Bieber is so ubiquitous that’s it’s easy to convince yourself he’s always been around, like Archean rocks, or the Rolling Stones. But the YouTube videos that led to his discovery—small kid with big-voice covers of R&B hits by Chris Brown and Ne-Yo—started appearing just three years ago. The first single, One Time, was released in July 2009, and the first album, My World, came out that November. In little more than a year, the Bieb has topped the charts in 17 countries and sold more than six million discs worldwide. (My World 2.0, released in March 2010, recently passed the two million mark in the U.S., earning double-platinum status.)
He’s the man behind the brilliant, blindingly quick goal that sent this country into a paroxysm of joy at the 2010 Olympic Games. It was, without overstating, the goal that defined the Games themselves, so vivid is its memory, and so deep its impression on the national psyche. As challenging as 2010 has been—with its wars, natural disasters and political upheavals—“the Goal” resides on a higher plane, dwarfing among other things Sidney Crosby’s other achievements, which include a Stanley Cup and a host of personal awards.