Justin-Ariana collaboration seizes No. 1 spot amid chart-manipulation allegations
There’s more to Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande’s “Stuck With U” than the fulfillment of a novel idea of two music superstars collaborating on a duet or, in the case of its music video, a chance to see celebrities in the privacy of their own homes.
Sure, its video includes heartwarming images of stars like Michael Bublé, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Stephen Curry, Jaden Smith, Kate Hudson, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis cozying up to their loved ones while in quarantine.
But what makes this video even more relatable is how the pandemic has been “leveling the playing field,” even if some of them have more money and a comfortable playing ground for a more “stationary,” stay-at-home lifestyle.
Months after the start of the lockdown, they now look like the rest of us mere mortals, wearing PJs, comfy shorts and loose shirts—with no makeup on and in dire need of a serviceable haircut. After spending decades whining about social inequity, we’ve realized how nature has found a way to keep all of us homebound and grounded, both physically and metaphorically.
While catchy as all get-out, “Stuck With U” is neither groundbreaking nor original, but its creation demonstrates what stars can do when they utilize their influence and stellar appeal to serve others and “pay it forward.”
In this case, the song’s proceeds benefit the First Responders Children’s Foundation, put up as a Covid-19 emergency response fund that provides support for front-liners and their families who are enduring financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Other than distributing more than 400,000 FDA-certified surgical-grade masks, the group aims to raise millions of dollars in support of college scholarships benefiting hundreds of worthy children with first responder parents who have been killed or injured in the line of duty.
With all that help being extended to front-liners, we, along with the smart alecks in our midst, can’t help but wish, “Sana, all!”
The radio-friendly song, which Justin and Ariana cowrote with Whitney Phillips, Skyler Stonestreet, Freddy Wexler, Gian Stone and their controversial manager Scooter Braun (yes, that’s Taylor Swift’s “best friend” these days), is about love in quarantine and how two sets of lovers are managing the romantic lockdown: There’s Justin with wife Hailey Baldwin on a lovely ranch on one corner, and, on the other, Ariana at home snuggling with one of her nine dogs when she isn’t slow dancing with rumored boyfriend Dalton Gomez.
We often hear celebs pursuing different romantic persuasions as soon as they get bored with each other. But as the hit-making duo swears in the song, “There’s nowhere we need to be/Got all this time in my hands/I’m [gonna] get to know you better/Kinda hope we’re here forever/There’s nobody on these streets/If you told me that the world is ending/Ain’t no other way that I can spend it.”
These saccharine lyrics will sweep you off your feet if the devil’s advocate in you doesn’t whisper in your ear, “Let’s see about that. Wait until after the lockdown is lifted, shall we?”
Last Monday, Ariana was as pissed as she was pleased when she announced the single’s chart-topping debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 this week—it is Ariana’s third No. 1, and Justin’s sixth. But, as she told her 186 million followers, she wasn’t too happy about somebody “trying to discredit” their feat.
While Justin celebrated the news that he and Ariana have joined Mariah Carey and Drake as the only artists in history to have three songs debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Ariana’s post was actually addressing the complaint made by rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine—Daniel Hernandez in real life—whose song “Gooba” bowed “only” at No. 3.
The hip-hop artist, sex offender and convicted felon was granted early release from a two-year prison sentence last month, following fears over his vulnerability to Covid-19 due to his asthma. He claimed that Billboard manipulated the chart, and questioned how the sales of “Stuck With U” spiked from No. 5 to No. 1 overnight.
“@Billboard caught cheating,” 6ix9ine wrote in his post. “You’re a lie and corrupt. You got caught cheating, and the world will know.”
Billboard denied this, naturally. For transparency, Billboard released a statement that provided a breakdown of the two aforementioned songs’ statistics: “‘Stuck With U’ drew 28.1 million streams in the United States, 26.3 million in radio airplay audience and 108,000 sold in the tracking week. ‘Gooba’ had 55.3 million streams, 172,000 in radio airplay audience and 24,000 sold.”
Billboard also reiterated that the 180 million or so streams “Gooba” got on YouTube—one of 6ix9ine’s bone of contention—were “global plays”; the company only counts US-based streams for its chart calculations.
“There’s so much to celebrate today,” the 26-year-old pop singer said in her long post. “However, I would like to say a few things. Anyone who has followed me for a while knows that numbers aren’t the driving force in anything I do. I’m grateful to sing, grateful to even be here at all. I didn’t have a No. 1 for the first five years of my career, and it didn’t upset me at all because, from the bottom of my heart, music is everything to me…
“So, with this celebration today, I would like to address a few things, which I don’t usually do (I don’t give my energy to drama or strange accusations normally, but this has gone a little too far) … My fans bought the song. Justin’s fans bought the song. OUR fans bought this song. They are ride-or-die mother**kers, and I thank God every day that I have them in my life, not just when they fight for us to win.
“You cannot discredit this as hard as you try. To anybody [who] is displeased with [his] placement on the chart this week or who is spending their time racking their brain thinking of as many ways as they can to discredit hardworking women (and only the women for some reason…), I ask you to take a moment to humble yourself.
“Be grateful you’re even here. It’s a blessed position to be in. I’ve had a lot of “almost number ones” in my career, and I never said a ***** thing because I FEEL GRATEFUL TO EVEN BE HERE … and you should feel that way, too!
“Congratulations to all my talented ass peers in the Top 10 this week … even No. 3 … and thank you to @billboard for this honor. And thank you to everybody who helped us raise a lot of money for a very important cause this week.”
6ix9ine had a ready reply on Instagram, though: “@arianagrande. I don’t want you to think that I’m coming at you. I’m not saying you’re not talented, I’m not saying you can’t sing. My frustration is from Billboard…
“Life is real when you’re on welfare. Life is real when you grow up without a father. You don’t know what that is like. You say for me to be humble … I don’t think you know what humble is … You are very talented and beautiful. God bless you. But, you will never understand my pain.”
To answer 6ix9ine, we can only imagine Ariana singing three of her top hits, in this sequence: “God is a Woman,” “No Tears Left to Cry” and, finally, “Thank U, Next.”—WITH A REPORT FROM ALLAN POLICARPIO
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