I think I’ve mentioned this time and time again (or maybe my brother Jon has); but let me repeat myself once again for us all. When we look down our list of 100 artists who we deem to be influential across all time (not including artists like The Beatles, Queen, Elton John, Elvis Presley, ABBA, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan to name a new- and all of these plus more will be in a separate list of 50 artists who are iconic and timeless no matter what!); while the pattern seems to be that these artists are mostly active at the moment (aside from Carman who sadly passed away earlier this year!), the underlying theme that I’ve found out recently is that all of these 100 artists, though influential and inspiring in their own right, probably have virtually no links to each other. Delirious? is a different artist to Backstreet Boys who in turn is different to Delta Goodrem, The Goo Goo Dolls, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, SEAL, Cimorelli, Jennifer Lopez, Coldplay, Linkin Park, Tenth Avenue North and Skillet. All of these artists (and more) are unique and each of these 100 artists deserve their place within this subjective list… when each artist is analysed on their own merits. Yet wholistically, perhaps some of you may complain that these artists make the list over another arbitrary 100. You may complain and say that I’m not doing my job right or I’m deliberately against a certain artist or artist group (like rap, which has no representatives outside of Lecrae), or that I’m pushing a certain agenda, or that I’m like the left or the right or that I’m too woke or too conservative in including a lot of music artists that lean one way or the other on the political spectrum, or that I don’t have enough Christian artists or that I have too many Christian artists. Regardless on how you view my list- the fact is that it’s just that. It’s a list made up by an average joe. And it certainly holds no weight when compared to other more prestigious lists like Billboard or The Rolling Stone. Jon and myself are just owners of a website that maybe a handful of people in the world actually take the time out to read… and who are we to claim that we have authority over any list we make. Any of you could write up your own list of 100 names- include 100 names that we never did… and guess what? It’ll still be valid. Whatever criteria you use for your lists (and if you want to see our heart for this blog series, read our very first post we made in February 2019 explaining our thought processes!)… well that’s your criteria.
You see, we’re not talking about essential doctrines of Christianity which are immovable. We’re not talking about scientific facts like gravity or the colour of the sky. We’re talking about music artists and your preferences. Yes, that’s right- preferences. Sure, this is a list about influential artists of all time. But definitions of influence differ from person to person. and while you may have the basic broad brushstrokes of what is an influential artist or person (“Your Dictionary” states that The definition of influential is someone or something that has an impact on or shapes how people act or how things occur.), the truth of the matter is that lists are lists are lists are lists. Jon and I hope and pray that you’ve all been changed and impacted by what you’ve read in this series, and we really hope and pray that God has ministered to your soul. We hope and pray that perhaps you’ve gravitated to your new favourite artist who has challenged you and impacted you in your thinking of how the world works. But if this blog series isn’t for you… then by all means, you can hop on along and bypass it, for something else that tickles your fancy. It’s not your duty to read this blog. Jon and I aren’t easily offended. Personally, and I’m sure Jon can attest to this… I think writing about these artists, artists that we previously thought we’d never touch with a ten-foot pole; has been more therapeutic for us that it has been for anyone else, as we ourselves grow as people and as believers in Christ. It’s an added bonus if anyone else is changed by this series- because if it was just ourselves… then even then this blog series is worth it.
And so even if your first impression for a particular artist (like an out-of-left-field artist like Jackie Evancho or Five For Fighting) is negative… then you can stop reading. But how about I challenge all of you? Maybe you can rise above your emotions and feelings and see what God is saying? God is always speaking, but sometimes we aren’t listening that attentively to His voice. And now we’ve come to a popular artist- one artist that has blown up over the past ten years or so. One artist whom I guess the world would say is one of the most popular artists of the world today. An artist who on the surface probably isn’t considered to be an influential artist, but an artist nonetheless whom we have included (albeit a late inclusion!) on a subjective list as this. Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber needs no introduction- and I’m sure you’re probably thinking to yourselves ‘why is he on your list, when he is seemingly popular and not influential at all?’ or ‘why is Justin present, when virtually every other artist present isn’t like him at all, in that he’s probably one of the most popular artists of the 100?’ or ‘is he even influential at all?’.
Well, the hit singer of “Baby” and “As Long As You Love Me” has his fans and his critics alike, and though I’ve had my doubts about Justin over the years (I mean, “Yummy” was bad, can we agree upon that just for a second?); I’ve changed my mind towards him recently, ever since I’ve seen Youtuber Ruslan’s commentary and reaction videos about Justin and a number of the ‘controversial’ things he’s done in the past. Justin is in the process of cleaning up his act at the moment, and he is still a work in progress- I mean we all are. and he’s more on fire for Jesus that I think he’s ever been. He’s still got a long way to go in terms of being a ‘model’ Christian inspiring people in the marketplace; btu when has God ever used perfect people? Justin’s music can sometimes be cringy- there’s no doubt about it. But a deeper look and listen into one of today’s most polarising yet respected music artists, reveals a more complex character, and someone who influences and inspires a whole lot more than we think. Where, therefore, should I start is writing about Justin? Should I start with the fact that “Baby” has become one of the highest certified singles of all time in the U.S.? or should I speak about “10 000 Hours”, his highly successful collaboration with country duo Dan + Shay? Or perhaps his ground-breaking Spanish collaboration “Despacito” with Luis Fonsi? Or should I start off with the fact that with his 2015 album Purpose, Justin set a Guinness World Record by becoming the youngest solo male artist to debut at the top of the Hot 100? Or should I speak at length about Justin’s on-again-off-again relationship with Selena Gomez? There are a lot of layers to Justin Bieber… so how about I start at the beginning? When he was ‘found’ by Scooter Braun and Usher?
Hurt people hurt people—you know? And there’s a quote; I’m trying to remember it. I don’t know if it’s biblical, if it’s in the Bible. But I do remember this quote: The comforted become the comforters. I don’t know if you’ve heard that before. But I really do feel comforted. I have a wife who I adore, who I feel comforted by. I feel safe. I feel like my relationship with God is wonderful. And I have this outpouring of love that I want to be able to share with people, you know? I don’t want to let my shame of my past dictate what I’m able to do now for people. A lot of people let their past weigh them down, and they never do what they want to do because they think that they’re not good enough. But I’m just like: ‘I did a bunch of stupid s***. That’s okay. I’m still available. I’m still available to help. And I’m still worthy of helping.’
[before though…] there was a sense of still yearning for more. It was like I had all this success and it was still like: I’m still sad, and I’m still in pain. And I still have these unresolved issues. And I thought all the success was going to make everything good. And so for me, the drugs were a numbing agent to just continue to get through. I just lost control of my vision for my career. There’s all these opinions. And in this industry, you’ve got people that unfortunately prey on people’s insecurities and use that to their benefit. And so when that happens, obviously that makes you angry. And then you’re this young angry person who had these big dreams, and then the world just jades you and makes you into this person that you don’t want to be. And then you wake up one day and your relationships are f***ed up and you’re unhappy and you have all this success in the world, but you’re just like: Well, what is this worth if I’m still feeling empty inside?
[Music] was supposed to bring such joy. Like, this is what I feel called to do. And my purpose in my life. I know that when I open my mouth, people love to hear me sing. I literally started singing on the streets and crowds would form around me to where I’m like, Okay, this could be something. There’s this reciprocation of: I’m using my gifts to serve people. That’s what I loved so much. And I just think more and more as you’re a kid and you don’t have an identity yet, and you’re trying to figure out who you are, and to have everyone saying how good you are, how incredible you are? You just start to believe that stuff. And ego sets in. And then that’s where insecurities come in. And then you start treating people a certain way and feeling superior and above people. And then there’s this whole dynamic shift. I just woke up one day and I’m just like, Who am I? I didn’t know. And that was scary to me.
