It’s the least you should expect from the first collaboration between two of the biggest pop stars on Earth: Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber (Sheeran has written for Bieber, most notably his #1 song “Love Yourself”). It’s quite something for these two, especially Bieber, to launch their comebacks jointly. Both of them have the kind of chart-conquering success that neither needed the other to launch a new album. Even though his career has been sidelined by tabloid drama and a surprise marriage to Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin), Bieber can chart in the top 10 in his sleep (lest we forget that the “Despacito” remix is one of the most successful singles of all time).
Mutually assured preservation certainly takes the edge off, a sensation that permeates through “I Don’t Care”. The song is effortless, in the sense that neither are really trying. Both Sheeran and Bieber have done the breezy vibes and dancehall-very-lite sounds before, setting the course of mainstream pop with “Shape of You” and “Sorry” respectively. In comparison, “I Don’t Care” sounds like something they could’ve made in their sleep. That might actually be a possibility, considering it’s quite difficult to discern at times which superstar is singing which verse. Their voices do work together, so well that you wonder whether it needed to be a duet at all. Bieber is the stronger vocalist here, but neither claim any ownership, or even presence. The lyrics are its most interesting part, as these two stars express their unease and anxiety attending a party (a sentiment that Alessia Cara rode to a Grammy win four years ago). There’s something intriguing there, especially in Bieber’s case with his fairly open mental health struggles, but “I Don’t Care” doesn’t follow through, basically throwing hands in the air and gliding into that earworm of a chorus.
“I Don’t Care” is thoroughly unremarkable, but it is also damn catchy, in an easy, inoffensive way. It’s more immediate that “Shape of You”, and probably involved more of Bieber than “Despacito” and his later singles did. Such a huge collaboration should feel more impactful, or at least unique. However, it is enjoyable enough to rule radio, streaming and music charts at least until September, after which we will move on and likely forget it ever existed. With more mainstream artists trying less and less, “I Don’t Care” might be the best case scenario.