On Friday, May 8, 2020 Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber released what is now the anthem of the global pandemic, “Stuck With U.” According to Music Maven’s proprietary technology, which provides the most current and accurate data on the performance of all artists and songs in daily music charts, “Stuck With U” is the Most Streamed and Highest Earning Song, with 3.2M streams and $8.8K on its first day. The music video, released on Thursday, now has 24.8M views on YouTube.

Because of Ariana Grande’s immense social media power, she has the capacity to increase streams and views almost effortlessly. To give one indicator of this power, she has the third most followers on Instagram, 183M, only after the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo at number two with 216M, and the Instagram brand itself, at number one with 347M followers. She has another 73M followers on Twitter.

This means that with one Instagram photo, post, live stream, tweet, like, or emoji, Ariana Grande can instantly rouse her over 200M fans to listen to her latest song. Add that to Justin Bieber’s 134M Instagram followers, only at twelfth in followers, and you have a viral hit. This helps explain why “Stuck With U” is at the top of the music charts now.

The other reason why “Stuck With U” is so successful is because it is based on a powerful strategy. The strategy is determined by Scooter Braun, the superstar entrepreneur and manager of both Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, as well as Demi Lovato, who all make appearances in the video with their lovers. In the case of Ariana and Demi, they used the video to reveal and confirm their latest romances, to satisfy rumors and invoke more curiosity.

As part of Braun’s SB Projects, “Stuck With U” is one in a series of philanthropic singles designed to benefit specific charities over the year in response to the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. In partnership with the First Responders Children’s Foundation, all proceeds from “Stuck With U” sales and streams will benefit children of first responders who have been impacted by the virus and disease.

Similar to Post Malone’s live cover of Nirvana hits designed to benefit the World Health Organization, and many similar ventures, Braun’s strategy with “Stuck With U,” and future singles, is apparently to raise awareness and funds to benefit those at the frontlines of the crisis, in ways that directly address the feelings and concerns of fans, and to allow them to be part of the musical experience while they, like the artists themselves, are on lockdown.

“Stuck With U” deploys the strategy of connecting with fans through relatable lyrics and emotions. The video is best at portraying these connections. Based on requests from the artists through Instagram to send in self-made footage, the video includes grainy and lo-res shots from Ariana Grande herself, as well as Bieber and other stars, and innumerable fans, with the families, pets, and whoever they were stuck with at the outset of this crisis.

The video blurs the boundary between fans and stars because it shows entertainers at their most vulnerable, with the same technology and similar feelings of confinement, and the attendant strains on relationships, as those of the everyday people who follow them. Anyone watching will look closely for who is a star and who is a person they do not know at home, but they will not be able to easily tell. The resulting ambiguity places star power in the hands of everyday people. The video elevates fans to star status through inclusion in the video, and uplifts viewers to feel as though they are also part of the show, even if they know they are not living in the same mansion as the artist.

This is the opposite of Drake’s strategy in the video for “Toosie Slide,” the other pandemic anthem, which shows the masked Drake, wandering alone through his dark palace, which communicates the pain of isolation, even in luxury and opulence. The cruel, cringe-worthy scenes of “Toosie Slide” somehow evoke sorrow for the king in solitude and his infinite gaze through ever-expanding walls of glass and mirrors. This even as viewers feel the strain of their own confinement in cramped, walled-in apartments.

“Stuck With U” instead shows all kinds of friends and company, in bright, homemade, scenes, safe inside and outside in their backyards, as fans and stars alike turn inward and outward to find romance and love for themselves and their companions who they happen to be stuck with.

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By Vince, May 10, 2020