Born in 1994, Justin has accomplished a lot throughout his 27 years on this planet. Just take a look at Wikipedia and you’ll be astounded as to what he’s done within an extremely short amount of time. Justin has released probably the catchiest song on the planet (“Baby”) while also probably being one of the songs that is the most annoying- but even if you may gloss over Justin because of this song (like I did); there’s something about his music that keeps drawing you back. You see, I heard about Justin in 2010 from “Baby”, didn’t think anything of it and brushed him off like another child wannabe star. But fortunately (or unfortunately for some!) Justin has stood the test of time; and hasn’t succumbed that much to the pressures of stardom. He has diligently carried on the act of making music that connects with him on a soul level, and dare I say it… his music has value. A pop song is a pop song is a pop song. But Justin’s brand of pop is… different, can I say that? The melodies stir up real emotion and deliver vulnerability and honesty beyond anything I’ve heard a pop star invoke within the past few years… and I don’t make bold statements like that flippantly, or on a whim.
How best would you recruit a future pop star? As a child or as an adult? In the case of Justin, his career started when he was just 15 years old. When he was a teenager. The ins and outs of how he was recruited (by Scooter Braun and Usher) can be read in Justin’s extensive Wikipedia page… but let’s let that sink in for a while. Thrust into the spotlight at 15 years old. Now I don’t know what you all were doing when you were younger, but were you writing songs and releasing albums like Justin was? No? Yes? Or were you all misbehaving in class, unaware and probably even not caring about what the future held? Usually when there’s a highly respected, popular and influential child star in music, TV, film, in Hollywood in general; they’re burnt out very quickly, and by and large they’re across the board and generally jaded by the industry from whence they came. People like Macauley Culkin, Angus T. Jones, Mara Wilson, Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Dove Cameron, Sabrina Carpenter, Shawn Mendes and Jackie Evancho; have all been in the spotlight since they were young… and all of them with varying ways of dealing with their instant fame. Some forsake the industry of Hollywood entirely (like Two And A Half Men star Angus T. Jones) while others lament their roots (like Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus and their opinions about Disney). Are all of them appreciative of where they came from though? Yes, for the most part, I reckon. For Justin specifically though, though he has had his fair share of stumbles and trials; his grounding based in Jesus has maybe given him more of a perspective and philosophical nature compared to his contemporaries. If you consider his many achievements, and the fact that even now Justin is able to worship Jesus and give him the glory (as evidenced in his Freedom EP released this year); well then I’d say that the road Justin has taken is pretty remarkable and astounding.
Do you reckon it’s time for some facts now, or is it time for some facts now? What do you reckon? You see, My World 2.0 (Justin’s first album) debuted atop the Billboard 200, and this made him the youngest solo male act to top the chart in 47 years. Think about that for a second. 47 years! Beating a world record previously held by Stevie Wonder (in 1963 when Stevie was 12); Justin unveiled to us the most recognised and popular single “Baby”, which became one of the highest certified singles of all time in the US. With My World eventually being certified platinum in the US and double platinum in both Canada and the United Kingdom; the debut album also debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, Irish Albums Chart, Australian Albums Chart, and the New Zealand Albums Chart. My World also reached the top 10 of fifteen other countries. For a debut album and being that young… doesn’t that blow your mind? In July 2010, it was also revealed that Justin was… lo and behold! The most searched-for celebrity on the Internet. That same month, his music video for “Baby” surpassed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (2009) as the most viewed, and also the most disliked, YouTube video at the time– and this was overtaken in 2015 by Taylor Swift’s video for her single “Blank Space”. Also in 2010, it was reported that Justin accounted for 3% of all traffic on Twitter, according to an employee of the social-networking site. I don’t know if that was a legit stat, or whether 3% is a big number… but regardless, for all of these things to be happening at this time; no doubt it would’ve been overwhelming, right? For Justin to promote My World; he also performed on several live shows such as mtvU’s VMA 09 Tour, European program The Dome, YTV’s The Next Star, The Today Show, The Wendy Williams Show, Lopez Tonight, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, It’s On with Alexa Chung, Good Morning America, Chelsea Lately, and BET’s 106 & Park. I haven’t seen any of these interviews… yet I’d imagine he was articulate for a teenager. I mean, he’s still here right now making music; so I guess all of that exposure at such a young age didn’t’ harm him that much… or at least that’s what I reckon!
I thought about writing about the main facts and details about Justin’s entire career first up, and then going back to speak about the songs… then I figured that perhaps that wouldn’t be the best use of my time, and that I’d be somewhat repeating myself (if something about his career was directly linked to the theme of a song!). As such, let me instead dive into album #1, shall I? and then let’s go from there. And what a better way to start than with “Baby”. It’s the song that everyone knows, and the song that Justin is synonymous for. Although the most hated video on YouTube; “Baby” speaks about the persona being broken up with his ex, and still wanting them back. A pop song to its core, Justin earnestly declares that he’s still in love with his ex. A song in which I’m not sure whether it’s autobiographical or not; Justin co-wrote this timeless classic… and maybe it could be autobiographical. Anyway, perhaps the video is hated for the dancing or the actions or the fact that Justin was just a kid, and may not known what he was singing about. Regardless… the video is cringy and so is the song. But it’s THAT song that has allowed Justin to blow up the way that he has. So shouldn’t we praise the melody instead of pretend that it doesn’t exist?
The rest of My World (the EP My World and the album My World 2.0) remind us of how much talent Justin actually had back then. He had loads, and it’s easy to tell from these albums in particular that he was going to be a big star. “One Time”, Justin’s first single which released in 2009, is a pop/R&B song about teenage puppy ‘love’ and infatuation-and it’s hard to believe it was actually his first single… but for some reason, the track I find is even catchier than “Baby”; while “One Less Lonely Girl”, another relationship song, speaks about how there’s going to be one less lonely girl in the world when a girl is with Justin- he is going to treat her right and with kindness, dignity and respect. Ultimately, the song in hindsight was about his wife Hailey, but during 2009… perhaps it was about a fictitious girl. Nevertheless, this track speaks about fighting for who you want, being serious, and taking a step of faith. “Somebody To Love” (no, not the Queen melody!), is a pop/dance melody also remixed with Usher, that speaks about humanity’s need for love in their lives, and specifically the persona’s want for a romantic love with a potential partner; while “U Smile”, a piano pop melody that is extremely catchy, moving and powerful, delves into true happiness and the fact that we as people can be indirectly happy via directly making other people happy.
Though the bulk of My World (both the album and the EP) isn’t targeted to my demographic and hence I can’t fully love and appreciate these songs for what they are; the fact remains that a number of these songs are wholistically powerful, compelling, and inspiring. “Never Let You Go” is a synth and electronics driven EDM melody, and is once again about a relationship and about Justin pursuing a girl, letting her know that he’s never going to let her go; while the heartbreaking and emotional “That Should Be Me” is a slow-tempo ballad lamenting about a lost love. With the melody also being re-recorded with Rascal Flatts, the song morphs into a version that sounds more dynamic and fuller, but also more of a stalker-ish melody similar to “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. In fact most of My World is full of relationship songs… and though on the surface it’s pretty cute and innocent to heart Justin sing these intense and emotional ballads… the fact is that when you think about it, the words from a young boy to a girl (presumably older?) would be creepy and unwelcome. If a young boy sung “Baby” to a girl now… boy, I reckon he would be shunned and made a pariah. But… that’s now, and Justin started over ten years ago, so shall we give Justin a bit more grace?
