As the world of pop music expands at an incredible pace, so do its icons. Be it Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, the pop industry has birthed legacies which have resulted in undeniably glorious waves across the world. Another legacy in the making is that of an Italian-American songstress, and her bubblegum pop anthems; Ariana Grande has found her own and definitely won’t let go anytime soon.
Grande’s career began with Broadway. She was an artist on “13: The Musical”, which narrated the story of a young Jewish boy that moved from New York to Indiana. Her feature solo in the musical proved that she was no average middle school girl– Grande’s stint on television only strengthened this point. As Cat Valentine, she glided through the show in her signature red hair and astounding vocals. Her song Give it Up became a favourite almost instantly, owing to her delicious vocals that delivered such relatable lyrics. Through her journey on Nickelodeon, Ariana had somehow managed to outshine every single co-actor. This even prompted a spin-off series, Sam and Cat, since it was clear the fans couldn’t get enough of her. After working on her debut album for almost 3 years, Ariana released Yours Truly. The album featured Big Sean, Mac Miller and played heavily with the emotionality of nostalgia. It was unsurprisingly, distinctly bubblegum pop– but laced with a little R&B and 50s melodies. Comparisons with Mariah Carey began rolling in, but Ariana Grande could hold her notes fiercely; she would never give in to becoming a has-been so early.
Less than a year after her debut, Ariana released another album, My Everything. This album was an assertion of her dominance and power to churn out quality content, featuring collaborations with artists like Iggy Azalea, Childish Gambino and Zedd. Almost every single song from it climbed charts and gave her the recognition she so rightly deserved. Yet, it lacked the cohesion that Yours Truly held with a mix of styles and themes. But My Everything carried the undertone of her blossoming into, and understanding her adulthood. She was no longer excusable as a young teen artist, and this album declared that as well. Moving away from the comfort of convention in her next musical odyssey, Dangerous Woman, Ariana began to explore the sexuality attached to femininity. Her most well-received album to date, it was devastatingly beautiful in its honesty and coming-of-age quality. Her credit as a performer also began to grow in stature with her stellar vocalization at live shows. Even her singles and EPs for Christmas (Bang Bang, Christmas and Chill) never disappointed.
Through all this, Ariana dated many men. Her most significant relationships were with rappers Big Sean and Mac Miller. The latter was probably her longest and most closely watched relationship. While it was a source of immense happiness for her in the beginning, it ended with her being blamed for his addiction, DUI and eventual death after their breakup (and her relationship with Pete Davidson) due to overdosing. She did not find this criticism to be well-placed, and lashed back gloriously– questioning why women were always blamed for the missteps of their partners; she set in motion an important conversation about the importance of accountability and empathy. Unafraid of asserting her beliefs and standing up for the right things, Grande is a staunch feminist and was backed by millions of fans over the world.
The Dangerous Woman era however, while undoubtedly her most wonderful, was marked with great tragedy. At her concert in Manchester, a bomb went off, killing 23 fans and injuring many more. Grande spiralled into a cycle of anxiety, self-blame and PTSD, breaking down while talking about it on various occasions. Two weeks after the attack, Ariana Grande curated the One Love Manchester concert, which featured artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, to help the families of victims and survivors monetarily. Her tag of being fearless in the face of adversity and yet so delicately vulnerable, propelled her to a place where even if she wasn’t known for her music, she became a household name for her compassion and advocacy.
Her next album, Sweetener, was groundbreaking to say the least. Musically, it had texture unlike anything we had ever heard from her before– thematically, it told a tale of conquering and reclamation. Born out of her turbulent struggle with mental health, Sweetener’s tracks aimed to heal and inspire. She was also insufferably in love and even had an entire song dedicated to, and named after her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson (whom she broke up with shortly after the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller). The track God is a Woman from this album was a study on reclamation, and its music video garnered much controversy and praise for its absolutely stunning visual storytelling. Ariana’s talent shone through on almost every track with an incredibly sweet yet ferocious violence to take control of herself and the situation around her.
Just when we thought we could marinate safely in the goodness that came with Sweetener, Ariana picked up her signature ponytail and turned the tables on our comfort. After her dramatic relationship with Pete came to an end, she released an unbelievably sentimental, still equally ruthless thank u, next. A breakup anthem that took the world by storm– she shocked us by revealing that she has a full-length album coming with the same name barely 7 months after Sweetener. Her single 7 Rings saw her seamlessly rapping over lyrics meant to fight the idea that women need to be modest even when their success shines unimaginably. The album that is named after its lead single consists of songs that are unrelenting and unapologetic. She even won a Grammy for Sweetener– a testament to her greatness.
From an unassuming Cat to an unrelenting God– Ariana has become an immortal in not just pop history, but also millions of hearts.
Picture Courtesy- Variety