Friday, May 17th, 2019

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – I Don’t Care

Take his hand, stop, or ban the man from the Jukebox?


Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “At a party I don’t want to be at” is exactly how this song makes me feel.

Taylor Alatorre: “I Don’t Care” is a layer cake of falsehoods. From the opening chord progression you can already guess that this is not going to be a song that explores alienation or nonconformity in any serious, sustained way, but a conventionally reassuring tune in which all worries are resolved through the timely intercession of “my baby.” That alone is not disqualifying, but the moments where Bieber and Sheeran try to convince us there’s something behind all this nothing are the moments where the song’s flimsy foundations are laid bare. In lieu of worldbuilding, they serve us a handful of attention-grabbing lyrics such as “crippled by anxiety” and “I hate everyone here” — lyrics that, in their suddenness, only highlight how unearned they are. What exactly is so terrible about these parties they keep getting invited to and inexplicably attending? We’ll never know. It doesn’t help that the Max Martin/Shellback production is as nondescript as can be, aiming for the intersection of dancehall and trop house and instead landing somewhere in an empty field with no recognizable landmarks.

Andy Hutchins: Thank goodness for the fizzy-yet-restrained production by Max Martin and Shellback, the very necessary flotation device for what could otherwise be a dark, honest song about codependency that verges on the deeply creepy. Biebs does admit to anxiety in a brief emergence from his twin ongoing crises — would you rather be under the Hillsong trance or pondering having Stephen Baldwin as a father-in-law? — but this is otherwise either a party jam about the wisdom of not going to parties, a lane Alessia Cara pretty effectively drove a few years back, or a song about loving the one you’re with and hating everyone else, something that Ellie Goulding, Swae Lee, and Fucking Diplo somehow made a better endeavor six months ago. I will be here for Billie Eilish figuring out, some time from now, that there is one hell of a dirge to be salvaged from this; I am not here for this as currently constructed now, nor ever.

Stephen Eisermann: This definitely makes me miss Justin Bieber’s material (which, WHAT), but it feels a bit too timid to be the superstar collaboration that it is. I do think that the song does a good job of placing Sheeran’s and Bieber’s styles together, but rather than sounding good, it proves that the two styles don’t blend well. It’s not bad, it’s just not enough. 

Nicholas Donohoue: This is the logical trend line for Bieber and Sheeran. They’ve essentially been swapping and converging towards musical ideas for the past four years. A track where you struggle to distinguish the two and no complexity is added to a drum beat plus a groan of a melody line about how parties suck, but your girlfriend is nice is very correct for the both of them and very bland for the rest of us. 

Alex Clifton: It’s a classic Ed Sheeran composition, which is to say it’s catchy with at least one feature I hate (in this case, it’s the howling the “OOH OOH OOH OOH” bit). Surprisingly this lacks the overly revealing lyrics that are the hallmark of Sheeran songs, and it tones down the sappiness so we’re not stuck with any kissing toothbrushes. It’s just… fine, though. For a song about anxiety and letting go, I really wish there were more musical movement instead of being ebullient all the way through — having a hooky chorus paired with slower or more fraught sections might’ve been a bit too on the nose, but I need something. I’m glad that Bieber is talking publicly about his mental health struggles but when he sings about being “crippled with anxiety” I don’t go there with him because the production won’t let me. Had the verses been taken in a different direction this might’ve been more successful overall, but hell if it’s not going to be stuck in my head for the next week.

Alfred Soto: A shrewd son of a bitch who writes dumb songs whose hooks he encrusts with tetanus, Ed Sheeran pairs with the only pop star whose ubiquity has fuck all to do with his compassion, brains, or looks. Bieber and Sheeran’s harmonies provide the only known moment of sympathy in the former’s recording career, but it doesn’t enliven or inhabit this “Shape of You” knockoff.

Iris Xie: It’s just so tired. Even the whistling sounds under duress, like they were forced to make a pop song under gunpoint because Scooter Braun is in competition with Kris Jenner for the most amount of $$$$ before 2019 is over. I’d be a lot more interested in the storyline around such a vapid song and how on earth these two pop stars could make such a soulless song. The fake trumpet and lack of harmonies sound like a bullshit essay that you would scrawl and drop off into your 8th grade English teacher’s mailbox. 

Scott Mildenhall: If Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and you, the listener, were the only three people to ever feel disaffected, this single would be met with confusion. Luckily, alienation is further from being the exception than the rule, so it’s actually at the top of the charts. With that in mind, would it not be more realistic to offer listeners a chink of light, rather than relaying the destructive instinct that everyone else is so much more together (and so much more shallow) than they are? This is far from the first song to play into that temptation, and perhaps it can build community by implication, but even that is undermined by the upshot that this is, above all, a love song. Sheeran and Bieber feel saved by the ones they have with them, and that is “I Don’t Care”‘s core. It has less to say for those who don’t feel saved.

Katherine St Asaph: The problem isn’t the premise — we’ve had centuries of songs about how parties rule, we can handle a few more about how they suck. (And Sheeran and Bieber are at the level of fame where they’re probably thinking of industry parties, their own circle of hell.) Nor is it the over-chill production, for once. Nor is it how it reminds me of Dream’s far superior “I Don’t Like Anyone.” Nor is it even the tangents about “not fitting in” that are one line away from “A lot of preps stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.” The problem is that Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, as they do, make it all about their seduction skills. The heterosexual girl who’d be charmed by “shall we dance” would probably prefer her boyfriend in a suit and tie, or at least in something that took more than five seconds’ worth of effort. Justin Bieber’s confession of anxiety is about as convincing as ex Selena Gomez’s, and using it to flirt is offputting at best. And there’s a problem with this premise after all: If the party sucks so much, why not just leave?

Joshua Copperman: Clearly! 

Reader average: [3.75] (4 votes)

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One Response to “Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber – I Don’t Care”

  1. This subhead is breathtaking

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