In Praise of 'Baby' by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber's song "Baby" was unavoidable in 2010, and for a good reason—it is the perfect pop song. It is perfect the way cheekbones picked out of a Madison Avenue cosmetic surgeon's binder are perfect, the way Ivy League lawns spray-painted green before alumni reunion weekends are perfect, the way the tangling of limbs and appendages in big-budget Hollywood sex scenes are perfect. That is to say, it is the kind of perfection we know is willed into existence by money and helped along by good lighting, a realization that matters little: when has reason ever dampened the sensuous appreciation of perfection?

The indisputably catchy song is just over three-and-a-half minutes long, and the word "baby" is repeated 56 times. That's a "baby" every 4.02 seconds, faster than the 0-to-60 time of a Porsche 911. Ludacris' uncharacteristically wholesome verse references "baby" only once, leaving him out-babied by a factor of 11,385 percent. Looked at another way: Luda has about one-sixth of the singing time on "Baby" but only one-fifty-fifth of the babies; when the song moves from Ludacris to Justin Bieber, we presence a more-than-statistically-significant 784 percent spike in babies if not swagger. This may not be the kind of industry math that wins Grammys--Bieber is nominated for two this year--but a posteriori statistical analysis has its place, helping adults rationalize their fondness for the catalogue of a performer whose fans mail him candy he cannot eat "cause my mom says it might be poisonous."

Bieber sings about Starbucks because it is the only beverage-as-status-marker he can legally consume. If his industry success continues post-puberty, we'll hear him graduate to Patrón and take "I'll buy you any ring" to "This ring here," a move in swagger he can learn from that other Justin, original survivor of teenage stardom's accompanying hair.

Presented by

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is a writer and translator based in New York City and Cambridge, MA.

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