“Kiss And Tell”, on the surface about the persona asking their partner to keep their new relationship a secret from everyone else, is one of the few tracks present from Justin’s debut album that has a double meaning, as Justin emphatically speaks about having a secret no one knows about, that especially celebrities need to have their space so that they can breathe and behave like normal people for once. It’s a departure from the relationship-heavy melodies from My World, and actually adds depth to the track-listing. “Love Me”, an EDM melody, is where Justin pleads with his partner, asking them to declare that they love him unequivocally and unconditionally; while the dance prominent pop tune “Favorite Girl” borders on obsessive and creepy (particularly when Justin speaks about having a ‘favorite’ girl, and that she’s his ‘possession’). “Eenie Meenie”, with Sean Kingston, speaks about a girl’s indecisiveness, and that she should make up her mind and not string other people along, because there are real feelings involved; while “Up” is an inspirational, though-provoking and comforting melody, speaks about the fact that at a couple’s lowest point, when they fight or when they disagree, the only way to go is to move up. A song that speaks about sticking it out and pushing through in the hard times; “Up”, along with “Kiss And Tell” and “That Should Be Me” (with Rascal Flatts); anchors the entirety of My World. The fact that the concept of the debut project was about relationship songs when Justin was incredibly young and maybe not mature enough to perform these songs, and the fact that he just went ahead and did it anyway; shows us bravery, courage, tenacity, and determination is present in this young man. It was someone venturing out of their comfort zone, and wanting to try something new. So I must say that Justin needs congratulations for this album in particular.
Even though My World the EP and the album didn’t really connect with me, the album saw plenty of accolades, awards and nominations. So naturally… Justin kept going. It made sense, don’t you think? And thus, what to do after you’ve had an extremely successful album and you want to promote plenty of singles from the album? Why, you unveil a Christmas album as your next album! And that’s exactly what Justin did! Under The Mistletoe, released in 2011, became the first Christmas album by a male artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, and contains covers of classic, well-known holiday songs, as well as a few originals. Tons of collaborations are featured here as well… and there’s just something here that makes the album a joy and an honour to listen to- even when it’s not Christmas! The quasi-title track and original melody “Mistletoe”, speaks about wanting to spend the holidays under the mistletoe with your partner than with your parents and friends, while Justin employs Mariah Carey to perform her classic hit “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as a duet- a track which is infinitely enhanced to the max. “Drummer Boy” with Busta Rhymes, is essentially a brand new song (like TobyMac and his version of “O Come all Ye Faithful”), with a new melody and new lyrics; and with Justin and Busta reminding us about the true reason for the season- this melody is a standout in an album full of standouts. “Only Thing I Ever Get For Christmas”, another original from Justin in this holiday album, speaks about Justin’s thankfulness and gratitude in the event that the only thing he gets for Christmas is the love from his partner; while the cheesy and cliché duet “Fa La La” is with Boyz II Men, and vibrantly reminds us that that one of Justin’s goal every Christmas is for the girl he likes- to make her heart go ‘fa la la la la’- in essence, to impress the girl during the holidays. “Christmas Eve”, “All I Want Is You” and “Home This Christmas” are the remaining original tracks present on Under The Mistletoe. The former is a relationship type style of song, singing about wanting to be the girl’s date during Christmas Eve; the middle song speaks about how all Justin wants this Christmas is his girlfriend; and the latter song, sung with The Band Perry, is in the vein of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” lyrically, as well as drawing upon similar themes as TobyMac’s “Bring On The Holidays”. “Someday At Christmas”, previously recorded by Stevie Wonder, is another personal highlight of mine. Yet my absolute favourite from Under The Mistletoe, is the prayerful, worshipful and powerful anthem “Pray”. As Justin sends out a blanket prayer and lets us know that especially during Christmas ‘…I know there’s sunshine behind that rain, I know there’s good times beyond that pain, hey, can you tell me, how I can make a change? I pray for the broken-hearted, I pray for the life not started, I pray for all the lungs not breathing, I pray for all the souls in need, I pray, can you give ’em one today? I just can’t sleep tonight, can someone tell me how to make a change?…’ this song could be considered as a watered-down prayer and not going hard enough at the real reason for the season. However, I firmly believe that “Pray” will (and probably has) struck up plenty of conversations and healthy discussion over the dinner table of faith, religion, and helping those in need. It’s a social justice song, and I’m extremely glad that Justin has recorded such a relevant and inspiring melody!
Believe, in 2012, saw Justin experiment with dance-pop and mature themes, and was a departure from the overtly positive, jovial and sunny relationship-style poppy songs. It was this album that announced to the world that Justin was a bonifide pop star- and I reckon this was the album in which people took him more seriously. The lead single “Boyfriend” became Justin’s first single ever to reach the top position on the Canadian Hot 100 by debuting at number one and staying that way one week. Musically and lyrically, this was markedly different from what Justin previously recorded. Gone were the sunny dispositions and here to stay was the dark broody angsty melodies. Dance/pop and R&B were present heavily music-wise, and Justin also collaborated with a wide range of urban producers for the release as well as some long-time collaborators, including Darkchild, Hit-Boy, Diplo, and Max Martin. “Boyfriend” lyrically speaks about a subject matter already spoken about in his debut album- that if he was with his girl, he wouldn’t let her go- but given Justin’s deeper voice on the 3rd album, such a lyrically similar song felt more believable than the creepy boy/band-ish tracks prior. Believe the album, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming his fourth number-one album; with the project selling 57,000 copies in its first week in Canada, debuting atop the Canadian Albums Chart as well.
“As Long As You Love Me”, sharing the name with the popular Backstreet Boys hit melody, is an intense pop/R&B melody with Big Sean on guest vocals in a rap. With the song featuring a pretty out-there music video, the song is a personal highlight on the album, as Justin sings out that all he just needs in life to be content is his love from his girlfriend, that ‘…as long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke, as long as you love me, I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold…’. This song also reminds us that cultivating relationships and ensuring that friendships and relationships are strengthened, means so much more that material possessions. That if we don’t have material possessions, but do have our relationships; then we’ll be fine. And that’s a sentiment I can get behind! “Beauty And A Beat”, with Nicki Minaj, is a fun, house-party pop jam that is fit for inclusion on a DJ or dance playlist; while Justin sings with Drake on “Right Here”- a soul/R&B/hip-hop ballad about promising their significant other to be all that they need. For me personally, this song didn’t really connect with me as Drake’s vocals overall don’t impress me that much; however, this collaboration, plus others that Justin has undertaken, really prove to us all that Justin isn’t a boy anymore. He’s grown up, he’s a man and he’s reminding us all, that he’s here to stay. “All Around The World”, an EDM track with Ludacris outlining that people from all walks of life long and desire to be loved and accepted, reminds us all of the staying power of Justin at this point in 2012- the live music video of the track shows an insane number of ‘Beliebers’ lining up for Justin’s concert… and does this mean popularity or influence? You be the judge, I reckon!
“Die In Your Arms”, whereby Justin employs soul, R&B and funk in the in the track, has Justin channelling his inner Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. A song where Justin speaks about wanting and loving a person so badly so much so that he’d be happy to die in their arms, reminds us that true love is real love- that unending self-sacrificing love that we all should strive to have. “Be Alright”, a semi-inspirational melody, speaks about how everything will be alright in the end, and that we all just have to believe in ourselves; and speaking of believing, the title track is another impacting and hopeful melody that didn’t receive the radio airplay that it deserved. Radio friendly in nature, the pop melody is written directly for the fans, as Justin thanks them for believing in him and helping him through some tough times. As Justin eloquently relays that ‘…everything starts from something, but something would be nothing, nothing, if your heart didn’t dream with me, where would I be if you didn’t believe?…’, we are glimpsed into the power of faith and the power of belief. If one person believes in you, does it make all the difference? And if Justin’s song “Believe” in turn impacts one person’s life with no one else aside from Justin believing in her, does this mean Justin is now instantly influential or is he still just popular?
