Hot 100 Review: Holy by Justin Bieber feat. Chance the Rapper

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Watch the video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pvPsJFRGleA

I don’t hate Justin Bieber despite how I have dunked on all the songs he’s had this year. Even good artists make bad musical choices and songs from time to time. I also like Chance the Rapper. It’s strange paring them up on a track, but it’s also far stranger to have that track be a wedding ballad.

It’s easy to make fun of wedding ballads and songs made to be played at weddings, whether for slow dances or party tracks. They are often the most commercial, least thought about, and total ear worm of songs. A nice tasteless wafer everyone likes and can dance to, but no one cares about. There is a place for them to exist. They act less as a song and more a placeholder for an experience. Holy, this new song by J-Biebes is that to a T.

Holy is not a bad song. I would even argue it is pretty good. Not great. Not his best song. It is a wedding song after all. A very simple melody and tune driven by heartfelt lyrics to have a slow dance to.

In this song, holy feelings refers to Justin’s connection with his now-wife. The chorus and verses all center around how people tell him to take it slow, but the holy connection told him that he needed to rush to the alter. He needed to get married. It makes one of the few wedding songs to actually be about a wedding.

Despite being called Holy, Justin’s verses don’t make it all that religious. It uses the trappings of religious music but is very secular. Chance’s very 2010s feature makes it religious. Many allusions to a father in both a literal a sense, and spiritual one. Lots of going to the water imagery, and late 90s early 2000s rhymes. It feel charming in a way. Though he is talking about religion it doesn’t feel like I’m being prostalatized too. It’s used as a fact. It reminds me of those sweet wedding photos of a husband and wife praying before they get married behind a door. That is something strong with them as a family unit and that’s okay (outside of that context, and institutionally is where I find issues with religion and Christianity in particular).

The video has Justin and his girlfriend or love interest working blue collar jobs. Justin is an oil worker and love interest in an old person’s old home. The first half of the video shows them just working and being cute. That changes when they lose their jobs due to the “current economic political climate,” and become homeless. They get picked up by a random veteran driving by and get to stay with his family. A very strange choice for a video all things considered. Especially because Chance’s feature just has him rapping to the camera in a greenhouse.

The song is clearly playing on strong blue collar, pro-America, and classical country iconography (aside from the love interest being black). Part of that makes sense with the more religious approach, but since the most religious part of the song is a feature by another artist and is shot in a greenhouse, I would have to push back on that. It feels like a hot button take to get the video played over a vision to relate with the song. There is no marriage or allusion to marriage in the song. I do appreciate that Justin’s couple on screen don’t fight and argue, and that they don’t find a place to live right away at the end of the video. Both feel like easy tropes a song like this could have gotten away with. Not the take I would have done with this material. Feels shallow but looks really pretty.

This song isn’t easy to write about because it was simple and straightforward. There is not very much reading or dissection I can do. It’s blatantly obvious what the song is, and that means you either like that style or don’t. It’s better than I expected. Fine, Chance makes it pretty good, and that’s that.

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