Hot 100 Review: Stuck With U by Ariana Grande, featuring Justin Bieber

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The first real “quarantine” song to break into the Top 10, and the number one spot specifically. Well, some people say Toosie Slide and the like are “quarantine” songs, this one is far more explicit about the fact it’s about being stuck at home.

Stuck with U comes from Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. It is a strange mix to be sure. In fact, what is most strange is just how dull and limp the song is overall.

The beats are very drab and nondescript. The point seems to be to have it be a ballad so the vocals carry the song. Justin Bieber, for all I could say about his shortcomings, has a good singing voice. Ariana on the other hand… people like her. I have a cousin who is obsessed with her and her music. I find that airy, breathy style of singing to be grating. She’s had a couple good songs to be sure, but her voice feels like I could pop it with a toothpick.

Oh, also the title is terrible if the song is a ballad.

So, first, there is already a famous song called Stuck With [You] by Huey Lewis and The News (the Back In Time guy). Second, I get that because many people are on lockdown because of the pandemic, but trying to write a romantic ballad about being stuck with someone sounds like the person is trying to fool themselves into being happy. Like the situation they are in is not great, but they are trying to make it sound good.

The song gets around this very obvious reading of the title by having the narrators frame the relationship as an aberration from what they normally go with. This is evident from Ariana’s first lines “ I’m not one to stick around/One strike and you’re out, baby/Don’t care if I sound crazy/But you never let me down…” These lines, in conjunction with later lyrics like, “So go ahead and drive me insane/Baby, run your mouth/ I still wouldn’t change being stuck with you…” portray the relationship as one she is stuck in because despite all of that they just work together (for reasons…)

This pairs with Justin’s section where he says nothing of substance… No, really. Like the only section that is completely his own, and isn’t a rehash of the chorus or pre-chorus is how he has no where to be, wants to know her better, and that he loves the other person so much that if he was informed the world was ending he would want to be with her (how sweet).

But, boy, does that say nothing about why they should be together. Neither party makes any definitive remarks on what makes the other special. That makes the final lyrics of being stuck with each other haunting. The only imagine that comes to mind is the end of The Graduate where they are on the bus long enough to question if they made a mistake. The lyrics make it sound more of an infatuation over an actual romance is all.

The video is a collection of home videos of people just hanging out intercut with Ariana at home in her bed or playing with her dog, and Justin walking and being with his wife. The video itself is a fundraiser for first responders. That is good, you should donate to it. First Responders are very important and need support…

(Did a make a good and fair platitude about the point of the video so I can now tear it apart? Oh, I should wait another… no, this bit doesn’t work since it’s all typing. Fine.)

Okay, so the intercut of people at home is fine. They might even be families of First Responders or contributors. That is fine. Boring, but fine. Ariana and Justin on the other hand… Look, I get that they are at home, but if Ariana is just recording Instagram stories and slapping them on a video, that seems cheap. Just laying in bed, or showing less filmmaking chops than the worst zoom users is annoying.

Justin on the other hand… Look, the point of duets is that they are supposed to have you think the singers actually like each other romantically. The easiest way to break that is by having the singer’s romantic partner in the video! It’s very hard to see him singing to Ariana when he is recording himself with Hailey Rhode-Bieber. It breaks the illusion, and also must not feel great being told she is stuck with him. It might now, but if they ever get divorced then this song seems like great ammunition. Ariana also hangs out with her partner at the end of the video. It’s a problem on her end too, but it’s for a shorter time. Therefore it’s not as bad.

The other problem with the video is that it is a full quarantine video, but the song isn’t actually about being in lockdown with your significant other. The only allusions to that is “Got all this time on our hands…” a line so generic it could mean anything. So, other than the fact the song has the energy of someone locked in their house for over a month that is really it.

Lethargic has the word that’s been swirling the drainpipe of my brain. It’s slow, tedious, insipid, and just a chore to write about. The lyrics are just such empty platitudes about being with someone they like for no real understandable reason that it drives me crazy. It also has very little actual connection to the quarantine that makes the whole conceit feel vapid and just used for marketing.

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