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‘Never would have made it’

Music | Justin Bieber says God brought him through his darkest days yet
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 9/06/19, 04:42 pm

Four years have passed since Justin Bieber put out a studio album, and it has been a decade since he skyrocketed to fame as a teen singing phenom. But a YouGov poll of more than 7,000 people from July 2018 to July 2019 found Bieber is still America’s No. 2 most recognizable pop musician, second only to the late Michael Jackson.

Many of the 98 percent of Americans who say they have heard of Bieber also know how he fell from grace at the height of his stardom, while 55 percent of those polled said they had a negative opinion of him. This week, the 25-year-old responded to critics with a 600-word-plus message on Instagram confessing to having made “every bad decision you could have thought of,” adding the love of God and others was helping him turn things around.

Bieber’s antics in his late teens and early 20s included reckless and drunken driving, fighting, showing up late to his concerts, painting graffiti on a building in Brazil, and urinating into a restaurant mop bucket. His Instagram post included a confession of doing “pretty heavy drugs” and being abusive, disrespectful, and “distant to everyone who loved me.”

Along the way, however, Bieber got to know Carl Lentz, the pastor of the New York City branch of the megachurch Hillsong. In 2014, the pop star moved in with the pastor for about a month and a half. Lentz baptized him in the oversized bathtub of 7-foot NBA player Tyson Chandler—a story Lentz told to GQ. That same year, Bieber was seen at Hillsong Church with Hailey Baldwin, the daughter of Stephen Baldwin, who is an actor, recovering drug addict, and born-again Christian.

Bieber released his last studio album in late 2015, and some of the song lyrics indicated he had started to grow up and draw closer to something bigger than himself. On the song, “Life Is Worth Living”—which did not get as much air time as hits like “Sorry”—he croons, “God sent us an angel to help us out / He gave us direction, showed us how to make it last. … Oh, even in the midst of doubt / Life is worth living.”

He went on a world tour in 2016-2017, performing 162 shows in about 16 months. Reviews said his performances seemed joyless and tired, and he ended up canceling the last 14 shows, citing exhaustion and depression.

“You start foreseeing the day through lenses of ‘dread’ and anticipate another bad day,” Bieber wrote in his Instagram post. “Luckily, God blessed me with people who love me for me.” Bieber and Hailey Baldwin dated on and off and reconnected in 2018 at a conference hosted by Florida Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. They got engaged that summer and married at a New York City courthouse a year ago.

“The common denominator, I promise you, is always church,” Baldwin, now Hailey Bieber, said in an interview the couple did with Vogue in February. When they reconnected, Bieber was practicing celibacy, which the pair said they continued to do until their wedding.

Bieber said he is taking a break from music, for now, to focus on personal growth. “I just needed some time to evaluate myself: who I am, what I want out of my life, my relationships, who I want to be,” he told Vogue. Bieber faces the obvious danger of self-absorption that comes with too much self-reflection and idleness. But he also has a habit of quoting God’s Word and calling on the name of Jesus, two of the most effective weapons against sin.

On the last Sunday in August, Bieber stood in front of the congregation at Churchome in Los Angeles and led worshippers in Marvin Sapp’s gospel song “Never Would Have Made It.” The performance had fans on social media begging for a gospel album.

“I have a newfound respect for Justin Bieber, something I thought I would never say,” YouTube user Amanda Pettus commented. “Amen. Keep singing for the Lord, brother.”

Sony Sony From left: Shari Rigby, Alex Kendrick, and Aryn Wright-Thompson in a scene from Overcomer

Kendrick brothers do it again

The Kendrick brothers’ new release, Overcomer, has banked $20 million since its release two weeks ago, proving Americans still have a big appetite for well-produced Christian flicks.

The movie focuses on a basketball coach (played by Alex Kendrick) at a struggling Christian school who is forced to take over a cross-country team with only one member, an asthmatic new student named Hannah (played by Aryn Wright-Thomson). The Kendricks spent $5 million producing Overcomer.

Overcomer, which premiered Aug. 23, was the third highest-grossing film in the United States during its opening weekend. Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s sixth film follows their 2015 box office hit, War Room. With a $3 million production budget, War Room grossed $74 million worldwide and become the No. 1 film at U.S. box offices the second week it was out. Other top-grossing Kendrick films include Courageous (2011), Fireproof (2008), and Facing the Giants (2006).

Predictably, mainstream critics have called Overcomer “preachy”—Variety dubbed it “in-your-face evangelizing.” But WORLD Magazine movie reviewer Bob Brown called it “genuine and compelling … the Kendricks’ best effort yet,” and so far, audiences seem to agree. —Mary Jackson

Song of grief

The country music world is mourning one of its rising stars who died in a car crash this week. Texas singer Kylie Rae Harris was killed Wednesday night in a three-vehicle collision in New Mexico, where she was scheduled to perform at a festival Thursday. One of the other drivers, a 16-year-old girl, was also killed. Police said alcohol was a factor in the crash but didn’t release any more details.

Harris, a 30-year-old single mother, released a successful EP in March and played shows throughout Texas this summer. In one of her songs, “20 Years From Now” (see video below), she sang of her love for her daughter, 6-year-old Corbie, and her now-tragic wish to see her grow up: “Twenty years from now / my prayer is that somehow / you’ll forgive all my mistakes and be proud of the choice I made / I just want to see the day you tell me that I did OK / God I hope I’m still around / 20 years from now.” —L.L.

Added accusations

The Dallas Opera said Thursday it canceled a 2020 event with Plácido Domingo, who is earning a reputation as the Harvey Weinstein of opera. After initial accusations of sexual misconduct came out against Domingo last month, 11 more women came forward with stories of how the opera star allegedly groped or harassed them. One former production coordinator for the Los Angeles Opera, where Domingo now serves as general director, said she made a point of not letting young women be alone with him backstage. Several other LA Opera workers said the singer’s behavior was an open secret and management looked the other way. Domingo denies engaging in nonconsensual behavior. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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Comments

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sun, 09/08/2019 02:57 pm

    My wife and I (who see very few movies) saw Overcomer last week. We were impressed and moved by it. 

    In my opinion, most of the entertainment industry promotes negative and false values.  We try to give very little support to companies who produce trash, by not watching/listening to even their “harmless” offerings. The TV in our home has been unplugged for several years and Overcomer is probably the first movie we’ve seen since Les Misérables. (I know, we probably broke our rule by watching that!)

    I confess I sometimes indulge in classic rock on YouTube, and read some popular fiction by authors in the vein of W.E.B. Griffin and Tom Clancy. 

    My personal opinion is a lot of the trash would disappear if we made a point of encouraging our own kids to ignore it. 

    As for Justin Bieber, I truly hope he is able to keep going in the direction he now seems to be taking. 

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