The pair’s fifth collaboration is fine, but it falls just short of divine.
Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper have both had strange career paths. While both were once at the unmistakable peak of success with worldwide adoration and critical acclaim, the two, almost ubiquitous artists have somewhat taken a recent tumble. Chance’s 2019 debut album The Big Day was pretty much universally panned, and Bieber’s latest album Changes makes mere whispers next to the bombast and magic that was 2015’s Purpose.
Enter “Holy” – the fifth collaboration between the two. The song is gospel-influenced, as one could expect by the title and the two artists working on it. It’s very light and it has a vague universal message of hope and inspiration through faith. Cool, but did we need it?
The song is led by wedding-ready keys and backed by your typical gospel choir vocals, but we’re never really led anywhere. Both artists sing about how their deep love feels so divine it must be the work of a higher power, but we already know how deeply in love both artists are. In the same way, we know how much Justin and Chance’s faith guide them – it has been incredibly well documented over the past few years especially.
“Holy” isn’t inherently a misplaced song. On the contrary, Bieber’s smooth vocals and Chance’s signature bars fit very well on to the admittedly sparse yet sun-soaked melody. The song sounds gorgeous and calming, but it's just too vague to really hit home. In an attempt to appeal to all struggles, they’ve ended up producing a song that doesn’t mean much at all.
The song is only brought down by the accompanying short film, which also stars Ryan Destiny and Wilmer Valderrama. While visually stunning, the video attempts to hone in on an actual struggle – the way coronavirus, or “the current global climate”, has impacted the working class. But Justin Bieber isn’t a member of the working class. He’s been wealthy longer than a decent portion of his fans have been alive. He can grease his neck and scuff his elbows, but he can still get in a spa bath at the end of the day if he needs to.
Sure it’s all acting, which he’s allowed to do, but him playing someone who is distinctly working class, when he himself is far from that, while singing of vague messages of hope through God, feels like he’s just hanging around for the photo op. Couple that with the bizarre ending that sees a homeless Bieber and his partner picked up by a member of the military and taken to their home for a full banquet, and the “Holy” video feels more like propaganda than anything else.
Ultimately, “Holy” is fine, catchy even. It’s not the shining star in either Justin or Chance’s discographies, but it’s still memorable, harking back to Chance’s days within The Social Experiment. While music fans might yearn for Bieber’s impeccable pop sensibilities in tracks like “Sorry”, or the fiery hunger within Chance’s belly in songs like “No Problems”, it would seem that both of those artists are long gone. Now, we have two artists that have seen the light and are sharing it with the rest of the world to help us through this tough time. It’s a little too Chicken Soup For The Soul, and you won’t be missing too much if you excuse yourself from the table.
Main Image Credit: Justin Bieber, Twitter