recent weeks: Louis Tomlinson of the boy band One Direction, who presumably knows whereof he speaks.

But is any of the advice likely to stick with Bieber? Don't wait for it.

Being controversial came naturally for Michael Jackson because he was truly a strange guy. The plastic surgeries, the sleepovers with other people's kids and so forth. Jackson slept in a hyperbaric chamber, he married Elvis Presley's daughter for a lark and his best friend was a chimpanzee named Bubbles. The fact that Jackson became a recluse and eventually met with a terrible drug-addled end was probably inevitable.

But that shouldn't be the case with Bieber and not just because he's Canadian. He's just a seemingly normal and previously well-adjusted teenager now trying to be a rebel without a clue. Why else would he wear grubby overalls when meeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper last fall? Bieber's ongoing efforts to become a Canadian bad boy are just embarrassing.

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