The Biebs is back with new music, blessed by Jesus Christ himself, our Lord, amen.
On Friday the singer released “Holy,” a gospel-biting pop song with a little tambourine here, a little somber church piano there, about feeling God’s embrace in his wife Hailey’s arms and “pimps and players” who criticize him for getting married too young. The song is accompanied by a music video that screams “real Americuh,” with Bieber waking up in the vaguely rural heartland to go to his job as a soiled oil rig worker. There’s a scene where the workers lose their jobs—due to the “current and ongoing global situation,” their boss tells them—and the music video is interspersed with scenes of hardworking nurses and features Wilmer Valderrama as a soldier looking to help out the Biebs, who gets evicted after losing his job. “Oh God! Running to the altar like a track star,” he sings, and fellow pop Christian Chance the Rapper provides a verse. The “holy, holy, holy” refrain, as my colleague Shannon Melero points out, sounds just like the same “holy, holy, holy” refrain of Christian musician Paul Baloche’s “Open The Eyes of My Heart” and also echos the enduring, famous hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”
The video’s *pumps chest* good ol’ American patriotism is a far cry from Bieber’s last single “Yummy.” And yet again I must ask: When is Bieber going to open his megachurch? For years now I’ve wondered when Bieber would swan dive fully into Christian music. His extremely good (no, I won’t hear otherwise) 2015 album Purpose was an almost Franciscan plea for religious salvation delivered as pop music, with Bieber practically flogging himself for forgiveness after years of being music’s baby bad boy. In the years since he has dug deeper into his Christian roots in his personal life, getting married to Hailey Baldwin after a period of celibacy, palling around with celebrity Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz, and talking openly about his love for Christ. But his religious perspective hasn’t leaked overtly into his lukewarm R&B, with his album this year Changes a total bore.
And now we have “Holy,” a blatant grab for Christian audiences and a possible attempt at a rebrand following the failure that was Changes. Worship music is big business; Hillsong United, the band of the church Bieber has been associated with, garners almost 3.5 million weekly listens on Spotify, the BBC News reported last year. So I say to Bieber, just go all in. Think of opening your own megachurch as a Las Vegas residency! You’d never have to tour, you could play shows to screaming fans whenever you want, and as long as you stick with Jesus you’ll never have to confront your failures as a mainstream pop star.