Pop star Justin Bieber is appearing on the cover of GQ in sinfully good clothes while simultaneously posting bible quotes on Instagram. (In this case a devotional written by Sarah Young — see below.) The cynical might think it’s just another marketing avenue for the former prodigal son and underwear model known as the Biebs. But the quote he chose would argue against it, just as does the title of his new album, Purpose.
Much of the song content on Purpose revolves around prayer and praising God. Perhaps not since Bob Dylan’s highly underrated born-again Christian album, Slow Train Coming, has a rebel of such public renown — with a reputation for vitriol — switched gears so fast in so popular an art form. (Yes, that’s a Justin Bieber-Bob Dylan comparison — but not like his manager’s.) Dylan’s Slow Train Coming alienated some of his fans, but also won him millions of new Christian fans. Dylan’s biggest hit from the record, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” also won him a Grammy, with lyrics like “it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Bieber seems to be making his choice. Whatever the personal ramifications, it’s not a bad decision from a career perspective: Dylan’s record went platinum. And Purpose crushed the charts.