Justin Bieber works with teams of creative people on many of his projects, which is great for his fans. When talented musicians and performers get together, the result is usually amazing.
One of his most talked about tracks is the 2021 release, Ghost, which he co-wrote with Jonathan Bellion, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, and Michael Pollack. The music video, directed by Colin Tilley, features Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton in a starring role as the singer’s grandmother.
Anybody who’s wondered about the Ghost song meaning should stick around because we’re about to summon up the truth.
If you’re trying to figure out the meaning of this track, you should start with the lyrics. At the heart of everything here is one major theme: grief.
“I miss you more than life” is one of the repeated lines that stick with listeners. This powerful song is about the pain of missing someone.
Grief can come in many forms, though. The songwriters on Ghost have been quick to point out that this track should be relatable to everyone on different levels.
Bieber’s grandfather died early in 2021, and anyone who has gone through this kind of loss knows it can be a heartbreaking and changing event for the family left behind. For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, Ghost hits home with haunting precision.
But the singer doesn’t think the track’s value stops there. He has said in interviews that the song can refer to the grief of missing someone who is gone but still alive.
I miss your touch on nights when I’m hollow
Whether this refers to a breakup or divorce, a long-distance relationship, or a friendship that has fallen apart, there are moments in this track that allow anyone suffering from loneliness to feel seen.
In addition, Bieber said he was inspired by the loneliness of the pandemic, which forced us all to start keeping our distance. It may have helped slow the spread to hunker down, but the singer (and the rest of us) noticed that isolation spawned its own form of grief. Knowing that our loved ones are nearby, but we can’t hug them or talk to them, can be painful.
The Washington Post also found thematic connections to the COVID-19 crisis. In her review, Allison Stewart wrote that the song is “perfectly suited to the unique concerns of quarantine.”
The Music Video
The music video, which is so good that many fans have mistaken it for a clip from an actual film, depicts a young man who helps his grandmother heal after the death of his grandfather. Keaton plays the grandmother who relies on Bieber to take her out of the house and help her through her grief.
This is a pretty clear illustration of one meaning of the song. Because the sadness following a death is usually the first thing to come to mind when we think of grief, this was a perfect direction to go with the video.
But is the music video the final say on what this song is about?
Is there an official meaning?
The songwriters have been open about wanting fans to find their own meaning in this one. That’s because grief is a personal experience that touches us all in different ways.
Though the music video shows one version of grief, there’s no reason that has to be the only meaning of the track.
Bellion, one of the songwriters on this track, said that he was inspired to write about his feelings after the death of his grandmother. He said he feels her with him now every time the song comes on the radio.
American Songwriter’s review of Ghost examined the potential for different interpretations. Catherine Walthall wrote that the track can be heard as a “comfort for those battling the woes of long-distance or separation.”
In short, this track is meant to have an open meaning about the experience of healing through grief.
Other Interesting Facts About Ghost
Keaton, a fashion icon, wore her own clothes for the video. She said she enjoyed working on the scenes with Bieber because the director gave her lots of freedom to be herself.
The track also charted worldwide, placing fifth on Billboard Hot 100, and quickly reached hundreds of millions of streams.
Is Ghost a sad song?
Kind of, but it’s also much more than that.
One of the reasons fans love it so much is that it embraces the sadness of grief, but it also honors the memory left behind. That makes this track somewhat bittersweet.
It will always be sad when someone leaves us, whether through death or other circumstances. However, the song says that we can find joy in the “ghost” that stays with us in our hearts and minds.
I want you to know
That if I can’t be close to you, I’ll settle for the ghost of you
There is no literal ghost in this song. Instead, the “ghost” is a reference to the lingering feelings of love and loneliness that remain when someone has left us. That emptiness is a kind of ghost that haunts us.
It’s never enough to simply think about the good times when you miss someone. We always want more. But if the past is all we have left, then we do what the track says. We “settle” for the memory of the past because we don’t ever want to forget our loved ones.
Ghost has been praised for being a hopeful track about grief, which is a difficult note to hit. Instead of wallowing in misery, the song and the video show that it’s possible to honor our past and our grief and to live our lives being grateful for what we miss.
That’s the beauty of memory, and this track illustrates it perfectly.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.