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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

One can imagine it might be hard being Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. The likelihood of the international pop star acting out, “slipping up” or otherwise coming up short in such a relationship seems like it could be high.

Bieber acknowledges as much in his chart-topping hit “Sorry.” He sings, “I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice/And by once or twice, I mean maybe a couple a’ hundred times.”

OK. Biebs has been a bad boy. And he’s confessed to it. He is, he repeats over and over again, sorry. But just how sorry is he really? I ask because the video for this song—which has rapidly shot up past the billion-views mark on YouTube—suggests he might not be as penitent as the song’s apologetic lyrics want his skeptical ex to believe.

Desperately Seeking … Forgiveness?

Justin has obviously misbehaved enough to alienate his girl, who’s now fed up with his antics. And while the song never comes right out and says it, I think we’re on safe ground assuming that the missteps in question involve sharing his, um, shall we say, affection and attention with someone else. Or several someones else.

So his lady’s rightly mad and on the verge of calling it quits if she hasn’t done so already. Bieber belts, “You gotta go and get angry at all of my honesty/You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies.”

Thus, Justin seems intuitively aware that he’ll now have to ratchet up the sweet-talking to DEFCON 1 if he has any hope of coaxing this main squeeze back. “I just need one more shot at forgiveness,” he entreats. “So let me, oh, let me redeem, oh, redeem, oh, myself tonight/’Cause I just need one more shot, second chances.”

The song is earnest enough that these pleas for forgiveness may very well be genuine (if a bit practiced-sounding). And that earnestness pops up in other lyrics, too, such as when Justin admits, “Sorry/Yeah, I know that I let you down/Is it too late to say sorry now?” He even goes so far as saying, “I’ll take every single piece of blame if you want me to.”

But then Bieber immediately walks back his willingness to take responsibility a step or three when he implies that his ex played a part in his poor choices, too, singing, “But you know that there is no innocent one in this game for two.” And when he insistently pines, “I’m missing more than just your body,” I wouldn’t fault his rightly wary former partner for arching an eyebrow and giving him that look.

Apology Subverted

So is Justin really sorry? Or just sorry he had to deliver this lengthy, confession-laden, forgiveness-asking apology?

I might have been more willing to take him at his word but for the song’s video. Justin never appears in it. Instead, we get a retinue of writhing women, some flashing a fair bit of flesh, dancing and twerking their way suggestively throughout the song.

And all of sudden I can’t even remember what he was saying sorry for. His former beau probably can’t either.

Maybe these women represent those supposedly regretted, anonymous “mistakes” that Justin’s copped to making “a couple a’ hundred” times. After all, their sassiness oozes with decidedly unrepentant attitude, mocking and subverting the oh-so-sincere apologies Justin repeats over and over again.

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Adam R. Holz

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.

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