Purpose followed the widely respected and popular Believe, and the 2015 album was released to critical acclaim. The album was preceded by the stand alone single “Where Are Ü Now”, a collaboration with Jack Ü; and it was in this song where Justin dived deep into EDM, and the song won the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording in 2016. With Justin also setting a Guinness World Record by becoming the youngest solo male artist to debut at the top of the Hot 100; the song “What Do You Mean” also broke the record for the fastest song to reach number one on US iTunes, reaching the top spot in under 5 minutes. “Sorry”, the second single from Purpose, debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and after eight non-consecutive weeks at number two; “Sorry” climbed to the top of the chart and became Justin’s second number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100. “Love Yourself” (Justin’s 3rd single from Purpose) also peaked at number one in the U.S.- and this made Justin the first male artist in almost a decade to have three number-ones from an album since Justin Timberlake last did it with his album FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006. All of this means that Purpose should have been great and extremely impressive. But was it?
For me personally, I’d say that Purpose is extremely impressive, impacting, moving, inspiring, emotional, vulnerable and honest. “What Do You Mean” reached number 1 in many countries (Canada, Australia, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the U.S.); and lyrically the song is about questioning the indecisiveness of the other person in the relationship, although the subject matter can extend to people in general. With Justin fervently relaying to us ‘…what do you mean? Oh, oh, when you nod your head yes, but you wanna say no, what do you mean? Hey, yeah, when you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean? Oh, what do you mean? Said you’re runnin’ outta time, what do you mean? Oh, oh, oh, what do you mean? Better make up your mind, what do you mean?…’, we are met with an ultimatum of sorts. A song where two people are at an impasse and one person is being all vague and indecisive just for the sake of it, this song is just the right intensity and bluntness, and hopefully the catalyst where someone can actively make a positive change. “Sorry”, rumoured to be about ex Selena, is a dance pop number that Justin has also mentioned is an apology to the world, presumably for all of the mistakes he has done and the mistakes the world has perceived that he’s done: It’s kind of the stamp in the end of all of the apologies that I’m giving, like to the people [and] to the media… Putting a song out saying ‘Sorry’ is the icing on the cake and I’m just ready to move on. I just want to let people know that for a while i feel like I lost my purpose and I’m gaining it back… and I feel like it’s so important that everyone finds their purpose… so basically my message is that no matter how far you feel away from who you were, or who you think you were, or whether you’re lost, there’s always room to grow and always room to find your purpose; while “Love Yourself” is Justin throwing shade at his ex, presumably Selena Gomez. Now we at the site have an extreme amount of respect for Selena, and we’ve blogged about her here. And though I don’t know the ins and outs of Justin and Selena’s tumultuous relationship from start to end; the reality is that this song is by extension about any relationship that has gone bad for any reason. Co-written with Ed Sheeran, “Love Yourself” was meant for Ed’s album according to Ed himself: ‘Love Yourself’ was a song I had written for Divide. It just wouldn’t have made it and then Justin [Bieber] took it and did his thing on it and released it as a single and made it what it is, so going from a song that would have never been released to – it was the biggest song of last year, it just became Billboard #1 of 2016 of the whole year, and be nominated for “Song of the Year” at the GRAMMYs – it just shows you that you shouldn’t always write stuff off; and though he’s not bitter about the song being a hit for Justin… it just goes to show you that the timing of songs is important. Lyrically, the track speaks about really loving yourself and understanding yourself before you fully commit to a relationship… so shall we say that this track is a challenge for us to be active in how we treat ourselves and those around us?
“Company”, a track I personally didn’t care for, is a pop/EDM track about wanting to keep a girl company, and a reminder that we all need to be present in the moment and spend time with those we cherish and deem to be important to us; while “I’ll Show You” is a diss and an intense moment directed to the haters and to critics. With Justin being in the spotlight for so long, and him being criticised for numerous things, “I’ll Show You” is a response that proves to us all that Justin is all about proving the doubters wrong, and ‘showing’ people up. As Justin emphatically relays that ‘…life’s not easy, I’m not made out of steel, don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real, act like you know me, but you never will, there’s one thing that I know for sure, I’ll show you…’; we are met with an energetic, high-octane melody that no doubt will change whatever preconceptions we may have about Justin and his brand of pop music. With Justin outlining that he’s just like you and me, we are encouraged to not place celebrities on pedestals, and we are encouraged to also have some allowance for celebrities to make mistakes. All people aren’t perfect- only Jesus Christ is. So why do we act as if our heroes and role models and idols can do no wrong?
I moved in with my girlfriend when I was 18. Started my own life with her. It was a marriage kind of thing. Living with a girl, it was just too much at that age. But we were so in love. Nothing else mattered. We were all about each other. But when it’s like that and you get your value from that, people will always disappoint you. Your girl or your dude, they’re always going to disappoint you. Your full identity can’t be in that person. My identity was in her. Her identity was in me. When stuff would happen, I would lose my freakin’ mind, and she would lose her mind, and we would fight so hard because we were so invested in each other. Love is a choice. Love is not a feeling. People have made it seem in movies that it’s this fairy tale. That’s not what love is. You’re not gonna want to love your girl sometimes but you’re gonna choose to love her. That’s something in life that I had to figure out. I can’t lean on people. I got to lean on God. I gotta trust in him through all my situations. Then, hopefully, my other relationships will flourish around me. But if I’m gonna be so invested in you, if you die, or something happens to you, I’m gonna be so destroyed, I won’t be able to go on. If I can love you and know that I’m not who I am because you’re being nice to me, but that I love you and I think you’re an incredible person but you’re just as broken as I am on the inside. We’re all just trying to figure it out.
All throughout Purpose, we are presented with a sense of added maturity; and I was deeply impressed and captivated by a number of powerful and eloquent melodies. With Justin’s maturity shining through on “Home To Mama”; this track is sung with Cody Simpson. The melody, however, is only present on the Japan version of Purpose; however the message still remains- the electric guitar led acoustic melody is a no-nonsense tune about wanting to form a long-term relationship with the persona’s partner. It’s a sweet love song that encourages us all to actively seek after what we want in life (not limited to potential romantic partners); and the track is nice and easy to listen to. “The Feeling”, with Halsey, is a stirring and emotive duet and a pop melody that questions whether we believe that we’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of being in love; while “Children” is a social statement about being the change we all want to see in this world, with Justin eloquently crying out and asking ‘…who’s got the heart? Who’s got it?, Whose heart is the biggest?, Wear it on your sleeve, bet we can make a difference…’. “Mark My Words”, a 2-minute semi-spoken word piece, is a track inspired by his break-up with Selena Gomez; yet it is the title track that I feel is the most inspiring song on the album. “Purpose”, a heart-warming, powerful and resounding piano ballad, is an album highlight, as well as an overt statement from Justin about his faith in God, that ‘…I put my all into your hands, here’s my soul to keep, I let you in with all that I can, You’re not hard to reach, and You bless me with the best gift, that I’ve ever known, You give me purpose, yeah, You’ve given me purpose…’. It’s probably the only song from Justin at this point that spoke about his faith in Jesus- and though the song didn’t chart that highly, I reckon any song that brings about discussion of matters of faith and the eternal realm, is a really good thing, and something we all need to congratulate Justin for.
I think, again, I was dealing with a lot of fear, a lot of just… was afraid of, at that point, just even the process. What am I going to talk about again? Is it going to be received? I’m starting to compare with other artists. I think when I went on stage with Ariana Grande, I seen the reaction of how people reacted when I went on the stage. It was like, ‘Okay.’… it gave me kind of a boost of confidence and reminded me because it’d been so long since I’d been on stage. Just kind of reminded me what… Oh, this is what I do. This is what I’m good at. And I don’t need to run away from it. I was… I was running away. I think a lot of us need to take that when something’s hard. It’s almost like we need to run towards the pain and run towards the hurt rather than run away from it. I think you get kind of healing when it comes to that.
