The most popular album among our students right now is Justin Bieber’s latest record, Under the Mistletoe. It is the most popular album in my family as well. After listening to it for almost a week straight, I have come to a couple of conclusions:
I Am Still a Big JB Fan:
As with everything, I am a total late adopter when it comes to pop culture. I couldn’t even name a Justin Bieber song until I ended up buying the movie on a whim and as a joke. But when it turned out I couldn’t return the movie, I figured I would watch it. For the next 90 minutes I sat in awe of a youth group kid who went after it and made it big.
Every character in the film was somebody I could relate to. After doing student ministry for so long, I have come to be able to empathize with the single mom, the involved grand parent, the dream for something better. And then when once it happened, it was amazing. I have to confess, I even cried during the movie.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not a sap and I wasn’t born yesterday. I am fully aware how produced he, his image, and that movie are. But at the end of the day he is still a youth group kid who made it. And he is someone most of my students connect with and want to be part of.
Even with a paternity suit pending, I am a fan!
I Am So Thankful To Be Old and Married:
The one constant theme that runs through all of Justin’s music is his overwhelming passion for the ladies. It is overwhelming how much love can ooze out of one man, let alone one kid. Under The Mistletoe is all of his former musical efforts to express love combined and then some. Seriously, this kid has passion and the ladies soak it up.
Track after track, JB expresses the kind of love that would make Ryan Gosling from the Notebook feel like a heard-hearted bitter man. As I listen through the CD I realized how thankful I am to my wife and for putting up with me and my total lack of romance. Even through I think his passion is over the top and kind of gives me a headache, I do want to live more and more into that passion for my own wife.
I probably won’t be facebooking or twittering Katie anytime soon, and thankfully our love songs don’t revolve around negotiating a curfew with our parents, but in honor of Justin Bieber, I will be adding some mistletoe to the house this Christmas season.
Christmas, as in Celebrating Christ’s Birth, is Officially Dead
On a more serious note, this new album makes for some intereting commentary on our cultures continued grab-bag of religions and worldviews. I don’t mean to be dramatic or imply that the sky is falling. People could be making this argument for years. As someone who is fully comfortable in reality television and pop culture news, something felt different about this Christmas album than the gazillions before it.
Whether it is true or not, Justin has been portrayed as a good Christian kid and the spiritual part of his life was highlighted on his tour to help us good Christian folk buy in. (Just like we did with Britney before him) What struck a strange nerve in me was not his overly romantic lyrics or his celebration of Santa Clause. What made me think that this was some sort of watershed CD was the way in which the Christmas themes, particularly the Christian themes, were intertwined seamlessly, even when the images were opposed to each other.
In the song, Mistletoe, Justin sings a beautiful song about love and making out. But then in the middle he throws in Christian imagery to express his love for his girlfriend. Not Christmas imagery, but Christian imagery. “The wise men followed the star, the way I followed my heart, and led me to a miracle.”
I could be wrong, but this is the first time, or at least the most famous time ,to lower Christian images and use them as illustrations to paint a picture of teenage love.
The strangest song on the CD is when Justin sings as the Little Drummer Boy. The original song which is a precious song about a little boy who doesn’t have great gifts to bring, like the wise men, will offer his simple gift of his only talent on his only possession in honor and deference to the new born King.
The song begins well with Justin singing beautifully, but then all of the sudden, with zero recognition of what was just sung, Justin and Busta go off on how great they, how tight he is, he’s about to go psycho! At the end of the day they bring it all together to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa by participating in a can drive.
I know none of this is new or shocking. But since this CD is taking over my life, I needed some outlet to process some of my thoughts. As I have asked around, it turns out no one shares them with me. I guess we live in a world that is more than ever jumbled and amoral. We believe a smorgasbord of ideas to create our own theology, and at the end of the day give a can to a can drive and feel pretty good about ourselves.
As I lean into Christmas this year, I will be enjoying this CD, but even more so, I will be actually enjoying the real reason for Christmas, the birth of the true King, the true Savior of the World, and not just the author of Love, but of Love incarnate.