The woman who evolved from being a Nickelodeon teen idol into the most successful international pop star; Ariana Grande! Don’t be fooled by her 1.53m height, this lady is HUGE. She’s currently touring her Sweetener World Tour, which is why we thought this was the best time to figure out: what is the meaning behind Ariana Grande’s lyrics?
Guess what? By listening closely to her open lyrics you’ll get to know the pop diva (and her dynamic love life!) pretty well…
Ariana Grande-Butera was born on June 26th, 1993 in Boca Raton, Florida. From an early age she knew she wanted to act and sing, and she debuted at age 15 in the Broadway musical 13.
Her big breakthrough as an actress arrived a short two years later when she landed the role of Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon show Victorious. The comedy series turned out to be a huge success, and after 4 seasons a spin-off show was released called Sam & Cat.
Victorious also helped launch her singing career. Ari featured on the show’s soundtrack multiple times, meanwhile she uploaded covers on YouTube, singing Adele and Mariah Carey songs. Republic Records was impressed and offered her a record deal, so after Sam & Cat ended, Ariana decided to focus on her singing career.
In September 2013 she released debut Yours Truly, which charted at #1 in the United States. Her single The Way, featuring Mac Miller became her first top 10 hit.
Six years later and Ariana is the most followed woman on Instagram with 161 (!) million followers and over 30 billion streams on several streaming platforms. Apart from this, she has collected an impressive prize cabinet, with a Grammy for her album Sweetener and the Billboard Woman of the Year award she received in 2018.
Ariana is known for her high ponytail, over the knee black boots, famous boyfriends, and her enormous vocal reach. In Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, she revealed how seemingly easily she is able to copy famous singers’ high notes:
Let’s see what Ariana has to say (about herself) in her lyrics…
5. Problem – Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea (My Everything, 2014)
One subject Ariana likes to discuss in her music is love. She does so in Problem, a collaboration with Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea, which helped her towards her worldwide musical breakthrough.
In this song, Ari has set her sights on a bad boy; she knows she’s better off without him, but still can’t stay away from him…
Tell me, tell me, baby
Why can’t you leave me
‘Cause even though I shouldn’t want it
I gotta have it
I want you
Head in the clouds
Got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser
And realize that I’ve got
One less problem without ya
I got one less problem without ya
I got one less problem without ya
I got one less, one less problem
One less problem without ya
Problem – Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea
The pop track’s catchy chorus whispers “One less problem without ya” voiced by Big Sean, who Ariana collaborated with before on her debut Yours Truly. These collaborations ultimately led to something more; Ari started dating the rapper.
Although she enjoys singing about love, her life does not only revolve around men. When the two broke up, she tweeted about not wanting to be known for being ‘somebody’s ex’:
“I am tired of living in a world where women are mostly referred to as a man’s past, present or future property / possession. I… do not. Belong. To anyone. But myself. And neither do you. I have clearly not been having the boy questions in my interviews lately because I have come to the realization that I have SO. MUCH. MORE. To talk about. (…) I know y’all ready know this, but the double standards and misogyny are still ever present. I can’t wait to live in a world where people are not valued by who they’re dating / married to / attached to, having sex with (or not) / seen with…. But by their value as an individual.”
This is girlpower 2.0, you go Ari!
4. Side To Side – Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj (Dangerous Woman, 2016)
After releasing hit album My Everything and embarking on her first world tour, Ariana started releasing new music. Shortly after debuting her super catchy single Focus, she announced her new album Dangerous Woman. In this album she aims for a more mature sound, and she revealed the meaning behind the album title during a livestream:
“I wanna be empowering my fans. For me a dangerous woman is someone who is not afraid to take a risk and to be themselves (…) And who’s not afraid to be honest.”
This album’s mature sound is a combination of her ‘90s R&B sound mixed with dancepop, reggae, house, and trap. Critically acclaimed, Dangerous Woman was nominated for a Grammy for Best Vocal Pop album and Best Pop Solo Performance.
After scoring hits with Dangerous Woman and Into You, she released Side To Side, featuring Nicki Minaj, as the third single. This collaboration became a worldwide success. In this song, Ari serenades a crush:
Been tryna hide it
Baby what’s it gonna hurt if they don’t know?
Makin’ everybody think that we solo
Just as long as you know you got me (You got me)
She keeps her flirt a secret to the world, although she knows it’s not going to turn out well for her…
And boy I got ya
‘Cause tonight I’m making deals with the devil
And I know it’s gonna get me in trouble
Just as long as you know you got me
These friends keep talkin’ way too much
Say I should give you up
Eventually she decides to just let her friends ramble on, she’s not going to listen to them anyway…
Can’t hear them no, ‘cause
I’ve been here all night
I’ve been here all day
And boy, got me walkin’ side to side (Side to side)
Side To Side – Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj
A juicy detail is that Walking Side To Side appears to refer to a person not being able to walk after a wild night…The singer may look innocent, but not everything is as it seems!
3. No Tears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande (Sweetener, 2018)
In 2017, Ariana toured the world with her Dangerous Woman Tour. On May 22nd she performed in Manchester, after which a suicide attack was committed. This led to 22 deaths and left over 500 attendees wounded. Ariana felt heartbroken and she responded on Twitter:
“broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
She recently proved her genuine dedication to the victims and their relatives by visiting the hospital and organizing a benefit: One Love Manchester. This emotional event took place two weeks after the attack in Manchester and featured performances by popular artists including Coldplay, Justin Bieber, and The Black Eyed Peas. A grand total of almost 3 million euros was raised for the Red Cross. Besides this, Ariana donated 100% of the profits made off her re-released single One Last Time and a live version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow to the We Love Manchester fund.
