After more than a year of controversies, heartbreaks and breaking records, Ariana Grande released her fifth album, “thank u, next” on Feb. 8. The album comes only 6 months after her last album, “Sweetener.”
“Sweetener” quickly became Grande’s most respected and well-liked album, with it recently winning the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. This album followed and dealt with many events that had occured in Grande’s life prior to its release, including her engagement to comedian Pete Davidson, her breakup with and the death of rapper Mac Miller, and the Manchester Arena Bombing, the terrorist attack that took place at her concert in Manchester, England in 2017. In discussing such heavy topics, Grande took a positive perspective that related to many fans with “Sweetener.”
“I think she has handled herself this past year pretty well,” freshman Josh Beirlein said. “She has shown to the world that all of these things in her life might have been traumatic, but she will rise above them and continue to better herself each and every single day she is here on this earth. She has shown the dedication she has to her fans by having the Manchester Funding Concert, even if that was something that was traumatic for her. ”
Shortly after ‘Sweetener’ was released, Grande released the song and music video to ‘thank u, next’ on Nov. 3, her most successful release to date with the song surpassing the record for the most streams in a single week by a female artist, becoming Grande’s first No. 1 single and the video becoming the most watched video in 24 hours on Youtube.
“I loved [thank u, next],” freshman Hannah Horvath said. “I think lyrically it was amazing and the message was something we all needed. I feel like there’s a lot of songs about being in love and break up and focusing on the pain of that but I really liked that ‘thank you, next’ wasn’t sad. It was kind of owning your pain and struggle and focusing on bettering yourself.”
Shortly after that, Grande released two more singles from “thank u, next,” including “imagine” and “7 rings.” “7 rings,” which had more of a rap/hip hop influence then pop, was released on Jan. 18 and topped the charts. However, it was met with some backlash. The song was called out for its resemblance to former songs, notably from black rappers Soulja Boy, 2 Chainz and Princess Nokia. Grande denied copying from other artists and even recorded a second version of the song featuring 2 Chainz.
“Honestly, I could see how people are viewing her as appropriating African American culture with the song and some of the lyrics,” Horvath said. “Buying hair-like weaves and wigs are huge for African American women. At the same time I don’t think her intention in anyway was to appropriate culture. There’s many celebrities who wear fake hair, from red carpet looks to just walking down the street. So I can kind of see both sides. I really don’t see her as being racist or intentionally trying to offend anyones culture.”
Grande was called out for potentially appropriating African American culture with the line “you like my hair, gee thanks, just bought it.” Many disagreed and felt as though she was just expressing her wealth and success.
“That’s unnecessary,” junior Akaila Martinez said. “It’s dumb to try and say she’s racist. People buy hair extensions all the time.”
Following the release of “7 rings,” Grande decided to commemorate its success with a tattoo of what she thought was seven rings written in Japanese, which was used on the cover art of the single. However, after posting a picture of the tattoo on social media, she was made aware that it actually translated to “tiny charcoal grill.” The singer said she had gone to a Japanese tutor to get the translation for the tattoo and went back to get the tattoo fixed. However, the fixed version of the tattoo still read incorrectly as a Japanese BBQ finger. Grande was called out for appropriating Japanese culture and many said she shouldn’t use the language as a tool to promote music, especially when used incorrectly.
“I kind of thought it was dumb, but at the same time she can do what she wants,” freshman Hannah Horvath said. “One of the most common tattoos is people writing in asian languages so I feel like if people online are going to consider that cultural appropriation then they should look at the vast window of people with Japanese writing tattooed on their body, not just Ariana.”
On Feb. 8, Grande released the album “thank u, next.” The album consists of 12 songs, including the three previously released singles. In dropping the album, Grande also released a fourth single, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” with a music video. The music video, which is about her wanting to date this boy, ends with her almost kissing another woman. Many on the internet were quick to call Grande out for potentially “queerbating” viewers and/or calling the act potentially homophobic. However, many on the internet disagreed and found the kiss to be all in good taste.
“I personally see where they’re coming from with queerbating and how the LGBT community could take slight offense to the fact she’s kissing a girl when she hasn’t come out,” Horvath said. “At the same time, I kind of like the thought of including their community to be a part of her music instead of viewing it as luring them in. I don’t know, my opinion could be totally wrong, but I think she’s just trying to have fun and mess around but I can see where it’d be offensive.”
With all the criticism of Grande and her choices the past few months, it has been brought about online by many how her actions are treated more harshly than many of the men in the music industry. Some feel as though men, such as XXXtentacion, who confessed to domestically abusing women and still has support from audiences, are able to get away with more. Many feel there is a double standard in the music industry for women.
“It really doesn’t take much to see that there’s a huge double standard in the music industry,” Horvath said. “From treatment of them down to reputation. I do believe women have it harder and can be treated unfairly. Taylor Swift received and immense amount of hate for dating lots of guys, but society will look at a music video of a man with women all over him and not give it a second thought. From dating, down to even the photos they post, the women inside the industry are under an immense amount of scrutiny.”
Overall, fans of Grande have continued to support her and her music. “thank u, next” has become of the most successful albums of the year, with it being the largest streaming week for a pop album ever and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts.
“I think a lot of the songs are meaningful,” Martinez said. “I can connect and vibe to them, so I love the entire album...Her music connects her fans with her and it makes us see that, as girls we deal with the same stupid problems and, as a person, I know she’s all about self love and her songs kind of express that as well, so I would give the album a 10/10.”
Grande is preparing to go on tour this spring, and with the release of two full albums and 8 singles in a year, one can assume there will not be another music release for some time. Ariana Grande continues to be one of the most recognizable names and is idolized by many. Her fans support what she stands for, even if it can be controversial at times.
“I just think Ariana really emphasizes being a woman in today's world and owns it, and I love that,” Horvath said. “She’s an amazing artist who’s gone through so much and she really takes each challenge she’s faced with and deals with it. In the last year with Manchester and Mac Miller, my heart just kind of goes out to her. Ariana’s the kind of person that you wanna root for, and you want her to come out on top of all of this.”