Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Justin Bieber – Hold On

Justice for… Justice?


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The Singles Jukebox is proud to announce an interdisciplinary research grant on the persistent Adam Levinification of male pop stars. Our call for papers welcomes original research on this phenomenon, which has been found to occur earlier and earlier in the lifecycle of pop stars of recent vintage. This is an urgent issue.

Al Varela: It’s easy to be cynical about Bieber’s upcoming album; I don’t blame anyone who is. You can see the calculation and the machine behind Justice and its damage control after Changes completely failed to be the smash hit they wanted it to be. But songs like “Hold On” are keeping me from being as mean about it as I could be. Sure, it’s once again a Jon Bellion song disguised as a Justin Bieber song, but the groove is very solid, Bieber’s yearning vocals sound pretty good against the thick bass and bright synths, and the hook is generally pretty catchy! It does get distracting when you realize one part of the song sounds like “Somebody That I Used To Know,” but otherwise? This might be my favorite Bieber song in years. 

Brendan Nagle: I think I have a bit more patience for JB than some of my TSJ colleagues, but even with that in mind I find it hard to imagine someone turning their nose up at this one. Gorgeous production, a plethora of catchy hooks, earnestly bland lyrics that are easy to ignore —- what’s not to like? Even the post-Lil Peep guitar arpeggios that have quickly become cliche work nicely here. Easily Justice‘s strongest single.

Alfred Soto: The opening riff nods toward “Bette Davis Eyes,” the lyrics accept feeling as a phenomenon exclusive to human beings, Justin Bieber wrings Bruno Marsisms from a larynx whose susceptibility to post-production manipulation is some kind of achievements. Many signifiers, then, in search of the signified or something.

Leah Isobel: Everything about Justin’s work feels shallow and secondhand these days. That doesn’t necessarily mean bad — in pop, shallowness can be absolutely transcendent if it’s done right. But Justin’s version of shallow is the worst kind, the kind that takes no pleasure in itself. His straight tone when he sings “come undone” signals blankness instead of humility; his insistent turns to his own narrative in the chorus play less like empathy and more like narcissism. The images are bland. The arrangement is limp and generic. The melody stresses his high range enough that he can’t sing the pre-chorus in one go, and you can hear where they pasted the vocal takes together. Everything about this is empty, soulless brand maintenance; at least “Yummy” made me feel something.

Will Adams: Next to “Yummy”, this is a triumph: a return to the drama he’s better suited to with an expensive-sounding, New Wave take on “Circles”. But God, these vocals are rough. Audibly comped takes, aggressive tuning (the “some” at :30 lands like a brick) and, finally, the chorus, which is an endurance test for his strained upper register. Would this have worked better in Jon Bellion’s hands? We’ll never know. Good for Gotye, I guess.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: There’s a genuinely good, Purpose-era banger buried underneath the formulaic mundaneness here, if only the production could actually match the exigency and agony of Bieber’s delivery. Maybe we’ll get a Diplo, Skrillex or BloodPop remix? 

Scott Mildenhall: On top of its clunky grammar, there’s a baffling hubris to the notion that “we all know I should be the one to say we all mistakes”. It’s not surprising that Bieber might place himself as the ultimate protagonist, but it is that no-one else flagged up the reality, as his music flounders without purpose. As the futile strikes of a broken lighter, “Hold On” is punchy without spark. If Bieber’s heart is in this, it doesn’t sound like it.

Nortey Dowuona: The low slung guitar synths buried by the fog bass makes Justin’s tinny voice squeeze up and glom on to the chopped bass and flat drums, barely attracting a eye roll or even a yell. The same measures, the same thin keening, it’s all completely pointless. What is left now, except to turn off the radio and drive in silence?

Reader average: [7] (4 votes)

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2 Responses to “Justin Bieber – Hold On”

  1. feeling very trollface.jpg about this one

  2. Well, it doesn’t sample MLK.