I just feel like there’s so much to look forward to. I’m really excited. I’m emotional thinking about it. I’m just excited to have babies with you [Hailey]. I’m excited to just enjoy and just celebrate all the amazing things that we’ve been given, because we are blessed, babe. We talk about it all the time. We just have a thing where we just say, ‘We’re so blessed.’ We are, man. There’s so much pain in the world and we don’t understand why. And there’s so much things that are so unexplainable, but what is the reality? We are blessed, you know? It’s hard, that dichotomy of like, how can we mourn the loss of someone and accept that we are still blessed? I think that’s a really hard thing to discover, but I think when you get there, it’s a beautiful place to be.
I’m not entirely a fan of R&B, but for Justin’s next full length album Changes (in 2020- 5 years after Purpose), Justin indeed delved into a genre that we haven’t heard from him before. And though for me it was a stretch to connect with some of these songs (I for one prefer Purpose and Believe over Changes!); there still is merit in an album like this. Plus, it’s Justin’s first full length album in 5 years, so he’s gotta have something to say, am I right? Well… there are good points here and some not so good ones. “Yummy”, directed to Justin’s wife Hailey, is one of the underwhelming tracks (that is the lead single!), whereby Justin uses food analogies to make his point about his wife’s attractiveness and her ‘yumminess’. For me, the less said about this track the better. Although the two remixes of this song (the Summer Walker mix and the country mix with Florida Georgia Line) make this track a little bit interesting… it’s not enough for me to instantly love the song, nor persuade me to listen to the song again any time soon. Grady Smith’s analysis of “Yummy” further cemented my line of thinking that this song is just… bad on so many levels, yet with Changes debuting atop the Billboard 200, thus making Justin the youngest solo artist to have seven albums reach number one in the U.S., breaking a 59-year-old record held by Elvis Presley; we are met by one of the most popular, respected, marketable, hip, fresh, relevant and relatable artists in the world at the moment. With Justin arguably doing something right for him to still be here (I firmly believe that it’s because of the honesty and vulnerability)… can I still say that Changes nonetheless isn’t my favourite from Justin’s discography?
After the low point of “Yummy”, anything else should be higher than that, right? “Intentions”, featuring Migos rapper Quavo, is a slow summer-jam of an anthem and speaks about Justin thanking his in-laws for raising Hailey to be the best woman she is today; while the powerful, hard-hitting electronics driven “Forever” speaks about staying committed to your partner and features Post Malone and Clever. It’s a song that musically doesn’t get off the ground, and a song that I for one never felt connected with. Nonetheless, “Forever” is earnest, honest and personal… and what more could you want from Justin if it’s not true authenticity? “Get Me”, with R&B singer Kehlani, is an R&B track that speaks about a couple’s yearning and desire to be compatible with each other and for both of them to ‘get’ the other person; while the title track is an emotional, personal and honest examination and depiction of all of the changes Justin has had in his life, and that in the song Changes it actually talks about how some days we want to push further and some days we feel like doing nothing. And that often comes with a mood and an attitude towards life. Sometimes when life throws you things you can’t control and naturally your attitude is to be upset or to be disappointed or discouraged. But when you fight through those feelings that are just feelings in the end of the day you choose to put your effort into your work or into your passion and find that drive… Life is worth living. And if you’re not going to give up the only thing to do is push forward. The song may be only 2 minutes… but can I say that it’s the most important 2 minutes of the album? “Available”, a song whereby Justin lets Hailey know that he’s available to her whenever she needs and wants him, is a beautiful song again directed to Hailey; while “That’s What Love Is”, a smooth acoustic guitar led summer-jam, is an exquisite encapsulation of what true love is. And though there are a few underwhelming songs on Changes, like the first single that shall remain nameless which actually brings the vibe of the entire album down; Justin still needs to be congratulated for his effort of stepping out of the box and doing something new. It’s easy to stay in your lane musically, but Justin has evolved musically, and Changes will always reflect that deeper maturity and the intense love Justin has for Hailey.
Two albums in 2 years? Maybe Justin is making up for lost time- considering there was a 5-year gap between Purpose and Changes. Regardless, I have found myself over the past couple of weeks resonating with Justice over Changes, simply because the subject matter is about… well, justice, which is more universally relatable and relevant than the blanketed vague ‘changes’. For it seems that on this recent 2021 album, Justin’s songs are slightly more focused. For me though Purpose and Believe will always have a place in my hearts, but Justice is a close third behind those two albums. With the album comprising of the hit single “Peaches”, Justice broke quite a number of records, and cemented Justin’s role and influence in pop history. With Justice debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 (this became Justin’s eighth number-one project); “Peaches” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Justin’s seventh number-one single. And because of these simultaneous unique feats, Justin became the first solo male artist in history to simultaneously debut at No. 1 on both Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts. He joins only BTS (band) and Taylor Swift (female artist) in having achieved this feat; while Justin also currently ties Drake as the male soloist with the most number-one debuts in Billboard Hot 100 history.
What good are achievements on an album though, if the music and lyrics don’t deliver? And to me, Justice delivered much, much more than Changes did, despite the good intentions of every track except for “Yummy”. In September 2020, Justin unveiled a collaboration with Chance The Rapper, and “Holy” was born as the first single from Justice. Lyrically, the track is a love song at its core, with Justin drawing parallels from his relationship with God and comparing it to the love he has for Hailey. It’s a strange thing, when mainstream artists use religion and God as tools and metaphors for their earthly love for their partners. Justin and Chance The Rapper do this a-plenty in “Holy”, with great skill and professionalism no doubt. But with a song title like “Holy”, I was expecting a gospel song- and does this mean that the clearly ‘earthly’ relationship-driven song is blasphemous? No matter where you stand on if you believe in God or not, there’s no denying Justin’s faith. According to song facts, Justin renewed his faith in 2014 and became baptised by Carl Lentz, while Chance The Rapper became baptised in 2019. Is this song a teeny bit religious and spiritual? Maybe… I mean Christian review website New Release Today unveiled a news article about Justin… so I guess the song “Holy” has gone way beyond the corners of mainstream radio and into all areas of the marketplace. And for those who aren’t believers of Jesus, can this song bring people closer to God? At first glance, you might say no, but who are we to judge the mysterious ways of God? For me, “Holy” is a catchy song, and it’s not anything super deep… but for anything that brings the discussion back to Jesus, I’ll definitely be super grateful for, thus, Justin has to be celebrated and congratulated for the lead single from Justice… for it’s overt and covert message about relationships and faith respectively; and for the stunning and picturesque music video as well!
