Tabetha DeGroot- Staff Writer
We currently live in the wild west of music. Anything goes and anything can gain a following around these parts. In this new age of music streaming, worlds collide, resulting in a sometimes-jarring effect. A playlist can range from explicit rap to Christian contemporary, depending on the taste of the playlist composer. The same can be said for artists themselves, as the evolution of global music makers from secular to Christian seems to be a new trend, now giving the term “Belieber” a whole new meaning.
We were amused when Kanye started rapping about Chick-Fil-a; but now, none other than the swooshy-haired king of bubblegum pop himself has crossed over to the Christian scene. Justin Bieber has become more vocal (pun intended) about his faith lately but remains sonically grounded in the secular pop neighborhood. Bieber’s new single Holy balances a strange limbo between gospel and just another tune to play over the speakers at a Forever 21.
Upon the first listen, Holy contains all the elements of a Christian contemporary song. In fact, while I was playing it during lunch one day, (for research purposes) one of my friends asked, “Is this Chris Tomlin?” It has the safe, easy-to-follow, flow of a praise song backed by a trap beat and piano chords. It’s a calm vibe affectionally dubbed “R&Beiber” by some.
These soft cords located at the start of the song and right before the climax invoke a tenderness and serenity much needed in a time like this. And with the help of another outspoken Christian, Chance the Rapper, the song holds potential, but falls a bit flat at the end. The first verse had me curious, the first chorus had me bopping my head when the beat came in, but the rest left me a bit bored. The repetitious chorus gets stuck in your head, but the song relies on that a bit too much.
With a closer look at the lyrics, it becomes apparent that faith is more of a background character than the star of this song. “I might go down to the river,” Bieber sings, seeming to reference baptism. This is followed by “running to the alter like a track star.”
The song then takes a swift turn when it says, “I don’t believe in nirvana/ But the way that we love in the night gave me life.” Pick a vibe, Justin. Is Holy about faith, or about the personal messiah you have found in your wife? It seems to be a strange hybrid of both.
Don’t get me wrong, Holy is the best we could hope for after Yummy, which some might crown as the greatest trial of 2020. The lyrics are sincere and mature, two words I never thought I would use to describe Justin Bieber. And the lines featuring Chance the Rapper carry probably the deepest and most prominent Christian themes: “I’m a believer, my heart is fleshy….I wanna honor, wanna honor you, bride’s groom, I’m my father’s child.” It’s not your typical “Christian” song, but it’s also not a typical pop song, content wise.
From a Christian music standpoint, it is not the new Oceans. Holy will not find a home in the set at your next church service or chapel. It focuses a lot on human love and contains a healthy dose of pop culture in it, like when it says, “pimps and the players say, ‘Don’t go crushin.’” But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we need something in between Friday night and Sunday morning. Pop songs rarely talk about God, and Christian music shies away from any sort of “worldly” references. I am not saying Christian songs need to be explicit to be accurate, but they often convey the feeling of living in a nice Christian bubble all the time. Holy conveys the feeling of existing as a part of the real world while still acknowledging God’s presence. This is not to say the theology of the song is correct or that the focus is entirely edifying, but if you are tired of hopeless pop songs or mundane Christian contemporary, you may find Holy refreshing.
As a whole, Justin Bieber’s new single is neither good nor bad. I would say Holy, along with Bieber’s seemingly new outlook on life, is simply interesting. It is not groundbreaking or controversial (God knows that is the last thing we need right now). Holy is just another addition to the Bieber library that we will probably forget about soon, but if you need a calm vibe while you do your online shopping at Forever 21, give it a listen.