Those still craving more Justin Bieber after the release of his latest album Changes in February and his Billboard Hot 100-topping Ariana Grande teamup “Stuck With U” in May just had to have a little faith.
Bieber returned on Sept. 18 with the brand new single “Holy,” featuring frequent collaborator Chance the Rapper. The song, a warm, piano-led ode to the divine affection and inspiration provided by their respective wives, bows at No. 3 on the Hot 100 this week — the 20th top 10 single for Bieber, and the third for Bieber and Chance together.
What does the song mean for Bieber’s future artistic direction and commercial success? And should Justin and Chance continue to work together from here? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.
1. “Holy” debuts at No. 3 on the Hot 100 — one spot lower than “Yummy” did at year’s start (and two spots lower than “Stuck With U”), but higher than any other track on Changes has reached. If you’re Bieb and Chance, how blessed are you feeling at this start, on a scale of 1-5 prayer hands emojis?
Gab Ginsberg: Let’s go with a four. It’s a great achievement, but I’m sure they were hoping for a No. 1 debut, especially considering the track was Bieber’s first new music in a while, as well as a semi-surprise (Bieber announced the song only four days before it dropped).
Lyndsey Havens: Knowing Bieber and Chance (as I do not), I believe they’re feeling blessed enough for all five prayer-hands emojis right about now. A No. 3 slot is a great debut for a gospel-leaning track partially inspired by marital bliss. I’m not surprised it entered the Hot 100’s top five, especially considering the charity component it arrived with, though I expected it to just make the cut. Its debut is even more surprising considering it sits behind the BTS smash “Dynamite” and Cardi B and Meg Thee Stallion’s “WAP” — a very different song from “Holy,” though arguably not that different thematically. Plus, as Bieber tweeted, he’s now had songs chart at Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 this year; so technically, he needed this.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d be feeling 4 whole prayer-hands emojis! Toppling “Dynamite” and “WAP” right out the gate was always going to be a tall order, so a No. 3 debut is realistically a best-case scenario. Zooming back a bit, the immediate success of “Holy” shows that Bieber still hasn’t hit a point of over-saturation, following an album release in February and “Stuck With U” in May. It also shows that Chance the Rapper, a little over a year removed from the disappointing showing of his The Big Day album, still has the commercial cache to help engineer another top 10 hit alongside Bieber, after 2017’s “I’m the One” and 2018’s “No Brainer.”
Joe Lynch: I’m giving this three-and-a-half prayer hands – which actually amounts to three praying hands and then one hand just kind of up in the air vertically. I would then take that hand and awkwardly wave, as if to say, “Hi, thanks up there.” But really, any debut in the top 5 is praise-worthy, and I think it’s silly to expect every song from every pop star to be a No. 1 smash.
Andrew Unterberger: At least three prayer hands. It might No. 1 or bust for Bieber at this point in his career, but No. 3 is still a very strong bow for a guy who’s already been as prolific as he’s been this year — especially with a song that seems like near-defiant counter-programming for the pop and hip-hop fare currently dominating top 40 and streaming.
2. Many speculated that the purported “new era” of JB following the commercial underperformance of Changes would be more of a return to Purpose-era bangers — but rather, he seems to be doubling down on soul ballads about domesticity, this time with more of a near-gospel feel. How do you feel about Justin going further down this path, in terms of its likely artistic and/or commercial returns?
Gab Ginsberg: I’m not sure how an entire album of “Holy”-type songs would do, but whether or not the track marks a new sonic direction, he gave it a shot and it’s working out pretty well so far! I do prefer the bangers to the ballads, but there’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation.
Lyndsey Havens: I think it’s a fine lane for him to go down right now because it actually feels genuine. It’s clear he’s singing these lyrics and exploring this genre because he wants and needs to express how it feels — for the first time in a long time, and maybe in forever — to be this comfortable and settled. Who knows, maybe we’ll get more Purpose-like hits in the future, but for now I’m not entirely turned off by Bieber’s artistic choices, and with a No. 3 debut, the commercial validation is there, too. (And FWIW, Changes is a fantastic album!)
Jason Lipshutz: Commercial underperformance, commercial schmunderperformance: Changes was a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, produced a No. 2 hit with “Yummy” and a durable radio smash with “Intentions,” and quickly led into the Hot 100 chart-topper “Stuck With U.” Bieber’s mainstream appeal has not taken a hit in 2020, so why would he dramatically deviate from his artistic path? While soulful exaltations of domestic bliss are the Biebs’ bread and butter right now, I also wouldn’t turn my nose up at a new Bieber banger, whenever he wants to link back up with Skrillex and shimmy over the dance floor. It’s been nearly five years since Purpose! Let’s get some more wedding-reception tunes, now from the perspective of a happily married artist.
Joe Lynch: Those people should be tracked down and forced to reckon with their lack of precognition. Look, if you follow JB on socials, it’s clear that he’s looking to his wife and God for creative inspiration these days, and neither subject lends itself to club bangers. I’m neutral about this particular direction: I don’t like it as much as Purpose, but I honestly appreciate that he’s not chasing radio and instead following his muses. Taking a full picture of his adult career, Bieber has demonstrated that while he wants to stay popular, he tends to follow his heart and not the charts when it comes to the sound of an album.
