Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber are two of the biggest pop stars and cultural forces of our time. This year, Justin released his #1 album Changes which featured “Yummy,” the top downloaded song of the year in the U.S., and “Intentions,” another Top 10 hit assisted by Quavo. This is Ariana’s first official musical release of 2020, but last year she dominated with the release of thank u, next (featuring such hits as the title track and “7 rings“), k bye for now (swt live), and the Charlie’s Angels original soundtrack which she executive produced. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, music has been a primary source to lift spirits and raise funds for charity. Disney hosted a two-part star-studded family singalong and Lady Gaga curated a massive virtual concert for Global Citizen featuring Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello, Taylor Swift, Jessie J and more. Just last week, Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion united for a remix of the latter’s “Savage” with all of the artists’ proceeds going to charity.
An original collaboration between Ariana and Justin has been anticipated by fans for years, and now it has finally arrived in the form of “Stuck with U.” Both artists heavily leaned on hip-hop and trap&b influences on their last studio albums, so this doo-wop ballad is a welcome change of pace. With a familiar guitar melody, soft drum pattern, and a hint of organ the two artists sweetly croon about a softer image of quarantine. Lockdowns around the world have forced most of us into social distancing and self quarantine. While there is definitely a darker and more sinister emotional side to social distancing, “Stuck with U” is more concerned with a bright optimism. Ariana, who sounds incredible on the track, sings “got all this time on my hands/Might as well cancel our plans, yeah/I could stay here for a lifetime.”
Vocally, both Ariana and Justin deliver terrific performances. Bieber’s falsetto is as supple as ever, while Ariana slightly dips into her lower register in her first verse before sprinkling whistles all over the song’s outro. She also uses a few pretty vocal stacks towards the back half of the track. The song definitely sounds familiar to Taylor Swift‘s “Lover” or Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” but that’s to be expected with doo-wop influences; the genre wasn’t necessarily the most innovative in terms of mainstream melodic structures. “Stuck with U” is a lovey-dovey, if not a bit sappy, track that’s perfect for prom in this new age of social distancing. The track is also a welcome change to the general “doom and gloom” narrative of quarantine. Bieber and Grande have found some light in the small things and want to share it with the rest of the world.