Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line "Meant to Be"
Songs That Defined the Decade

Songs That Defined the Decade: Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line's 'Meant to Be'

"I’m really, really proud of her that she was willing just to do something different."

Billboard is celebrating the 2010s with essays on the 100 songs that we feel most define the decade that was -- the songs that both shaped and reflected the music and culture of the period -- with help telling their stories from some of the artists, behind-the-scenes collaborators and industry insiders involved. 

“Meant To Be,” the ubiquitous 2017-2018 hit from Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line that ruled for a record-smashing 50 weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart, almost never was.

Tyler Hubbard, one-half of FGL with Brian Kelley, was in Los Angeles writing with David Garcia and Josh Miller when Rexha stopped by the studio. Initially, the intent was only for the pop singer to say hello, but spurred on by Hubbard’s wife Haley telling him as he headed into the sessions that if it was “meant to be” a song would emerge, the writers took the mantra to heart.  “In a couple of hours, we had a lot of [the song] already,” Garcia says. 

As Rexha told Billboard in 2018, she wasn’t sure she wanted to appear on the song with FGL. “I was struggling, because I'm not a country artist, but all my favorite artists have taken chances. So I just said, 'F--k it. A good song is a good song.’”

“From the onset, [she] could’ve been like,‘I don't even know if this is a good look,’" Garcia says. "But I’m really, really proud of her that she was willing just to do something different.” 

Earmarked for Rexha’s Warner Music EP, Garcia, Hubbard and Miller (producing under the moniker Wilshire) added some pop polish before quickly realizing they were making the tune too slick and stripped it back down. “It was losing the heart of what the song was,” Garcia says. “Serban [Ghenea, mixing engineer] really made it about Bebe, Tyler, [Brian], the piano and the beat, the 808. That's what [felt] the most honest to the song.”

Rexha’s fervent fans and other pop listeners sent streaming numbers soaring for the sloping, genre-blending, finger-popping tune about going with the flow, which ultimately racked up more than 810 million on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music. “We said, ‘Well, maybe we should make this a single ourselves’,” Hubbard says. 

The duo’s label, Big Machine, wound up working it to country radio as well. It peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay and Adult Top 40 charts, and No. 2 on both the Hot 100 and Mainstream Top 40. It even reached No. 11 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart, reaching into the top 40 of an impressive eight Billboard singles charts in all. 

“Meant to Be” busted down boundaries, introducing Rexha to country fans -- and allowing her to buy her first house with the royalties. It expanded FGL’s pop and international appeal, especially in Australia, Europe and Africa, Hubbard says.  Though there had been pop-meets-country collaborations in the past, the gargantuan success of “Meant to Be” smoothed the way for the breakout popularity of Zedd, Grey and Maren Morris’ “The Middle” and The Chainsmokers and Kelsea Ballerini’s “This Feeling,” among others, and blew the doors off any remaining stigma between pop artists appearing on country charts, or vice versa.

Two years later, Garcia says the song has “become a calling card; it was a game-changing thing for all of us.” Hubbard agrees, adding “It changed our lives. It was just a reminder of the power of a good song and what it can do for a career and a life and for the fans.”  

Songs That Defined The Decade