With mumble rap running the charts, and pop artists like Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber being the only ones who seem to get recognition in the genre, the days of powerhouses like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera seem to be long gone. Ariana Grande, however, is a beacon of hope in these dark times.
After beginning her career on Nickelodeon, Grande left the network to focus on her music career in 2013 with the release of her debut album, Yours Truly. Grande really established herself as an artist with 2014’s My Everything, which featured singles like “Problem,” “Break Free,” and “Bang Bang,” all of which helped launch her into true stardom.
Grande found equal success with Dangerous Woman, her third album released in 2016. While on tour supporting the album, she became a household name after a bomb was detonated outside of her show in Manchester on May 22, 2017 killing 22 people, most of whom were attendees of the show (which had ended minutes before). After taking only a few days to grieve and emotionally recover from the tragedy, Grande was back in Manchester to visit families of the victims and plan “One Love Manchester,” the benefit concert held on June 4, 2017, which raised over 13 million dollars for the families of victims.
Finishing up her “Dangerous Woman Tour,” in September, fans eagerly awaited new music. Grande added fuel to the anticipation on New Year’s Eve, posting a short, harmonious snippet on Instagram with the caption “see you next year.” She then logged out of all social media platforms, completely leaving fans in the dark on what stage of development her fourth studio album was in.
The act of “disappearing” has become common amongst music’s biggest names. After the major success of her 1989 era and an onslaught of hate comments from Kanye West followers, Taylor Swift completely disappeared from the public eye last year, only occasionally appearing in paparazzi photos. When Swift returned in August with release of the first single off of her sixth studio album, “Look What You Made Me Do,” the song shot to number one instantly. The video shattered the “24-Hour Vevo Record,” garnering over 43 million views in only 24 hours. Grande’s friend and frequent collaborator Nicki Minaj took a similar approach, with fans building up major anticipation for her return-single, “Chun-Li,” leading it to chart in the top 10.
Not only does the act allow artists to take time away from the public eye for themselves, but it has also proved successful in creating anticipation for the artists return, leading to a higher number in sales.
With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Grande’s tweet of a single teardrop emoji sent out on April 17 managed to get over 200,000 likes, with the announcement of the first single from her fourth album “No Tears Left To Cry” following shortly after and gaining over 100,000 more. Rumors began to circulate on what the song would be like, with most anticipating an emotional ballad dedicated to the victims of the Manchester attack. A teaser posted by Grande on April 19, the day before the songs slated release, seemed to back up this theory, as Grande’s impeccable vocals mixed together in harmony, resembling what could only be described as a choir of angels.
The first moments of “No Tears,” goes follows this narrative, Grande’s isolated vocals proclaiming, “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.” Quickly, though, a background track kicks in, as the words “I’m picking it up/Picking it up/I’m loving, I’m living, I’m picking it up,” transition the piece from ballad to ‘90s-diva anthem. The sound is where Grande is most comfortable, and rightfully so. With comparisons being made to Mariah Carey from the start of her musical career, Grande’s discography manages (including “No Tears”) manages to be reminiscent of Carey, while simultaneously feeling new.
“No Tears” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, Grande’s biggest debut, is refreshing and nostalgic all in one. It’s pop at its finest, which is a style that many pop-artists have strayed away from in recent years, trading in synth sounds for rap features in order to sell. Grande, however, is clearly not abandoning her pop roots just yet, with “No Tears,” boasting a chorus full of powerhouse vocals and a beat that would fit right in at any dance club.
The accompanying video, directed by Dave Meyers (whose recent filmography includes Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE” and Camila Cabello’s “Havana”) is Grande’s biggest production to date, with wide-shots and upside-down angles that create a spectacular illusion. At the end of the video, Grande includes a touching nod to the city of Manchester as a bee (one of the symbols of Manchester) flies across the screen.
On “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” this past Monday, Grande not only announced a performance at the Billboard Music Awards on May 20, but also dropped the name of her forthcoming album (Sweetener) along with multiple track-titles (“God Is A Woman” an obvious standout), hinting at a summer release date.
So while the days of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston may seem far in the past, don’t count out pop vocalists yet. If Ariana Grande keeps doing what she’s doing, and the general public shows a little more openness, she’ll be topping the charts in no time.