If you've turned on the radio in the past month, you more than likely have heard a song by pop superstar and Grammy award-winner, Ariana Grande.
The 25-year-old singer made history last week being the first solo artist to occupy the top three spots on the Billboard Hot 100 with songs from her most recent album, “thank u, next.” In order, the top songs are “7 rings,” “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” and “thank u, next.” This Billboard record was only previously held by The Beatles in 1964.
Whether you like a bouncy beat or a slow-paced, emotional story, the album has a song for everyone to enjoy. The pop and rhythm and blues mix is easily the most well-received release of her career.
With over 56 million monthly Spotify listeners and over 146 million Instagram followers, it's not hard to turn to statistics when trying to explain her fame. However, numbers are arguably the least important factors in her success.
From a young age, Grande’s dedication proved her worthy of great things. The 2018 Billboard Woman of the Year began her career as an actress, landing small roles and eventually making it to Broadway by 15 years old. Soon after, she was cast in the hit Nickelodeon television show, "Victorious," where her career in music started to bud. Republic Records signed the young artist in 2011.
“The Way,” featuring a then-20-year-old Mac Miller, was the first vibrant single where Grande got to show off her four-octave range. Her first three albums, “Yours Truly" in 2013, “My Everything” in 2014 and “Dangerous Woman” in 2016, are filled with experimental R&B sounds, as Grande spent years exploring the realm of her creativity.
The “sweetener” and “thank u, next” era shows a new, vulnerable side to Grande that her music has never shown before. Episode one of "The Dangerous Woman Diaries" on YouTube shows her in the studio recording “get well soon” and “R.E.M.” from her “sweetener” album with singer, songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams.
“These two I feel like sound like my DNA,” Grande said in the video. “Or how I wish I felt. Not how I feel or how I’m striving to feel.”
The two albums come in the wake of nearly two life-changing years for the “thank u, next” singer. On May 22, 2017 in Manchester, England, 22 people were killed and countless others were injured by a suicide bomber at Grande’s concert on her "Dangerous Woman" tour. Weeks after the attack, Grande was back in Manchester to host the One Love Manchester benefit concert, which honored and raised funds for the victims.
A year later, she released her first single since the attack, “no tears left to cry.”
The song was an uplifting message, one that showed Grande’s healing process with the lyrics “Ain’t got no tears left to cry / So I’m pickin’ it up, pickin’ it up / I’m lovin’, I’m livin', I’m pickin’ it up.”
This message was soon tested with the death of Mac Miller, her ex-boyfriend and long-time friend, in September 2018. At the time, Grande was engaged to actor and comedian Pete Davidson, but the two split up a month after Miller’s death.
All of these events seemed to give Grande more reasons to eat, sleep and breathe music. Her fourth and fifth albums were released just six months apart. The lyrics of her songs became more personal. Creativity came to her effortlessly in a time when she desperately needed an escape.
“I can’t fake another smile / I can’t fake like I’m alright,” Grande sings in her song “fake smile.” “And I won’t say I’m feeling fine / After what I been through, I can’t lie.”
It is this introspective outlet that continues to draw people to Grande’s music. Her success is not about the numbers, not about the fact that “7 Rings” is No. 1 in the country for the fifth week in a row. It’s about the beauty in Grande’s music that captures what it’s like to be human in a sometimes painful, dark world.