Where once our pop icons caused trouble in the same predictable ways - fights! drugs! - Bieber is putting a creative spin on being naughty. What will he think of next?
Is Justin Bieber the most creative artist working in the music industry right now? It's not a question I thought I'd be asking this year, or even this morning when I woke up. But on hearing the news that he's been arrested for drag racing a yellow Lamborghini (the colour is important, apparently) in Miami Beach while under the influence, a realisation dawned on me.
Whether it's having his monkey detained, cursing a former president, or being caught in possession of eggs without a licence, Bieber appears to have moved outside the genre of naughtiness and towards something approaching artform.
Just compare his work to that of the previous generation's chief troublemaker: Pete Doherty. Back in the mid-00s, when I was working at the NME, the call would regularly come into the office to inform us that Doherty had once again fallen foul of the law. We never sat around discussing what it could be this time. It was never going to be for bungee jumping from Centre Point while dressed as the Honey Monster, or for being unable to control his pet anteater in Telford train station. It was always for possession of drugs. Boring.
In comparison, Bieber is trolling the law. Like a British resident attempting to mock our arcane legal system by riding a donkey over an iron footbridge between the hours of 6am and 7am while singing the national anthem in a Swiss accent, Bieber is prodding and poking the stuffy establishment into asking themselves why we live as we do. He's testing the very nature of the establishment. He could well be a genius capable of bringing down Western civilisation.
When you put it into this context, bad boys such as Doherty are shown up as basically the Coldplay of trouble, churning out the same material over and over and hoping nobody notices. Bieber, on the other hand, is closer to the Bowie of bad behaviour: a naughtiness chameleon whose next guise is virtually impossible to predict. He could get implicated in a plot to kidnap Guy Goma. He could shoot a giraffe clean in the knackers with a spud gun. But there's no point guessing - because like Bowie himself, Bieber is already three steps ahead of you.
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image: © Joe Bielawa