This week, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande put themselves in some pretty historic chart company with the debut of their new duet “Stuck With U” — a quarantine-ready ballad whose proceeds will be donated to the First Responders Children’s Foundation — at the top of this week’s Billboard Hot 100.
With the No. 1 debut, it marks the third time each that Bieber (“What Do You Mean?,” “I’m the One”) and Ariana Grande (“Thank U Next,” “7 Rings”) have bowed atop the Hot 100. The only two artists who had scored that many No. 1 debuts previously had been Mariah Carey (“Fantasy,” “One Sweet Day,” “Honey”) and Drake (“God’s Plan,” “Nice For What,” “Toosie Slide”).
Which artist does the waltzing ballad feel like it belongs to more? Why have we had so much turnover at the top of the charts lately? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.
1. So, we asked about a month ago about whether we were due for an onslaught of quarantine-themed pop songs — now we appear to have our first chart-topping love song on the topic. On a scale of Vinegar, Sweet’N Low, Honey Nut Cheerios and Watermelon Sugar, (i.e. least to most) how genuinely sweet do you find the song to be?
Lyndsey Havens: Honestly, I’m resisting every urge to select Watermelon Sugar only because that music video is top of mind right now, but I have to go with Sweet’N Low. This song is 10/10 cute, and definitely has some sweet lines (particularly these two in Bieber’s verse: “I’ma get to know you better/ Kinda hope we’re here forever”) but personally, I’m a sucker for hyper-specific lyrics in a love song. Mentioning a specific oversized shirt someone has been wearing for a week straight, or finding a way to rhyme something affectionate with sourdough, or whatever baking trend is happening right now… that would do it for me.
Jason Lipshutz: Let’s give it that Honey Nut Cheerios level of sweetness — “Stuck With U” has pretty quickly grown on me, and I now hear the interplay between Justin and Ariana on the track as soothing after initially finding it sleepy. Two pop superstars joining forces to capture a unique historical moment while raising money for charity? Sign me up, even if the chemistry on display here takes a few listens to be fully absorbed.
Joe Lynch: I’d put it at Honey Nut Cheerios, as the sweetness is certainly akin to Saturday morning breakfast with cartoons: kid-friendly, libido-free, comforting and just a little sluggish, but in a pleasant sort of way.
Mia Nazareno: It is definitely on the sweeter, Honey Nut Cheerios side if you are quarantining with your significant other. Though if you’re in a LDR or single, then it’s more of a skippable song for me (I’m not bitter, you are). I imagine that if I were stuck with my bae, I’d play the song on loop as I gently coerce him into doing TikTok challenges with me in true Justin and Hailey style. In short, the sweetness-level of this song is definitely tied to who you’re currently stuck with.
Andrew Unterberger: In between Sweet’N Low and Honey Nut Cheerios. It’s a solid and logical pairing, artistically and vocally, but the song isn’t all the way there for me. (“Baby, run your mouth” is almost as strange a love song lyric as John Legend‘s “What would I do without your smart mouth” — maybe just stay away from mouths altogether, dudes.) The timeliness and charitable aims make it hard to be too sour on this one, but I can’t imagine it being a jam I return to if/when the world re-opens.
2. Between Bieber and Grande, which artist’s next album would you imagine “Stuck With U” to be a more natural fit on — or do you think both will leave it as a one-off?
Lyndsey Havens: Definitely a one-off. Unless… either comes out of quarantine with a fresh album on their hands. Which, yes is highly possible. But this song is so anchored to this time that it’s hard to imagine it fitting elsewhere; plus, with the charity component, I imagine that could introduce some hurdles in terms of including it on an album and rerouting funds from one track. All that being said, Ari and Bieber, if either of you are one record away from completing a new project, by all means toss this on there.
Jason Lipshutz: “Stuck With U” most specifically sounds like it could have belonged on the back half of Grande’s Sweetener album, amidst the more pillowy moments of introspection like “Goodnight n Go” and “Get Well Soon.” I don’t expect Grande to return to that type of sonic approach on her next full-length, and “Stuck With U” doesn’t really fit within Bieber’s current future-R&B vibe, so I’d guess that this remains a special one-off for both.
Joe Lynch: It’s almost impossible for me to imagine Ari putting this on a proper LP since she’s lately been such an “album artist” delivering cohesive statements. The Biebs has never been shy about tossing randos on various deluxe editions, so if anything, it might be an iTunes/Target/Mega Deluxe Edition bonus track available on the Finnish edition.
Mia Nazareno: I think they’ll leave it as a one-off, like a time capsule of our collective experience in the time of coronavirus. The single is a cute response to current events while also being a novel way to stay in the loop with their fans I don’t see “Stuck With U” as being a thematic fit in a future album produced in the post-quarantine world.
Andrew Unterberger: It certainly feels like a one-off, but here’s a crazy thought — maybe Justin Bieber should go further down this direction? He’s obviously into R&B and love-song balladry, but Changes tried to fit those predilections into a more explicitly modern sonic framework, with mixed results. Going full-on ’50s/’60s soul-pop with it (with the occasional modern detour) could be an interesting look for Bieb — who would really say no to his Yours Truly?
3. After “The Box” ruled the Hot 100 for 11 weeks, “Stuck With You” is now our fifth new No. 1 single in eight weeks. Do you think the world’s general instability at the moment is contributing to the top of the charts being erratic, or have there just been a lot of high-profile releases that would be taking turns at No. 1 even during a “normal” spring?
