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Justin Bieber: From debacle to crisis and back again

9:45 PM, Apr 25, 2013   |    comments
A Sunday, March 31, 2013 photo from files showing Canadian singer Justin Bieber performing on stage during the "I Believe Tour " in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
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(USA Today)-- What's eating Justin Bieber? He seems to go from debacle to crisis and back to debacle in the space of days, even hours.

Only today, Swedish police reported they found undisclosed drugs and a stun gun on Bieber's tour bus in Stockholm, where he was performing. They said they raided the bus, parked in a hotel parking lot, after the smell of marijuana wafted from it.

Bieber seemed to shrug, in a tweet that was retweeted about 59,000 times. "some of the rumors about me....where do people even get this stuff. whatever...back to the music," it read.

Can this sort of thing be chalked up to "teens will be teens"? Or is there something really off with the 19-year-old?

Bieber says, "Give me a break," though he would say that. "All this isn't easy," he sighed in an open letter to fans he posted on Instagram (and then deleted). "I get angry sometimes. I'm human. I'm gonna make mistakes."

His throngs of "Belieber" fans (38 million Twitter followers) are ready and willing to forgive. His mother, single mom Pattie Mallette, says her baby is growing up and she doesn't have much control over him anymore, but she's still his biggest fan.

But other observers are surprisingly sympathetic to the Biebs, too. Even Chris Brown says he's praying for him.

"Basically he has a good heart, he means well and he'll get through this," says celebrity tracker Bonnie Fuller, editor of HollywoodLife.com.

Let's review: Last week, Bieber made world headlines when he seemed to trivialize Anne Frank by suggesting she would have been a Belieber if she hadn't been murdered during the Holocaust. He posted on his Instagram page a cartoon of himself naked in bed with a woman labeled "Belieber." He posted another cartoon of himself naked except for a towel about to fall off. He snapped himself in the gym, shirtless, pants almost completely down, revealing a pair of buttercup yellow briefs.

He took off his shirt and dropped his pants in an airport. He also puts odd things on his head: There was the selfie he posted on Instagram of himself with a Chanel-stamped balaclava, looking like some kind of fashion-forward bank robber. And the paparazzi went wild when they caught him wearing a gas mask.

He keeps getting into scrapes. He has scuffled with paparazzi, tussled with the managers of a luxury Paris hotel, exchanged angry words with his neighbor in Calabasas, Calif., disturbed about Bieber racing his Ferrari in the street at night. Bieber showed up so late for a concert in London, he was booed by infuriated fans and their parents.

In his last year of teenager-hood, Bieber is either grabbing all these headlines in a deliberate, if awkward, effort to promote himself, or he's in the midst of the usual growing-up period of mistakes and gaffes - with the whole world watching.

Robyn Silverman, a professional speaker, author and specialist on teen development, thinks it's the latter. All teens go through "identity development," she says.

"Most teens work through this in private but because he's a mega-superstar, we're all watching it take place in his tight, glass box," she says. "It looks to me like he wants to break out of it in some way."

Actor Donnie Wahlberg, 43, a former member of New Kids on the Block, remembers what it was like to grow up while being famous.

"Justin Bieber's making mistakes that everyone makes and he's probably trying things and exploring things that most kids his age explore, but the problem is he's got 50 paparazzi chasing him around when he does it," Wahlberg told The Associated Press.

Moreover, the coverage of Bieber's recent antics begins to look a little as if the media and the non-Beliebers are piling on.

"During our teen years, we make a lot of mistakes but they're made at a time when the stakes are low," says Silverman. "When you're under such pressure to perform and in the limelight all the time, the stakes are immediately high because people have opinions about everything you do. People love to be snarky."

Fuller points out that Bieber is no typical teen - he has no time to be typical, so his acting out is a little more extreme, she says. It didn't help, she says, when he and girlfriend Selena Gomez split up, although the two may (or may not) be back together. Again.

"I really believe she was grounding for him, she was his best friend, she understood him," Fuller says. "He really began acting out after the split. But he will regain his footing."

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