Justin Bieber’s latest hit offers an earnest, heartfelt message of encouragement to someone who’s struggling—a message that’s tinged with a hint of spiritual truth. The accompanying dramatic video? It’s a tad more problematic—if ultimately just as well intended.
The first two lines of “Hold On” begin, “You know you can call me if you need someone/I’ll pick up the pieces if you come undone.” The balance of the track unpacks those promises from a faithful friend.
Justin doesn’t detail his friend’s (or perhaps romantic partner’s) difficulties. The closest we get to specifics is a hint that this person is feeling pretty down, possibly depressed: “Painting stars up on your ceiling/’Cause you wish that you could find some feeling, yeah.”
So Justin unpacks a litany of empowering encouragement. “I need you to hold on,” he says, before suggesting that hope can be found not only in our own determination, but perhaps in God as well: “Heaven is a place not too far away.” He empathizes (“I know how it feels to be someone/Feels to be someone who loses their way”), offers his hand of help (“Take my hand and hold on”) and invites this person to pour out all the emotions inside (“Tell me everything that you need to say”).
This redemptive song’s lyrics have no content concerns. But the video tells a story of reckless desperation depicted with gritty realism.
We see Justin’s character here with his onscreen wife. One shot illustrates their intimacy by picturing the couple cuddling, shirtless, in bed (we see them from the bare shoulders up). Soon things turn grim: There’s a trip to the doctor. Tears. Grief. She has terminal cancer (at one point she whispers that she doesn’t want to die), and soon her hair is gone. Bills pile up with no money to pay them.
Desperation amps up when Justin’s character robs a bank and flees police pursuit on his motorcycle. He’s shot through the stomach, but continues to try to escape. The young man makes it to his beloved’s bedside in the hospital—she seems near death—even as he apparently dies in her arms.
In a live chat before the song’s premiere, Bieber said of it, “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.”
That message rings true throughout the lyrics of this upbeat song, even though the dramatic video for it gets tangled up in tragedy along the way.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.