Beyond “Holy”, there are quite a number of standout songs from Justice, that are just great pop songs in general, that lift us up when we’re down, and inspire us to be better people as we learn and grow from our mistakes. “Anyone” from Justin is probably one of the most played songs of 2021 (aside from “Driver’s License” from Olivia Rodrigo, of course!), and the 3-minute laid-back piano pop number is a melody that soothes the soul and lifts the spirits. Once again dedicated to his wife Hailey, Justin emphatically declares that ‘…you are the only one I’ll ever love, I gotta tell ya, gotta tell ya, yeah, you, if it’s not you, it’s not anyone, I gotta tell ya, gotta tell ya, lookin’ back on my life, you’re the only good I’ve ever done, yeah, you, if it’s not you, it’s not anyone not anyone…’, and inspires us to live life to the fullest, simply because the people we cherish in our lives (doesn’t have to be a romantic partner!) believe in us and love us dearly. With the track being an inspirational rise-above-your-troubles-and-struggles kind of melody… no doubt the message of “Anyone” will ring true and be relevant for many months and years into the future! Likewise, the worshipful “Hold On” provides us with hope and assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and as Justin relays that this song can be a comfort and a lifeline to those hurting and struggling with a variety of issues; we are promised that with people and with God beside us, everything will be ok: The song is just a hopeful record of just holding on, because a lot of us want to give up at times. There’s a lot to look forward to. There’s a lot we can’t control sometimes, but there’s always hope. Music is a great way of reminding each other that we aren’t alone. Music can be a way to relate to one another and connect with one another. I know that I cannot simply solve injustice by making music, but I do know that if we all do our part by using our gifts to serve this planet, and each other, that we are that much closer to being united. “Lonely”, with Benny Blanco, is another emotional, personal and vulnerable song which also speaks to the heart of humanity and the reason why we crave real meaning and purpose in this life. As Justin imparts to us his real emotions, and feelings of isolation and loneliness as a celebrity on a pedestal, that ‘…everybody knows my past now, like my house was always made of glass, and maybe that’s the price you pay for the money and fame at an early age…they criticized the things I did as an idiot kid…’, we are met with an exposed Justin that has bared his soul (is this song the most emotional and personal he’s been?); while the quasi-spiritual and inspirational “Somebody”, a dance anthem co-written with OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, comforts and provides reassurance that we’re all in the same crazy boat since the pandemic, that ‘…everybody needs somebody, somebody to remind you that you’re not alone, who gon’ defend you like an army and never let go, yeah, everybody needs somebody, somebody to wake up to when everyone’s gone, so if you need me, then you got me, I’ll be the shoulder you cry on…’.
I feel like virtually every album has the one underwhelming song that brings the vibe of an album all the way down. “Yummy” was that song in Changes, and here on Justice, that song that completely racks my brain and confuses me… is “Peaches” with Daniel Caesar and Giveon. It’s a song that I wouldn’t expect Justin to sing considering that he is a Christian and a follower of Jesus, but perhaps there’s politics happening and something going on behind the scenes? Lyrically, the song is as sexualised as you can get, and with enough innuendo to have you raising your eyebrows. I’m all for songs about having a good time… but this? it’s unnecessary and reeks of desperation. Sorry Justin, but you’re definitely better than this… this… this drivel and garbage. But I guess if others are blessed by this song, I won’t understand it, but, hey, if God can move through this, then so be it. Thankfully, Justin more than makes up for this ‘mishap’ with “Name” with Tori Kelly and “As I Am” with Khalid being bright spots on an already powerful and moving album. The former is a song about the disintegration of a relationship with no way forward, but it’s also a warning to us all to cherish every relationship we have and to never take anything for granted. The latter is a song whereby both people in a relationship ask the other to accept and love them as they are. It’s a song with a screwy line of thinking (because in my own opinion if we love someone, we should be willing to change who we are all for the sake of the other individual) but this song also makes us think about how we act as people and what message we’re sending out to people. In fact, I reckon almost every song on Justice, save for “Peaches”, has a thoughtful and thought-provoking message… and perhaps this album is one of the most meaningful Justin has recorded in his career aside from Purpose!
For an artist who I originally thought of as a superficial pop star with nothing much to say, I have say, that I’ve been probably the most surprised by Justin out of any artist I’ve blogged about thus far in this particular series aka, from Tim McGraw until now. In particular, I’ve been greatly impressed by the depth and maturity overall of this current pop singer… but even as early as April this year, I didn’t have an inkling to listen to Justin Bieber’s music. What changed all of that, you say? Well, it’s one word. Well, it’s actually one album. Freedom. An overly Christian worship themed EP released on Easter Sunday this year. And boy… did that release receive all of the buzz, hype and publicity, from both Christian and mainstream markets. Because with Justin having tons of singles and awards, and with him being maybe one of the most popular and respected pop stars in the music industry at the moment; it stands to reason that anything Justin releases- be it inspiring, hopeful, encouraging, controversial or just plain silly… is going to be recognised by the public and the industry, as something that holds some form of value. As for all of his die-hard fans, well they probably would just love every song or every album that Justin puts out at this point. Which brings me to this particular release that I felt I could not ignore any longer. Freedom is a gospel/worship EP, with Justin overtly displaying his Christian faith on this release, which dropped on Easter Sunday, a couple of weeks after his sixth album Justice. And in my opinion, when I first heard the release; I came to the conclusion that this new EP is revolutionary and needs to be heard. Firstly, because Justin is such a respected and an established person in the mainstream music community- I feel as if the very act of him releasing a Christian EP like this, is going to invoke curiosity within the broader community who may not know Jesus yet- and hence Justin is witnessing about Jesus to people that way. But more than that, Freedom creates a statement that Justin isn’t one to rest on his laurels, and that he is willing to sing about Jesus and sing about what he truly believes in, no matter if these songs succeed sales-wise or not. The result is an EP that is sure to confront and comfort, as well as challenge and inspire. If you’re not a Justin Bieber fan, still pick up this EP, because Freedom will remind you that Christians in the music industry and Christians in Hollywood isn’t as farfetched as you may think, and is a refreshing thought as it means that God is working more than you might envision.
Every single song from Freedom is God-breathed and points to Jesus. It’s maybe one of the most overtly worshipful releases a ‘mainstream’ artist has ever recorded, aside from Carrie Underwood’s My Savior. The title track opens proceedings, with the laid back, breezy melody featuring BEAM on guest vocals, as well as a vivid account of salvation, as Justin references the devil being a liar, us already being forgiven, Jesus being the Messiah, and that ‘…everythin’ you did, He erased that, yeah, He took it all and threw it in the wasteland…’. “All She Wrote” a full on rap song that would definitely fit at home on a Lecrae or NF album; has Justin earnestly and profoundly relaying to us that we need Jesus, that ‘…this ain’t a simulation, it’s a blessing, is it a mistake or is it destined? We ain’t got no time for second guessin’, we can’t save ourselves, we need a savior, we ain’t make ourselves, we need a maker, I keep failin’ myself, I need somethin’ new, so I lay my life down, I give it all to You…’; and asks the question of does this life have meaning or ‘is that all she wrote’ (a metaphor for is this life finished). Whereas personal testimony “We’re In This Together” is very much needed as well, with Justin directly singing about the cross, that ‘…He’s the reason that I’m still standin’, and even in a pandemic, God is still plannin’, plannin’ peace, plannin’ joy, plan another day, gave His life upon the cross to wash our sins away…’.
The emotional, prayerful and piano led ballad “Where Do I Fit In”, with Tori Kelly, Chandler Moore, and also a spoken word piece by Judah Smith, reassures us and lets us know that Jesus is with us and forever by our side no matter if we feel otherwise, that ‘…You’re holding me tight, and You love me completely, You’re always by my side, and You say to me, it’ll be alright…’; while the hard-hitting, emotional and relevant “Afraid To Say”, consists of Justin diving deep into cancel culture, us receiving grace for our mistakes, and the fact that God never writes us off no matter what we’ve done. And as for Freedom as a whole, this release was one that was heavily criticised. But the truth of the matter is that Justin is a believer in God, and he wants everyone to know God’s love and grace for themselves. This EP is a way where people who haven’t been exposed to the church can hear the message of the gospel and of the cross and the resurrection. For this reason, I congratulate Justin for this surprise yet inspiring EP! At the time of me listening to Freedom for the first time in April this year; I wasn’t a fan of Justin’s. Now, I’ve grown more into a ‘casual’ fan, with a greater appreciation of his music and art objectively. Yet this EP though has exceeded every expectation I had and then some more. And that’s ok to be living in the tension of these two statements. You can like an album while not fully resonating with the artist. And vice versa as well. And thus, let me say that Freedom is a must for you all to listen to. For you to grow in your faith, and for you to hear the love of Jesus and the promises of His word being sung over you! One of the most heartfelt and thought-provoking projects of the year… should this ‘album’ be the first that you hear from Justin if you haven’t heard a single song? Ummm, maybe not, I’d say try Purpose or Justice first. But if you know the story of Justin and the story of his faith, then Freedom will impact and hit you hard. It might be painful and messy, but it’ll strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ.
