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Justin Bieber Really Needs to Say Sorry For His Lip-Syncing India Debut

The global pop sensation deadpanned his way through most part of the show in Mumbai

Rolling Stone India May 11, 2017
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Justin Bieber - Mumbai 2017

Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber performing his hit track “Sorry” at his concert in Mumbai last night.

Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium was a sea of post-puberty pimples, braces and flustered parents as thousands of excitable teenage fans thronged to watch Justin Bieber live in India for the first time. Who knew they would end up only watching him live and not, erm, singing ”˜live’!

It’s not every day that a star as popular as Bieber performs in India. So when it does happen, the hype around it all is understandable. Expectations ride high and whether you are a fan or not, there is general curiosity about just how big the show would be. In the days leading up to Bieber’s Purpose Tour in India, the entire country seemed to catch the infamous #BieberFever; fans gushed about him on social media while the media went into overdrive speculating the scale of the concert.

On the day of the gig, fans braved enormous traffic to make the journey to the stadium and then stewed in sweltering heat for hours. The least they deserved was an artist that sang on stage!

 Pre-teen paranoia

We arrived just as the last of the three opening acts, the Norwegian DJ/producer Alan Walker, was finishing his set (with the immensely popular “Faded,” no less). The stadium was humid with the kind of chaotic energy you might have witnessed at a Nineties’ birthday party at the then-newly opened McDonald’s””bored parents hung out in groups at the fringes even as slightly nervy teenagers tried to act cool.

Needless to say, the 65,000-strong crowd was unbelievably young and if you were between the non-kid/non-parent ages of 19-30 years, you immediately felt out of place. Pre-teens surfed on their parents’ shoulders while the slightly older lot strutted around in Bieber merchandise (“Bieber is Bae,” said one T-shirt), setting new records for group selfies.

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Whatever happened to the mind-blowing production?

One good look around the stadium and you knew the show relied on big marketing gimmicks; where was the mind-boggling lighting, the massive 51-ton stage set-up and the several huge screens? The basic main stage, ramp and three big screens didn’t do anything to excite us. And what about the free water, White Fox India? (We shelled out a hundred bucks for a bottle of water inside the venue.)

Justin Bieber - Mumbai 2017

It’s unbelievable how Bieber didn’t give the slightest fucks about his India debut.

A lip-syncing, bored Bieber

It’s unbelievable how Bieber didn’t give the slightest fucks about his India debut. He performed the entire 90-minute set with the kind of enthusiasm you would expect from a robot, save for a couple of moments where he did seem to come alive and throw a magnanimous hello at the audience.

He started the set with the Purpose album prelude “Mark My Words,” moving on to the crowd favorite “Where Are Ãœ Now.” A few more tracks down (“Get Used To It” and “I’ll Show You”) and it was clear that Bieber was in no mood to indulge the crowd. And in no mood to sing either. Most of the songs he performed were plus-ones, meaning he was lip-syncing over a pre-set track that had his studio vocals. And the lip-sync was so amusingly sloppy (at one point, he was wiping his face with a handtowel while the vocal track played in the background!”), it felt that Bieber really doesn’t give a shit about his Indian fans. Or maybe that’s how he is.

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He deadpanned his way through most of the first half till it was time to wield his secret weapon, the acoustic guitar. He (live) sang two songs””“Cold Water” and “Love Yourself”, strumming the guitar and emoting for a change. Acoustic Bieber wasn’t half as bad.

Justin Bieber - Mumbai 2017

He (live) sang two songs””“Cold Water” and “Love Yourself”, strumming the guitar and emoting for a change. Acoustic Bieber is not half as bad.

Other relatively stand-out moments from his performance included his album’s title track “Purpose.” He sat down on the edge of the stage, making eye-contact with and whispering “I Love You” to  at least two dozen palpitating kids. He didn’t even need to ask the crowd to pull out the ‘ocean of lights’ shtick; it happened by itself and he did seem a tiny bit overwhelmed by it all.  By the time he pulled “Baby” out of the hat, the crowd had gone a little berserk. Restless parents had even started asking around, “’Sorry’ bajaya kya abhi tak? [Has he played “Sorry” yet?]”


Bieber finally woke up properly towards the end of the show when he brought out two of the most powerful songs in his arsenal: “What Do You Mean” and “Sorry.” The stadium went dark for a bit even as the audience chanted “Sorry!” on repeat, almost as if offering a choral apology, which ideally should have come from the other side. This one track saw Bieber more enthusiastic than he had been for the entire show. He jumped all over the stage, ran up and down the center ramp before acknowledging White Fox India’s founder/director Arjun Jain, who had magically appeared onstage, looking oddly triumphant about a lackluster show!

With a customary wave of the Indian flag by a dancer and massive group hug, the show ended almost too abruptly, leaving us all a little stunned. And very, very disappointed. Bieber, India needs an apology.

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