‘Justin Bieber: Our World’ Review: A Revealing Portrait of a Leader and Artist
The Amazon Prime Video documentary film follows the pop icon in the run-up to his 2020 New Year’s Eve concert; it’s most potent when relating how Bieber and his crew banded together for a decade before they brought the pandemic show to life
December 1st, 2020; it’s 7:40 a.m. and Justin Bieber is kickstarting his day. The musician, who went from teenage sensation to a bonafide pop icon over a decade and six albums, is about to perform his first full concert in 3 years on New Year’s Eve. After postponing his Justice tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bieber is now ready to return to the stage.
Justin Bieber: Our World follows the pop star in the run-up to his New Year’s Eve concert, while also delving into the makings and final presentation of the show itself. Director Michael D. Ratner (who also helmed the camera for Justin Bieber: Seasons) interposes scenes of Bieber’s mundane mornings on a hike along with adrenaline-inducing shots of fluid choreography rehearsals, weather emergencies and a star rising above every circumstance to shine its light on a special Los Angeles Night.
Editors Paul Greenhouse, Vicky Lim, Paul Little and Tom Watson do a fine job of stitching together videographer Rory Kramer’s clips of Bieber’s pinnacle of pop stardom and raw vlog footage from the artist (whose wife Hailey Bieber at one point remarks he’s turning into a “straight influencer”) who shares rare outtakes from his personal life during Our World; we hear Bieber sermonize about how his voice is a gift that once put out a house fire, we see him on the playground with his siblings whom he indulges in laughs and cuddles and we learn that he would like to father a child in the coming years, among other revelatory moments. Hypeman Hailey remains his rock through it all (Bieber dedicates his beautiful performance of “Holy” to his wife during the special concert) as the artist prepares to deliver a show he hopes will make people enjoy and feel good about themselves. “Being an entertainer can become very self-serving,” says Beiber at one point while reflecting on his ‘why’ behind being an artist which is to ultimately effect change in the world through his gift — his voice, his music.
Justin Bieber: Our World doesn’t waste time getting into the performances, as Bieber opens the concert with the ballad “All Around Me.” Albeit a bit pitchy, Bieber regains his vocal prowess in the second half of the show as he continues to belt his biggest hits including “Where Are Ü Now,” “Monster,” “Anyone” and more. The show took place on the roof (three months were spent engineering it for weight) of the famed Beverly Hilton hotel (due to a COVID-affected lack of open venues) with around 240 people checked into rooms and in attendance as they watched the show that streamed live to 150+ countries on December 31st. At this point, Justin Bieber: Our World sheds light on an important entertainment industry issue during the pandemic: the lack of jobs.
“We’re just so lucky that we get to work during this time. A lot of people don’t and so, I feel like it’s a big blessing for us,” says Bieber in the film. This is a particularly potent arc in Ratner’s documentary as it captures the dedication of Bieber’s team who are showing up to their jobs after an unprecedently tumultuous year for the gig economy. Here, a robust crew is trying to make sure a flight takes off and lands without a single hitch; they all get tested every single day to ensure their bubble is safe. Creative director and choregrapher Nick DeMoura, A&R/DJ Tay James and director of operations and security Lauren Walters speak of supporting Bieber for almost a decade on the road. The documentary is at its best when it explores how the crew came to be a part of Bieber’s team and how they’ve both built their relationship over the years in parallel with the fans flocking to Bieber. It’s powerful to see the respectful and synergetic relationship between an icon and his crew, especially during difficult times.
Justin Bieber: Our World also focuses on Bieber’s turn as a leader; how he’s transformed the way he walks into a room to fit into the shoes he now wears. He describes his leadership style as “harnessing human energy to make effective change,” something Walters swears by as he’s witnessed the artist evolve into a man since his teenage years. In the documentary, Bieber takes charge of the massive operation at hand to deliver a show that’ll stun attendees on the 31st.
Ratner presents a melange of concert footage, BTS reels, raw clips and rehearsal vignettes in Justin Bieber: Our World, pulling viewers into the life of an artist preparing for one of the most difficult and promising shows of his life (COVID-19 restrictions meant the team, including co-show designer and producer Chris Gratton, had to completely reimagine how one puts on a concert like this). From the light show to the energetic dance and the star himself, it’s clear that the concert is a hit with the fans who crash the live stream server and cheer Bieber on.
Justin Bieber: Our World is an enlightening portrait of an artist and leader; Bieber is endearingly vulnerable and his commitment to God and music is palpable in this one-and-a-half-hour-long documentary. It’s bound to be a treat for fans given the many performances spanning Bieber’s impressive discography, while giving newer listeners a worthy introduction to one of the greatest and enduring artists of the century.
‘Justin Beiber: Our World’ is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.