The year 2020 a strange one for the world. Due to the worldwide pandemic, safety protocols shut down theaters and concert halls. Travels bans were instated, and music tours were cancelled.
But as the year came to a close, there was hope on the horizon.
Those same protocols that quarantined people in their homes were slowly being lifted. TV shows started filming again. And pop star Justin Bieber started preparing for the first full concert he had given in three years.
A month before this planned New Year’s Eve show on the roof of the famed Beverly Hilton Hotel, Justin and a small film crew began filming, hoping to give fans the “complete story behind the show.”
From his morning walks with wife, Hailey, to the daily COVID-testing to the intense dance rehearsals, cameras captured Justin’s world.
Holding a camera in one hand, Justin goes through his morning routine (which includes showing his exposed upper torso in the shower). He’s followed to dance rehearsals and even costume fittings (where we see him changing clothes). We occasionally see Justin and Hailey waking up in bed together. And some female dancers’ costumes show quite a bit of skin.
There’s some cursing (and subtitles spell out the s-word, though the f-word is bleeped). But we also hear pre-show prayers. Justin thanks God for a beautiful day. And a cross hangs in the rehearsal space where Justin’s team works on choreography. (Crosses are also seen on jewelry worn by various members of his crew.)
And this small nod to Justin’s faith seems to seep into the concert itself.
During a rendition of “Holy,” (while technically a tribute to Hailey, it still references Justin’s faith) drones in the sky spell out the word before flying into a cross formation.
In other songs, lyrics talk about praying. And we see Justin look to the sky and point to the heavens in “Where Are U Now”—which most originally thought was about an ex—perhaps suggesting that the meaning has changed for Justin, and that he’s making a genuine connection through the song to God.
This concert performance still has some questionable behavior. (Many of Justin’s lyrics talk about sex quite sensually, he grabs his crotch a lot and ending credits show Justin celebrating the New Year with shots and champagne.)
But Justin’s apparently renewed interest in the Almighty over the last few years is well documented, too. And several people who have worked with Justin for the past decade describe his transformation from a rowdy teenager to a responsible young man.
Through his concert songs (namely “Yummy,” “Intentions,” “Habitual,” “All Around Me,” “Forever” and “Second Emotion”), we learn that Justin credits his transformation largely to his bride, Hailey. He also attributes these changes to God, as Kristin Smith informed us in her review of his album Changes, which many of these songs come from.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone has forgotten Justin’s past.
Through our coverage of his music, we at Plugged In have been following the Biebs for quite some time. And from the launch of his career in 2009 (at the tender age of 15) up ‘til now, we’ve had quite a bit to say.
In Adam Holz’s 2011 review of the concert documentary Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, he speculated that Justin Bieber, despite being surrounded by seemingly levelheaded folks “determined to help him navigate the almost certain pitfalls that lie ahead,” could become another victim of the Hollywood-child-star phenomenon.
In 2013, Adam’s prediction was proving true, though Paul Asay said in his own review of Justin Bieber’s Believe (another concert doc) that the film asks us to “believe that there’s a good man underneath the troubled teen idol façade, a good man who will reveal himself fully in time.”
But in 2014, Justin was arrested for his crazy antics (he was drag racing in Florida while under the influence). Adam Holz dissected Justin’s reckless behavior. And considering Justin had professed his Christian faith for years, Adam gave some insight into how we, also as Christians, should respond:
I applaud Justin’s willingness to talk about Jesus again, even as I’m concerned that there’s not yet much evidence that he’s actively turning from his wild (godless) ways. I can’t know his heart…therefore I cannot stand in judgment on his ultimate spiritual condition. I can (and should), however, look to see whether the spiritual fruit of Justin’s confession is maturing and flourishing.
A year later, Paul Asay wrote another blog about Justin’s behavior after the star was seen attending a Hillsong Conference in Australia. He stated that while Justin’s latest TV appearances had been, “almost without exception, apologetic,” he wondered whether fans (especially Christian fans) were ready to forgive the star’s sins.
It seems that Justin is the first person to admit his past wrongs (as we hear in “Sorry,” “Lonely” and “Monster”). But this film seems to ask “Beliebers” to forgive and forget as the singer turns over a new leaf.
Justin addresses his desire to be a leader. He recognizes the strengths and talents of the people around him and takes care to honor and respect them. And he understands that his success and his ability to perform are blessings.
But mostly, Justin states his intention to put his family first, acknowledging that when his priorities (meaning his relationships) are straight, his mental health and career are more stable. And while it appears that God is tied into that priority, there is a note of caution for Christian fans since the star is definitely still figuring things out.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.