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I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Life Is Worth Living" by Justin Bieber mean?

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SONG MEANING: "Life Is Worth Living" by Justin Bieber is a message of hope for those who need it. The soft pop ballad is sung to a contemporary dance in the music video, and it's certainly interesting if not unique. Justin Bieber just put out Purpose on Friday the 13th. His new album has been a couple of years in the making, and it's certainly fun to listen to. Not only do we know it makes good dance music, but Bieber knows it too. In his video for one track "Life Is Worth Living," Bieber has contemporary dancers demonstrating the relationship between someone who desperately needs help and someone willing to give it.

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"Life Is Worth Living" Lyrics Meaning

The dance video begins with the female dancer staring into  a mirror. Her make up has been done to keep her from looking very attractive and her hair's in a topknot, which, in this case, isn't flattering. There's a bloody, gaping wound over her heart.

Bieber's message is clear: this character is at her worst. She needs help.

She begins dancing and soon a strong-looking male joins her. They dance together--metaphorically working through her problems--and after one particularly strong hug, her wound disappears.

Life Is Worth Living - Justin Bieber 

Life Is Worth Living - Justin Bieber 

A Critical Opinion: Bieber is successful in getting his message across, but it's a little heavy-handed. The wound over the heart is obviously emotional baggage. The make-up is meant to cause us to pity her. And the other dancer symbolizes someone coming alongside her. Pop music, in general, is heavy-handed though, so it's okay. It's an art form that deals in absolutes and exaggerations--part of the reason we love it and that most high-brows don't. But I do think the complete disappearance of the wound over-simplifies the kinds of emotionally heavy and long-lasting situations being alluded to here.

Worst case scenario--this means that Bieber's brand is misusing emotionally significant images to give too much credit to his song for being deep. Best case scenario--it's unoriginal, Bieber's brand is hopping on the contemporary-dance-with-pop-music bandwagon pioneered by Sia and Ed Sheeran, and there's no real harm done. In any case, the dancing is still VERY beautiful.

Anyway, back to the song!

Verse 1 is about someone else who "[e]nded up on a crossroad." This person lacks direction and keeps "[r]unning in the same place." The metaphor refers to a vehicle with little gas stuck on the side of the road and a driver not knowing which direction to go.

The person who is stuck is hoping that someone will come to help him or her, and finally someone does. A "truck" pulls over and gives one important thing: direction. The helpful man gives the lost person information and explains how to read a map. He leaves, saying, "[I]t ain't never over / Oh, even in the midst of doubt."

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Often in life, people feel like they lose direction or don't know where to go. They lack purpose, and Bieber here is telling a story about someone who thought things were hopeless. However, someone came to the rescue--Bieber is trying to give hope to listeners.

In Verse 2, Bieber sings about a relationship that's "on a ski slope," suggesting that things could end very terribly if anyone's careless, especially since there's an "[a]valanche comin' down slow." He wants to "salvage" the relationship, but they're running out of time. They've fought a lot, but right when they thought things were darkest, "God sent an angel to help us out." The mysterious person showed them hope and gave them direction.

Bieber 

Bieber 

In the Bridge, Bieber sings that he'd give up his own self-image and what he sees in the mirror if others would perceive him differently. He sings that the world tries to "crucify me," and he won't deny that he "ain't perfect," so he's "working on a better me."

Bieber's been having a lot of hard times recently and most of them seem to be self-caused. From outlandish displays of hubris to absurd and hurtful pranks on others to breaking the law, he's had a rough couple of years. He mentioned similar themes in his song "Sorry" causing one to hope that maybe he is turning things around.

In the Chorus, he sings that "[l]ife is worth living" and it's almost as if the message isn't for listeners so much as it is for himself. Of course, Bieber's not the only writer on this album, so it's difficult to apply any meaning derived to him exclusively, but if there is a chance that he feels what he's writing, he too may be searching for the "meaning of forgiveness."

Interestingly, he still manages to claim some self-righteousness in the final version of the chorus. We don't know if he believes in God, but he does say that while "[p]eople make mistakes / Only God can judge me." If Bieber is truly apologizing, he's doing it defensively. He knows he's been wrong, but he's telling his listeners, "You can't judge me unless you're perfect."

Life Is Worth Living - Justin Bieber 

Life Is Worth Living - Justin Bieber 

Conclusion

"Life Is Worth Living" touches on a universally beautiful theme--that of hope coming to the hopeless--but I'm still a little confused about the message Bieber intends. He begins by singing about sending direction to those who lack it, and he ends it by telling people to stop judging him and calling him out for what he's done wrong. It's clear that he's trying to say that he's lost direction and is trying to become a better person, but he doesn't seem to want forgiveness. It's as if he just wants people to like him without him having to go through the process of acquiring it. The song is beautiful, but I have questions about the intentions behind it.

Thanks for reading about "Life Is Worth Living" by Justin Bieber! 

Clifford Stumme has his master's in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.

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