If you’re a member of the general public, and aren’t a Belieber, then perhaps you’d say that Justin Bieber has an invisible nametag written on him at all times. It probably says ‘the superficial pop star’ or ‘the troubled Christian’- and maybe it is these two unwritten but assumed monikers that I feel has made people not fully embrace his music- and especially music that isn’t of the topic of relationships. I mean, Justin’s been singing about relationships since he was 15 years old… so I’d say that there are some people out there who would accuse Justin of ‘riding the wave’ and using “Baby” to ‘prolong his career’. But even if you do have that line of thinking… how can you argue with an album like Freedom or Justice? If you do still have those thoughts though… then I’d say that these extra tracks and stand-alone singles from Justin are for you. If you can’t be persuaded by these songs, like I was, to open your mind and see things from another point of view, well then Justin may not be the artist for you. “Turn To You”, a Mother’s Day dedication, is a homage and tribute to mothers everywhere, as Justin thanks them for being themselves and for sacrificing everything for their children; while “Beautiful” is a collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen, and a pop song that speaks about inner beauty, self-identity and learning to love yourself. In 2017, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee released a remix for their song “Despacito” featuring Justin- and this was the first song by Justin in which he sings in Spanish. The remix became a worldwide success and broke major chart records around the world: joining “Macarena” (1996) as the only English/Spanish songs to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, tying the then-record for the most weeks at number one in Billboard Hot 100 history, and also spending a record 56 weeks at number one on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. “Despacito” also earned Justin his first career Latin Grammy… and for a Spanish song that I knew nothing about lyrically and that probably many others knew nothing about lyrically… I’d say that’s pretty cool. Although the translated English lyrics are not that innocent at all… but, when a song is catchy, it’s catchy, am I right? While in May last year, Justin collaborated with Ariana Grande on “Stuck With U”, which reached number one and helped support first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those lyrics, fortunately, have a much more wholesome message than “Despacito” though…
Some of the first few songs I ever heard from Justin (courtesy of Cimorelli covers!) were both “Cold Water” and “Let Me Love You”. Standalone singles with Major Lazer and MØ, and DJ Snake respectively; Justin encourages a friend in the former melody, relaying that ‘…if you feel you’re sinking, I will jump right over into cold, cold water for you, and although time may take us into different places, I will still be patient with you, and I hope you know I won’t let go, I’ll be your lifeline tonight…’, while also encouraging a friend to not give up in the latter melody, crying out ‘…don’t you give up, nah-nah-nah, I won’t give up, nah-nah-nah, let me love you, let me love you…’. These two songs are some of the most inspiring, encouraging and hopeful songs from Justin ever; while Justin also sung with Billie Eilish on her remix of “Bad Guy”. “Stay” (with the Kid Laroi) and “Don’t Go” (with Skrillex and Don Toliver) are more recent collaborations that Justin has been involved in, and there are several more than can be viewed and analysed in depth right here; however for me the songs that have impacted throughout the past few years from Justin (that haven’t been attached to his own albums, and have been released as singles or as part of other albums) are “Friends”, “I Don’t Care”, “10,000 Hours” and “Monster”.
Released with BloodPop, “Friends” dropped in 2017, and is a pop/dance number about wanting to be friends with your ex. It’s a futile song that is a semi-warning about cherishing relationships while you are still in them, and not waiting too late for some semblance of normalcy; and what makes it inspiring and moving to me is that it is about a genuine longing to be friends again and salvage something from the wreckage. It’s about the belief in restoration and beauty coming from the ashes; and though happy endings from breakups hardly happen, holding onto that hope sometimes is a beautiful thing as it keeps us from spiralling and going insane. “I Don’t Care”, with Ed Sheeran, is a poppy song about not wanting to hang out in a party and instead hang out with your partner; and as both vocalists earnestly cry out that ‘…I don’t care when I’m with my baby, yeah, all the bad things disappear, and you’re making me feel like maybe I am somebody, I can deal with the bad nights, when I’m with my baby, yeah…’, we are met with the realisation that even in adversity, hard times and suffering, spending time with your partner and the one you love, is worth it. Oh, and the song has a crazy music video as well- what do you think of that? And Justin also dabbles in country (I say ‘dabble’ but it’s not really, as Dan + Shay is more pop/country than pure country!) with the smash hit single “10,000 Hours”, where Dan, Shay and Justin praise their wives, declaring with passion that ‘…I’d spend ten thousand hours and ten thousand more, oh, if that’s what it takes to learn that sweet heart of yours, and I might never get there, but I’m gonna try, if it’s ten thousand hours or the rest of my life, I’m gonna love you…’.
So, Justin and I haven’t been close for a long time. When I was nine, Justin was my Michael Jackson. He was everything. He was what everyone talked about, the singer who everyone wanted to sing and dance like. He completely inspired me to start singing. Justin and I have never really had a relationship together, and I had this song called “Monster” that I wrote a long time ago. It’s about how society wants to put celebrities up on a pedestal, but as much as they want to do that, they want to celebrate the fall. It was a time when I was really afraid of my industry and afraid of my craft and afraid of everything. I didn’t have control. Everyone else had control over me. I think it just ended up becoming a metaphor for a bigger thing; that we all put pressure on each other as humans to be great, to be perfect. I called Justin and said, “I have this song and it means a lot to me. If it means something seriously to you and you want to put something very real on it, please be a part of this with me.” And he did. Since then, we have become closer than ever. Sometimes I think that music comes along for a bigger reason, which, for me in this case is to create a song to inspire people, but to also create a friendship that was never there before.
“Monster”, one of the most meaningful songs Justin has recorded of late, is a laid-back duet with Shawn Mendes, and speaks about the perils of the music industry and the danger of hero worship, and the public and fans elevating a young artist so early in life, and placing unhealthy expectations on them, and then shunning them when they fall for whatever reason. As Justin and Shawn complement their vocals quite brilliant, and earnestly ask the hard questions to the music executives and the label of ‘…what if I, what if I trip? What if I, what if I fall? Then am I the monster? Just let me know, and what if I, what if I sin? And what if I, what if I break? Yeah, then am I the monster? Yeah, just let me know, yeah…’, we are reminded that musicians are people and that we can’t vicariously live through people as if we know them. We only know a portion of what they allow us to see, and sometimes the monster we see in them is our own creation. Sometimes when life being lived through someone gets too scary, it’s better to take a step back into reality, and interacting with real people. I know this analysis sounds harsh as it sounds like this track is a takedown of the music industry in general. But while there are some good points, let me say that this song is a reminder to not believe everything you see on TV or the media. Just because someone has a smile on their face doesn’t mean they are happy. And if they are or aren’t… shouldn’t mean much to you. Is it going to help you in your everyday life? Will Shawn or Justin travel via plane to give you the answers on your next test? I think not, and that’s something to ponder over, isn’t it?
He is grace. Every time we mess up, He’s picking us back up every single time. That’s how I view it. And so it’s like, ‘I made a mistake. I won’t dwell in it. I don’t sit in shame. But it actually makes me want to do better.’ My goal isn’t to try and persuade anybody to believe in what I believe or condemn anybody for not believing what I believe. If it can help someone, great. If someone’s like, ‘Hey, I don’t believe that. I don’t think that’s true,’ by all means, that’s their prerogative. I think so many pastors put themselves on this pedestal. And it’s basically, church can be surrounded around the man, the pastor, the guy, and it’s like, ‘This guy has this ultimate relationship with God that we all want but we can’t get because we’re not this guy.’ That’s not the reality, though. The reality is, every human being has the same access to God.