Andrew Unterberger: I can’t say this has been my favorite Justin Bieber era, but generally speaking, I do believe it’s pointless to ask why pop stars don’t simply return to the mode of past glories, rather than following their own inspirations, wherever those may lead. I’d love another set of JB electro-pop killers about heartbreak, but Sunday soul and wedded bliss is what he’s feeling right now, and I’d rather get a fully invested Bieber doing that than a half-hearted attempt at Purpose 2.0. And while he may never do the same blockbuster numbers in this style, his continued chart success shows that there’s still a sizeable audience for this brand of Bieb regardless.
3. Chance the Rapper is a logical choice of guest for the track, not only due to his track record of hit Bieber collabs but his own predilection for writing about domestic bliss. Is it a combo you’d like to see more of, or do you think it’s starting to run its course?
Gab Ginsberg: If the song’s good, I don’t mind a repeat collaboration! I’m still waiting for them to follow up “I’m the One” with something just as catchy…
Lyndsey Havens: I think for this stretch, “Holy” is a nice place to cap it, largely because it was so expected. I’d of course welcome more collaborations from the pair in the future, but perhaps ones that explore other avenues. All that being said, I really am preparing / will not be shocked if and when they drop a collaborative EP or album of tracks that follow suit.
Jason Lipshutz: The Bieber-Chance combo has been a winning one — especially when DJ Khaled is also involved — but “Holy” is about as definitive of a statement about the pleasure of young marriage as one could get. Bieber and Chance are both such ace collaborators that I want to see who else they can work with; maybe Bieber and Chance can kick it again in a few years, after they pull others into their respective orbits.
Joe Lynch: I like “Holy,” but it’s a bit like a sprinkling of the blessed water during mass. A few drops do the trick, you don’t need a priest running through the church pews with a Super Soaker full of holy water. Which is to say, I would not in good conscience support a Watch the Throne-style Bieber/Chance gospel-pop full-length.
Andrew Unterberger: Again, can’t say I’m as excited for a new Bieber-Chance collab in 2020 as I might have been five years ago, but they seem to be in a similar place in their lives and maybe even in their careers, so I’m fine with them continuing to team up as it makes sense — as long as it’s not hyped as a major event each time. Honestly, if and when it becomes an option again, I think their most logical next collaboration would be a tour together.
4. “Holy” marks Bieber’s 20th top 10 hit, putting him in a tie with Chicago and The Supremes for the 18th most of any artist in Hot 100 history. Of those 20 top 10s, which is the one you most personally worship?
Gab Ginsberg: “I’m the One” is technically my favorite, but since I already mentioned that, I’d like to highlight the bop that is “Beauty and a Beat,” with Nicki Minaj. Gotta keep an eye out for Selener!!
Jason Lipshutz: On another day my answer would be “Where Are Ü Now,” which was the best single of 2015, but you’re asking me a day after I randomly heard “Boyfriend” on top 40 radio and whisper-rapped along with every goofy pickup line: “I’mma make you shine bright, like you’re laying in the snow / BURR!” Give me “Boyfriend,” a joyful ode to teen love and an impossibly fun karaoke song to boot.
Joe Lynch: I have faith “Sorry” will go down as one of the all-time great pop songs that each generation discovers in their own fashion, but I will also light a votive candle for this year’s “Intentions.”
Andrew Unterberger: Gotta go “Where Are Ü Now,” not just one of the most pivotal singles in 2010s pop, but likely Bieber’s all-time greatest vocal performance — and not just in the parts where he’s chopped up to sound like a dolphin.
5. Now that Bieber and Chance have officially cast their lot as two of pop’s premier Wife Guys, what male pop star — currently wifed or not — would you enjoy seeing soon join their ranks?
Gab Ginsberg: Nick Jonas. Though he might already be a Wife Guy? Let’s go with Ed Sheeran, then.
Lyndsey Havens: Sorry to entirely reroute this question, but I’m very curious what would happen if a current woman pop star went this route. How well would that perform commercially and critically? Not that we’re all clamoring for more versions of Chance’s “I Love My Wife,” but still. “Holy” proves being a Wife Guy can pay off at home and at work, but would a track about being a blissfully content wifey — one free of drama and coded digs — earn the same response? Now that’s a burning question.
Jason Lipshutz: If Machine Gun Kelly ends up marrying Megan Fox, that’d be a pretty fun Wife Guy pivot — I’m imagining an earnest rap-rock album dedicated to Megan Gun Kelly and smiling.
Joe Lynch: No Dan and Shade intended, but we have enough hitmakers talking about how goddamn happy they are these days.
Andrew Unterberger: Spouse TBD, but man I’d enjoy Drake as Wife Guy. I’m not sure how fully he’d be able to embrace the role — can you have a Drake love song without some passive aggressive shots and lightly misogynistic behavioral observations? — but seeing him try would almost certainly bring adorable results. Plus, then we’re one step closer to full middle-aged Drake, which should really be the ultimate goal.