Lyndsey Havens: Lol, I think the world’s general instability at the moment is contributing to a whole lot of things — and sure, the top of the charts could be one of them. But also, I do think that there have been a handful of worthy chart toppers arriving lately, with even more high-profile releases set to arrive next month. But of course, some only exist because of the world we’re living in right now; specifically, this track. At the same time, without pre-games and parties and packed clubs/bars playing a current hit-in-the-making over and over again, I imagine that’s also aiding in the quick turnover atop the Hot 100.
Jason Lipshutz: I’d guess that the recent fluctuations at the top of the Hot 100 have more to do with coincidence than anything, as artists like Bieber and Grande join forces, Travis Scott and Kid Cudi do the same, and Nicki Minaj hops on an already-huge pop hit in Doja Cat’s “Say So” to push it over the top. In hindsight, we should have given more credit to Roddy Ricch for staying atop the chart for a whopping 11 weeks — not many songs have reigned that long, and “The Box” blocked its fair share of heavy hitters, from Drake and Future’s “Life is Good” to Bieber’s own “Yummy.”
Joe Lynch: It’s tempting to draw some sort of sociological conclusion about this, but maybe not backed up by the facts. By this point in 2019, seven separate songs had gone No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This year so far, eight separate songs have gone No. 1 on the Hot 100. In 2018, five songs by this point. So yeah, that’s a gradual increase, but I would hardly call that unstable comparatively speaking.
Mia Nazareno: As we’re all glued to the headlines and CDC guidelines, it’s clear that the only constant is change, and I don’t think the charts are immune to today’s unpredictability. I think the national stay-at-home orders have forced artists and their teams to be more creative in maintaining relevance in the public eye. With the loss of touring income, artists have to rethink their strategy as the pressure mounts to find other revenue streams. Also, audiences are probably wanting to listen to songs that reflect the current climate. It makes sense that musical tastes have shifted a bit, and I think the race to the top of the charts has reflected that.
Andrew Unterberger: More than anything, I think we’re seeing what last spring might’ve looked like if “Old Town Road” hadn’t happened: Big artists coming out of the woodwork week after week to take turns parading to No. 1. Without a Lil Nas X to block them — or at least give them a real undeniable challenge on a weekly basis — the Biebers, Ed Sheerans, Taylor Swifts and Shawn Mendeses can sure find their way to immediate chart-toppers a lot more easily.
4. “Stuck With U” isn’t exactly the first meshing of Bieber and Grande, but it is their first time together on an official new single. What other combination of pop megastars who’ve never done a single together would you like to see get together next?
Lyndsey Havens: Harry Styles and Lizzo would of course be a fun treat, though probably wouldn’t be as vocally seamless as this Justin and Ariana ballad. But hey, that’s part of the fun, right? Also, for what it’s worth, I’m still loving the Sam Smith and Demi Lovato collab “I’m Ready.”
Jason Lipshutz: I’d be fascinated by a collaboration between The Weeknd and Miley Cyrus — two unique pop talents who boast singular voices, complicated relationships with fame, hip-hop flirtations and their fair share of hedonistic lyrical tendencies. Let’s make it for Cyrus’ next project!
Joe Lynch: How ’bout something totally random like, I don’t know Lil Nas X and… Billy Ray Cyrus? Oh, wait. Hmm. Let’s say Lizzo and Post Malone.
Mia Nazareno: I would love to see Lizzo and Adele join forces to give us the next independent woman anthem to sweep the nation. Like “Truth Hurts,” but with a British, soulful twist. Adele recently surfaced on our feeds, so I have hope that this isn’t an impossible dream. Fingers crossed!
Andrew Unterberger: I’m sticking with Ariana Grande, but I want to see her paired with avowed acolyte Billie Eilish — and a full album please, not just a one-off single. Pop’s waited too long for its true Watch the Throne equivalent.
5. Which Hot 100-topper would you rather be quarantined with: Bieber and Grande’s “Stuck With U,” or Huey Lewis & the News’ 1986 No. 1 “Stuck With You”?
Lyndsey Havens: Oof. Now, if we were asking which artists we would rather be stuck with in quarantine, that would be easy. But… I have to go with Huey Lewis’ “Stuck With You” in this case. The production is ever so slightly more uplifting, and it fits in a bit better with the sonic vibe I’ve had going on in quarantine. (Plus, it’s less of a direct reminder that the only person I’ve been “stuck with” this whole time has been my roommate!)
Jason Lipshutz: Sorry, Justin and Ariana — it’d be hard for anyone to topple Huey Lewis & the News in my book, particularly the No. 1 hit “Stuck With You,” which has somehow become underrated because it’s not quite as eternal as their Back to the Future classics. Still, quarantine me with Lewis and/or any member of the News, please.
Joe Lynch: Big soft spot in my heart for Huey Lewis & the News in no small part because of Back to the Future, not to mention a fairly unimpeachable catalog of chart hits overall. “Stuck With You” is jaunty and easy-going enough that I’d rather listen to this on repeat in the background that something with a slam-bang, go-for-broke finale.
Mia Nazareno: I’m a shameless Ariana fan, so 2020’s “Stuck With U” is the one I’d rather be stuck with. The single is also a more soothing background tune as I bake banana bread for the nth time at home.
Andrew Unterberger: Yes, it’s true: I’d be so much happier to be stuck with Huey Lewis & the News’ “Stuck With You.”