Justin Bieber’s arrest early Thursday morning for driving under the influence, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license will surprise no one who’s been paying attention to the singer’s recent trajectory. Over the last two years, the onetime squeaky-clean pop sensation has made increasingly unsavory headlines, and now faces a potentially serious entanglement with the legal system.
“His image has been in slow decline,” celebrity image consultant Amanda Sanders told TODAY. “He missed his prepubescent rebellious phase, and he’s no longer a sweet kid — now he’s an adolescent, and his fan base is going to change greatly. It’s not planned, but his behavior is a reflection of not wanting to be thought of the same way.”
And he certainly won’t be, not with his blunders — some of the legal sort, some just bad form — from the past few years.
Jan. 14: Los Angeles County sheriff deputies searched Bieber’s Calabasas, Calif., home to search for evidence after he allegedly egged a neighbor’s home. The neighbor estimated there had been $20,000 worth of damage. After executing a search warrant on Bieber’s home, police arrested a visitor on a felony narcotics violation.
Dec. 2013: Bieber sets Twitter aflame tweeting that he’s retiring (after announcing it on a radio show earlier in the month), then appeared to back off with a follow-up tweet.
Aug. 2013: Bieber rubbed a fan’s cell phone on his genitals mid-concert and earned no points with parents.
July 2013: Bieber left his pet capuchin monkey behind in Germany. Customs officials said Bieber owed them $8,000 for “Mally’s” care. (The monkey is now in the care of a shelter after being surrendered by the pop star.)
June 2013: While trying to back out of a space when leaving a comedy club, Bieber was filmed brushing against a paparazzo with his white Ferrari. Police were called to the scene.
May 2013: Police visited Bieber’s home in Los Angeles after neighbors reported his reckless driving.
April 2013: A tour bus search in Sweden led to the discovery of drugs, but no arrests were made. Earlier that same month, Bieber wrote in the Anne Frank House museum’s guestbook that he hoped that Holocaust victim would have been a “belieber.”
March 2013: Bieber’s birthday, the “worst ever” as he tweeted later, led to him and his entourage getting into a scrum at London’s Cirque du Soir nightclub. Also, a neighbor back in Los Angeles accused him of battery, saying he and the singer had argued.
Oct. 2012: The singer didn’t exactly endear himself to the Internet when photos of him being carried up the Great Wall of China hit social media. A month later someone threw a bottle at him during a concert in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
July 2012: Bieber was pulled over after L.A. police found him speeding on the 101 Freeway. City councilman Dennis Zine said he should lose his license and get locked up. “Bieber was driving like a maniac,” added Zine.
May 2012: Bieber reportedly got into a scuffle with a press photographer in Malibu, Calif., and L.A. County sheriffs were said to be investigating. Later that month, police in Calabasas responded to reports that his white Ferrari was being seen racing around the gated community where he lives, though it turned out to be driven by his pal Lil Twist.
Dec. 2011: Police pulled over Bieber for making an “unsafe left turn” in Los Angeles.
Oct. 2011: He was given a verbal warning after cutting off a police cruiser while out driving with friends.
March 2011: Arguably, most of Bieber’s strange multiyear line of behavior can be traced down to him flipping off a photographer. He apologized, but said that the crush of paparazzi had given his then-girlfriend Selena Gomez a swollen lip.
Bieber doesn’t like being compared to Lindsay Lohan, having written, posted and deleted a letter on Instagram in which he said, “I know my talent level and I know I got my head on straight,” then added, “To those comparing me to Lindsey (sic) Lohan, look at her 2012 tax statements.” But Lohan’s decline, and subsequent multiple arrests, was also a series of escalating incidents punctuated by bizarre public behavior similar to Bieber’s.
Celebrities have already weighed in on Bieber’s behavior. In a December interview with Closer Weekly, former teen pop idol Donny Osmond noted, “Everyone thinks he’s still the kid who sang ‘Baby,’ but he’s an adult, and he’s rebelling to show people he’s an adult.” And Mark Wahlberg told U.K. newspaper The Sun during a live web chat, “He’s a teenager. … Everybody’s got a cell phone and paparazzi everywhere. I was in prison before I got a record out and I don’t think he’s been to prison. I don’t think he wants to go.”
Lohan did and has begun her long road back to respectability, but it took a lot of arrests, rehab stints and public shaming before she did. If history is any predictor, Bieber can also recover his image.
“Everybody likes a comeback story,” said Sanders. “You have to fall down to get back up. If he was my client, I’d tell him to lay low — dial down the going out, the entourage, the bling. Maybe try to speak to children about drunk driving. Just lie low until the dust settles, then come back with a fresh look … and perspective.”