I came to a place, where I just was like, ‘God, if you’re real, I need you to help me, because I can’t do this on my own. Like, I’m struggling so hard. Every decision I make is out of my own selfish ego.’ So I’m just like, ‘What is it that you want from me? You put all these desires in my heart for me to sing and perform and to make music—where are these coming from? Why is this in my heart? What do you want me to do with it? What’s the point? What is the point of everything? What is the point of me being on this planet?’ [Then I had this ‘certainty’, that] if God forgives me and He loves me and He set these things in motion, if He put these desires in my heart, then I’m going to trust Him. I just kept trusting what He said and what He’s saying to me. And I just believe He speaks to me. It’s not audible. I don’t hear His audible voice. I don’t know if people do. I know people have said it, and in the Bible it talks about that, but I just never heard it. It’s more like nudges: Don’t do this. Or: Set these boundaries.
A lot of people will never do what they want to do, because they’re afraid and they have shame. They don’t feel enough to accomplish what’s in their heart, or there’s a cause they’ve always wanted to help, but they’re just like, ‘Aw, man, like, who am I? Who am I to be able to do this? Because look what I’ve done. Look at my past.’ And that was me for a long time. And I always felt like I was a good encourager. I always felt like I could encourage people and that my words held weight. But when you start living in shame, you start to devalue what shouldn’t have lost that value. And that’s why it’s just rewarding to be all that you were designed to be. And I believe that, at this point in my life, I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I believe that God wants me to do. And there’s nothing more fulfilling.
It matters. You had this desire in your heart to do what you’re doing, and you’re doing it. And now I am sharing what I believe God put in my heart and you are asking the questions in your brain, getting this out of me, and it’s beautiful. You’re like me. We’re all miracles, really. You know, the fact that you are here and you made it through all the stuff that you’ve been through, you know—just because you weren’t in my position, I mean, I don’t know your story. I don’t know where you come from. I don’t know your history. I don’t know what you’ve been through. But I know you haven’t had it all peaches and cream, you know? Like some s*** has probably made you not want to do things at times and not let your guard down and not do what you feel led and called to do. But you are here. And that’s a miracle.
I’ve mentioned time and time again that influence and popularity aren’t the same. I’ve also mentioned that who you are is more-so reflected in how you act when the spotlight isn’t on you. Well, Justin has had his few run-ins with the law, and though he has been arrested before; let me say that the Justin I have seen through interviews over the past few years has been a different Justin than when he first started. I don’t know when the change in him started and when he started having a genuine relationship with God… but it has been gradual. I actually would be surprised if Justin started singing heavily about relationship songs on his next album- simply because I think that his whole discography was a kind of natural progression to singing confidently and effortlessly about God. Even during his concerts- there’s that sense that he has matured beyond his years. Justin’s even documented films about his concerts (Never Say Never and Believe), and Youtube series to document his health and well-being (Seasons). But let me get this straight though- Justin will always be in mainstream, and he’ll always sing about the love for his wife. It’s just who he is. But shall we expect to hear more ‘Christian’ themed music in the future? I hope so… and I would expect so too. I mean once you sing about Jesus, isn’t there no turning back? On a more broader note about Justin’s endeavours outside of music… well, Justin has been embarking on a wide array of business ventures, and philanthropy endeavours… and one could say that Justin is a busy, busy guy. But with Justin also recently breaking the all-time record for the most monthly listeners in Spotify history (having attracted over 83.3 million monthly listeners), as well as being nominated for many awards and accolades… maybe being busy is a good thing. With Justin Bieber having a moving and heartfelt style (pop, R&B and gospel/worship sometimes), I’d say it’s hard to pinpoint him down musically. But isn’t that the best kind of artist? The one in which you don’t know what you’re going to hear?
I don’t know if it’s everyone, but I’d say some of us are very sensitive, stroppy and sometimes offended if others don’t agree with or love our favourite artists. When we write down a list of our own influential artists or popular artists, and the bulk of them are knocked back by our best friend… is it goodbye best friend? Hopefully not, but unfortunately… maybe? We’ve all held onto our favourites like their the gospel… but they’re just preferences. Just like how Justin has cited Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Tupac, and Usher as his musical inspirations; so too do we have other musical inspirations, which may or may not be different to Justin’s. Justin in turn has influenced many other artists, inclusive of Dua Lipa, Charlie Puth, Why Don’t We, Johnny Orlando, Niall Horan, and Billie Eilish; while I am sure other artists hate Justin Bieber. See… we all have our favourites, and it’s ok if they’re all not the same. We all weren’t born the same, and we all lived in different environments. And thus, if you can’t connect with Justin’s music even after reading through my blog… then that’s ok. At the start of this blog series in 2019, I used to think that most people would agree with my choices of influential artists, and that our list was more-or-less the ‘right’ one. But I’m finding more and more lately that each list is just an opinion. There’s beauty in one list, but there’s beauty in another list too. I could easily persuade you about Justin Bieber’s influence as I could about Florida Georgia Line (if I really, really wanted to, which I don’t!). with the saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ being so true on lists like these… where do we go from here in terms of favourite artists? Justin Bieber recently embarked on The Freedom Experience– a concert with Kari Jobe, Tori Kelly, Chandler Moore from Maverick City Music, Chance The Rapper and Jaden Smith. It was a concert designed to facilitate discussion around the concept of freedom and was meant to bring and unite people together as one, especially during the time of COVID-19. No doubt the meshing together of mainstream and Christian artists might’ve offended some people. But I think Ruslan, a Christian Youtuber, says it best- that while the message isn’t the most sophisticated, this event is a good thing, as it presents the gospel in a new way to people who wouldn’t normally step forth in a church. Justin’s season of ministry is in the mainstream community. There’s no doubt about it. But Justin’s faith in God has been evident throughout the past year- and if you can’t see it… well I really don’t know. Instead of berating him or slandering him or calling him a charlatan (like I know some of you may be doing!), you can pray for the guy. I mean, let’s all pray for Justin. His faith isn’t perfect- none of our expressions of faith is perfect, as we all stumble and fall and lose our way. But the beauty of Jesus is that He forgives us all and that He uses even the unlikeliest of people to speak for Him. Jesus using Justin to preach the gospel isn’t that farfetched. And the sooner we realise this, the sooner we can see Justin Bieber’s music for what it is. Pop music that is sometimes silly, sometimes serious, sometimes about Jesus, sometimes about relationships, but inspirational, relatable, and relevant all the time.
Everything was about success, benchmarks and such, and then I was just still empty, you know? All my relationships were suffering, but I had all this success and all of this money, and it just wasn’t fulfilling for me. [But] I just want to be somebody who can say, ‘Look, I did some things that I’m not too proud of, but I took a look in the mirror and decided to make some changes, and you can too,’
I just changed my priorities so that I didn’t [become] another statistic of young musicians that ended up, like, not making it. There was a time where I really did have my identity wrapped up in my career, but I really do have an overflow of feeling like my purpose is to use my music to inspire.
Chance The Rapper’s take on Justin’s faith: Both of us, our secret sauce is Jesus. Justin doesn’t fake the funk. He goes to Jesus with his problems, he goes to Jesus with his successes. He calls me just to talk about Jesus. Justin is blessed. I think sometimes when we think of the word blessed, we think of somebody that’s had it easy or somebody that’s got a lot of money or they recently attained a goal. But the way I’m talking about it is, there are people that are blessed that don’t have anything, but you can feel it off them. It’s like an aura, to be touched by God. And I feel like, me and Justin, the thing that attracted a lot of people to us is that we’ve been blessed. We’ve been anointed. But the most successes usually come out of you when you use those talents for God.
Does Justin Bieber make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of all Time’ list? Is there any song (other than “Baby”, “Anyone”, “Lonely”, “Sorry”, “Friends”, “What Do You Mean”, “As Long As You Love Me” and “Holy”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!