It would be so easy to be cynical about Justin Bieber’s new video for “Pray,” the one new song on his acoustic set, “My Worlds Acoustic.” But we come to praise the Bieb, not bury him.
The song, which we reviewed here, is a lovely testament to the power of prayer. It’s for True Believers, not just True Beliebers (sorry, we couldn’t resist), and even those sitting on the fence.
The song is Bieber’s “Man in the Mirror” moment. To be sure, “Pray” doesn’t have that staying power or that resonance of the Michael Jackson classic, but its themes of being the best self you can be (with or without a higher power) and how to affect change are the same.
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Scenes of Haiti, our troops in harm’s way, the homeless and other dispiriting images are interspersed with Bieber visiting with Make-A-Wish kids and hospitalized children. Say what you will about the kid’s talent, but it is remarkable that at 16 he is mature enough to handle spending time with a terminally ill children. Just try to look at some of the Make-A-Wish footage without crying.
Two things to look out for: it looks like our little Bieber may not be old enough to vote in the U.S. (and, oh yeah, he’s Canadian), but he’s not above making a political statement or two. One of the images features people holding up signs that read “Health Care Can’t Wait.” Is that a veiled endorsement of Obamacare (In Canada, health care is a right)? He also sings, “I pray for the life not started,” which could be interpreted as a pro-life message.
There’s no misinterpreting the final message written across the screen: “God Speaks in the Silence of the Heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Pop and rock powers-that-be are often squirmy about unambiguous, clear religious messages for fear of their acts seeming like Bible Thumpers, but Bieber clearly is not. We don’t know if there was any label push back about any of the messages in the video, but we have a hunch he just found himself a whole bunch of new Youth for Christ fans (although, please note, he never mentions a denomination, nor the word “God.”)
Country music is not so scared to embrace religion (as long as it is Christianity), so we bet within four months, there’s a country cover of this song.