When Ariana Grande released the title track of her then upcoming album, Dangerous Woman, in March 2016, the world knew that the erotic-filled era of a former teen-star has arrived. Sexual filled lyricism, a classy James Bond-vibe throughout its whole length, and with it a big debate on how much the song and its video are objectifying the artist and women in general. By the time the connection of feminism in pop music already made headlines (thank you, Beyoncé!). So while Ariana put out hit after hit, with 2016’s Into You one of the greatest pop songs on earth btw, her name and success turned bigger. So did her image as the next pop doll in the business, with no charges of her own career. Another female artist which was forced to use the well-known ‘sex sells’ formula to raise the clicks on her videos. But something different happened.
Around this time, blog and social media posts spread around, calling the now 25-year-old singer a fierce feminist. Ariana Grande and feminism? Turns out there are plenty voices in the media field standing behind her, believing she is even the feminist voice of her generation. Either it is about shutting down sexist interviewers during a radio interview, dissing online-trolls back for slut-shaming her or walking down the streets during the Women’s March – Ariana proved several times she is part of her sisterhood and stands behind them.
Concerning the part with showing skin in her videos and wearing lingerie? Ariana’s answer is simple: Her body, her choice. Be proud of your body and sexuality. It is your decision and it does not give permission for hate. Again for those in the back: This. Is. Feminism. Having a choice to do what feels right for you.
The Dangerous Women era felt already like an inner revolution for the singer. Without changing much of her public appearance. she was still the tiny girl with the big eye lashes and infamous ponytail. No change of image with every album – Ariana Grande is sticking to her style – and the hits. All of them were brought to stage on her successful Dangerous Woman Tour in 2017 – the artist’s homage to femininity, independence and a free spirit. By now the tour can be relived through a 4-episode-long web series, the Dangerous Woman Diaries, in which the singer even jokes about diarrhea on stage. No diva-attitute to be found here.
With her shows Ariana created her own small pop universe, not big enough to fight for the throne of live shows, but cool enough to save her a place in mainstream’s underdog section. The tour was interrupted then by a horrifying terror attack in Manchester and forced the singer and her team to cancel several dates. During the toughest period of her professional and personal life, Ariana stayed calm and brought light to the dark. Roughly two weeks after the tragedy, she performed the One Love Manchester benefit concert to raise money for the injured and the victim’s families.
The young woman with the spectacular vocal range became the voice of a whole generation. The Time Magazine named her one of the NEXT GENERATION LEADERS in May 2018, after releasing her freshly and uplifting No Tears Left To Cry in April the same year. It became an anthem for the hurt ones, the fighters. To create strength when there seems nothing left.
With God Is A Woman Ariana presented shortly after her most empowering song to date. A biblical middle finger to patriarchy’s oppression of females. With its hard hip-hop influenced production it is also one of Ariana’s eadgiest songs. The spectacular visual even includes a fluid vulva-bath and even a voice-cameo of the queen of pop herself: Madonna. The singer made it clear: being female is a blessing, not a burden. And haters can go to hell.
Her latest album release Sweetener in August 2018 topped charts worldwide, without being filled with airplay hits and or planned chart toppers. It sounded more personal than any of her releases before. In an interview with Australian pop singer Troye Sivan Ariana confirmed that she played the game of putting out radio hits long enough, now it is time for her own style.
One song is even named by then-fiancée, Pete Davidson. They were engaged, but split quickly after Grande’s former partner, rapper Mac Miller, died from an overdose in September 2018. Her private life became topic number one and everyone was waiting for her breakdown. Instead, she turned her story into music.
On November 3rd Ariana surprisingly released Thank u, next, a track not appearing on the freshly available album from summer. The context: saying goodbye to her ex-boyfriends. It topped charts worldwide, the YouTube premiere of the accompanied music video became the event with the largest audience since the platform’s launch. As you read this we’re approaching the 300-million(!) views mark, people.
In addition to that, the singer confirmed a new album with the same title – Thank u, next premieres today. It marks another era in her career: A young female artist which is ready to set new rules in the pop business; her own ones. In most cases Thank u, next would be released as an additional EP for a deluxe edition of widely promoted Sweetener (the Sweetener World Tour being part of this plan) – but Ariana puts out a full length long player of 12 tracks. In an interview she stated that she is fed up with the industry’s limitation of pop artists and their tied up release-schedules. With a large following of fans like hers she obviously got away with this. We can expect some more surprises to come.
And there lays the game-changing aspect of thank u, next: Ariana doesn’t need a record label anyore, it’s the other way around.
Even her latest single, 7 rings, hits records and spawned some controversy for cultural appropriation. A white girl bragging (and rapping) about her money and bought hair. She crossed borders, but did not lose any of her cool. And with all the success, she still does not appear like former female super stars. Instead, Ariana Grande stays in her small pop bubble, being the underdog (or goddess?) she proved to be throughout the years. She learned the rules of pop, but breaks them smart enough to not fall in line. Instead, she is always a few steps ahead of the game. She wants it, she gets it – by her own rules. Sounds quite ‘indie’ for a small pop girl wearing glitter and pink, doesn’t it?
Thank you, next is out now, released on Republic Records.