Resulting her brave efforts towards the victim’s relatives, Ariana was crowned Manchester’s first-ever honorary citizen.
Ariana was greatly affected by the attack and in an emotional interview with The Fader, a little over a year after the attack in Manchester, she stated:
“I guess I thought with time, and therapy, and writing, and pouring my heart out, and talking to my friends and family that it would be easier to talk about, but it’s still so hard to find the words. When you’re so close to something so tragic and terrifying and opposite of what music and concerts are supposed to be, it kind of leaves you without any ground beneath your feet.”
In No Tears Left To Cry, she explains how the rain finally made way for the sun:
Ain’t got no tears in my body
I ran out, but boy, I like it, I like it, I like it
Don’t matter how, what, where, who tries it
We’re out here vibin’, we vibin’, we vibin’
Comin’ out, even when it’s rainin’ down
Can’t stop now, can’t stop so shut your mouth
Shut your mouth, and if you don’t know
Then now you know it, babe
Know it, babe, yeah
Ari has cried all of her tears and now it’s time to get back on track:
Right now, I’m in a state of mind
I wanna be in, like, all the time
Ain’t got no tears left to cry
So I’m pickin’ it up, pickin’ it up (oh yeah)
I’m lovin’, I’m livin’, I’m pickin’ it up
Oh, I just want you to come with me
We’re on another mentality
Ain’t got no tears left to cry
No Tears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande
The No Tears Left To Cry music video is full of symbolism. We can see Ariana take off her mask and a bee flies through the screen; Manchester’s emblem. Apart from this, the singer rarely stands with both feet on the ground, a statement which is elaborated upon by the video director:
“The concept that we wanted to explore was the disorientation that you go through in life. And the quest we all go through to find the ground again. We sort of explore the ambiguity of whether we need to find the ground or the ground is just what you make of it. It relates to the optimism in her song.”
2. God Is A Woman – Ariana Grande (Sweetener, 2018)
For the Grammy-winning album Sweetener, Ariana collaborated with Pharrell Williams, which can be heard in a refreshingly innovative sound. Outspoken lyrics play a large part in the cheerful pop songs.
She reflects on the end of her turbulent relationship with rapper Mac Miller and her new relationship with Pete Davidson. The album closes with the impressive Get Well Soon. This track discusses Ariana’s mental health struggles and ends on an emphatically timed silence, leaving the song on an exact 5:22; the date of the Manchester attack.
Yet, the most striking track on Sweetener has to be sexy love song God Is A Woman. At first listen, the lyrics seem to quite shallowly refer to her fiancé Pete Davidson:
But you’re different from the rest
And boy, if you confess, you might get blessed
See if you deserve what comes next
I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it
However, when you continue reading, the song reveals multiple layers. Ariana refers to the Catholic religion by using words like confess and blessed, combining religion and sex; a bold combination!
And I can be all the things you told me not to be
When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing
And he see the universe when I’m the company
It’s all in me
You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you
My one, when all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
God Is A Woman – Ariana Grande
According to these lyrics, sharing the bed with Ariana is so sensational that you would almost believe that she’s God. However, the song also contains another (feminist) layer; she won’t let herself be guided by the guy (You love it how I move you, you love it how I touch you), meaning Ari is in charge in the bedroom.
Apart from the (subtle) references in the lyrics, the feminist message is brought across in the God Is A Woman music video. A passage from the bible as recited by Madonna can be heard, Ari crushes a glass ceiling and she sits (quite literally) on top of the world.
1. Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande (Thank U, Next, 2019)
At the end of 2018, Ariana Grande surprised friend and foe by releasing a new single and an album of the same name: Thank U, Next.
This (almost iconic) title reveals the work preceding the album. Ariana went through a rough patch in 2018. She ended her relationship with American rapper Mac Miller in May, likely because of his drug addiction. Shortly after, she started dating comedian Pete Davidson and they got engaged a few weeks later. On September 7th, the incredibly sad news came in that Ari’s ex Mac Miller passed away due to a drug overdose. She was devastated, and this was probably one of the main reasons why Ari and Pete called off their engagement a month later.
All of this is reflected in the album; it showcases a strikingly dark R&B and hip-hop sound, and Ariana’s lyrics are, once again, quite revealing. In Ghostin’, she sings about her grief following the tragic death of Mac Miller while still being in a relationship with Pete Davidson (I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again / Over him).
The successful single Thank U, Next is a personal song disclosing her love life, clearly revealing which ex she’s referring to:
Thought I’d end up with Sean
But he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky
Now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married
And for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say, “Thank you” to Malcolm
‘Cause he was an angel
Ariana let her exes listen to the track before releasing it. How immaculate!
One taught me love
One taught me patience
And one taught me pain
Now, I’m so amazing
I’ve loved and I’ve lost
But that’s not what I see
So, look what I got
Look what you taught me
And for that, I say
Here, Ariana shares how this is the opposite of a diss track: all of these relationships taught her valuable lessons.
Thank U, next (next)
Thank U, next (next)
Thank U, next
I’m so fuckin’ grateful for my ex
Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande
This single is also accompanied by a notable music video. In this, Ari re-enacts scenes from classic movies like Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, and it features cameos from celebrities like Kris Jenner and several Victorious colleagues. This was a smart move, as the video broke all kinds of streaming records on YouTube!
Did you expect Ariana to share her emotions and experiences so open-heartedly? Her candid lyrics and dedication to her fans have made her into one of the biggest stars of the moment.
Will you be seeing this power woman live during the Sweetener World Tour? You’re in for a treat! Supposedly, Ariana will be performing no less than 27 (!) songs. Enjoy!
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