Review: Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber make early bid for ‘song of summer’
Say hello to Jed Shieber, everyone, and get used to him: He’s sure to be here for a very long while.
We speak, of course, of the bromantic union of Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, who after collaborating behind the scenes on two recent pop smashes — Bieber’s “Love Yourself” in 2015 and Major Lazer’s “Cold Water” in 2016 — have finally joined voices for “I Don’t Care,” a new collaborative single released late Thursday night.
For both stars, the song represents a return to the spotlight after some time away — time in which Shawn Mendes made himself a nice little sweet spot between Sheeran’s folky songwriter-isms and Bieber’s post-EDM balladry. But “I Don’t Care” is also clearly the duo’s stab at creating the song of the summer; it was designed to be played at barbecues and pool parties from now until September. Surrender now: It most definitely will be.
Clever as always, Sheeran wrote the tune — and let’s establish that this feels like Sheeran featuring Bieber, not the other way around — about feeling out of place at just such a gathering.
“I’m at a party I don’t wanna be at,” Sheeran sings to open the song, before wondering if he “could sneak out the back.” Later, Bieber doubles down on his pal’s mild discomfort: “With all these people around, I’m crippled with anxiety,” he sings — a surprising admission for a pop song, if not for a pop star who’s been speaking about depression with uncommon candor on social media of late.
Not to worry, though. Soon enough, Jed Shieber’s lady swoops in to reassure our heroes that they can deal with the bad nights. “You’re making me feel like I’m loved by somebody,” they sing, their voices intertwined as tenderly as can be.
Musically, “I Don’t Care” is a virtual redo of Sheeran’s once-inescapable “Shape of You,” complete with rapid-fire vocals in the verses and a vaguely tropical beat that keeps the song light on its feet — crucial for a track as heavily strategized as this one.
Two years ago, when Sheeran released “Shape of You,” he was using that kind of groove to show he was more than a soft-hearted acoustic troubadour. (It worked.) Now, amid the Latin-pop explosion that “Despacito” set off, “I Don’t Care” — which Sheeran and Bieber recorded with the Top 40 wizards Max Martin and Shellback — demonstrates Sheeran’s determination to remain at the very top of the pop charts.