With thank u, next, Ariana Grande’s second album in six months on its way, it’s time to review the three singles released. So far, the triple-track-threat has racked up early 700 million streams on Spotify between them all, with latest single ‘7 rings’ breaking streaming records for the most streams in one week (snatching it from Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’).
It’s important not to forget just how incredible it is that Grande is still releasing and touring – the 2017 Manchester terror attack at her concert happened just over a year and a half ago. A source of major trauma, Grande’s bravery in overcoming the fear she must associate with her own music must not be forgotten. Following the loss of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller in September and the public breakup with Pete Davidson, nobody would have blamed her if she had decided to take some time out. Similarly, Grande is still incredibly young – at only 25 she holds three American Music Awards and six Grammy nominations as well as a net worth of an estimated $50 million. However, like most artists, she is still met by criticism. ‘7 rings’ has been met with accusations of plagiarism by Soulja Boy and 2 Chainz as well as more underground artist Princess Nokia.
The first release, ‘thank u, next’ went viral almost instantly. For days, our timelines were flooded by references to the now iconic song. The self-empowering, synth-driven ballad was a testimony to Ariana Grande’s ability to create catchy tracks destined for chart success. The breathy vocals combine with the repetition of “thank u, next” that feels sugary sweet is impossible not to like. It’s a pop track, driven by her own personal strength and the power of being a girl in the world who loves herself – more than anyone else.
Reminding me distinctly of BANKS’ ‘Fuck With Myself’ and Lorde’s ‘Liability’ there appears to be a rise in the music industry of women finally, beautifully, putting themselves before men. People fond of criticising Grande often use her success against her – generic chart drivel, overrated, sickly sweet. But Grande is producing track after track of successful hits – and there’s a reason for it. Those who adore hating popular music hate Ariana Grande, but to do so is an irritating habit and should not be treated as a personality trait.
The success of ‘thank u, next’ was followed by the R&B ballad ‘imagine’. With a rhythm clearly deriving from trap, Grande produces a mellow, vocally excellent track. Heart-wrenchingly familiar in its depiction of desiring an unrequited relationship, Grande treats us to the oh-so-relatable line “love how my face fits so good in your neck why can’t you imagine a world like that?”. It is hard, sometimes, to imagine Grande being criticised when her writing is not only relatable, but also beautiful. I can’t help but wonder if a lot of it is due to her success as a young woman in the music industry – people don’t expect her wisdom, her success, her money, or her confidence. There is a determination to knock women off pedestals once they have topped them, and Grande unfortunately does not seem like an exception.
Most recent single, and most controversial, is the recent ‘7 rings’. Opening with a Sound of Music-style riff, Grande indulges us with a tribute to retail therapy. Once again, Grande reminds us of female power with the mentions of female friendship over male relationships. The success of the latest song dives into experimentation with rap, featuring Grande flexing her millions. But the song is not without criticism.
The comparison to Princess Nokia, a relatively unknown artist, is undeniable and unfortunate. Similarly, the allegations of theft from 2 Chainz and Soulja Boy is also a source of grating irritation. It leads to discourse over how genuine Grande really is, causing debate over her honest image. But the song is still astoundingly good, incredibly catchy and shows a thrilling musical development from Grande with her venture into rap.
The three releases have been excellent, and in regards to what’s left to come, I can only say thank you for these records, bring on the next.