Newsmaker: Ariana Grande, a real-life Charlie’s Angel
If you haven’t heard an Ariana Grande song yet, you soon will. About three weeks ago, she dropped her latest hit, ‘Don’t call me angel’, in collaboration with Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Ray, for the new Charlie’s Angels reboot, which already has almost 100 million views on YouTube.
She’s probably already familiar. Standing five-foot-two, she’s the one with the elfin features, enormous high ponytail, extended eyeliner, oversized sweatshirt, and knee-length boots. Grande has been in and out of the news for the last six years, for her chart-topping singles, of course, but also for her much publicised relationships and break-ups, and the Manchester Arena bombing that took place outside her concert.
Oh, and did we mention she can sing? It’s a Beyonce-meets-Mariah-Carey-and-hangs-out-with-Whitney Houston kind of prowess.
But Ariana Grande is more than her sound and look. Fame and fortune only seem to agree with the 26-year-old.
And unlike most 26-year-olds, she seems wiser, with a self-deprecating sense of humour and an ability to turn the usual celebrity misstep into a stepping stone to get ahead. To young fans, she is one of the good ones.
When she entered the music scene at age 19, Grande already had showbiz experience. In 2008, when she was 15, she made her Broadway debut in the musical ‘13’ and then got cast in the Nickelodeon teenage sitcom Victorious, where she was one of the seven leading cast members.
Yet all she wanted to do was make music, a prospect that was quickly shot down by her managers. “They were like, who would want to listen to an R&B album by a 13-year-old?” she says in an interview. So Grande took to YouTube, singing her heart out in tributes to Madonna, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, on her channel osnapitzari. It got noticed and Grande got signed on by Republic Records, releasing an album ‘Yours Truly’.
As it turned out, a lot of people wanted to listen to an R&B album by a teenager. The album hit number 1 on the Billboard charts. And Grande’s star only shone brighter.
But to the millions watching, 2017 and 2018 seemed like the worst and best years of her life. It began when a suicide bomber attacked the Manchester Arena during her concert, killing 22 (mostly teens) and injuring close to a hundred.
Before the attack, Grande was known as much for Donutgate (a 2015 incident in which she was caught on camera licking donuts in a shop and placing them back on the tray) as for her chart-topping superhit albums, Yours Truly, My Everything and Dangerous Woman.
After the bombing, Grande cut a statesmanlike figure. “We will not quit or operate in fear,” she said in a public statement, and returned to the city for a benefit concert that raised $23 million for the victims’ families.
The following year, when she ended her two-and-a-half-year relationship with rapper Mac Miller over his prolonged drug-abuse, his fans viciously trolled her and blamed her when he later met with a road accident.
But she was not having any of it. “How absurd that you minimise female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album [The Divine Feminine] about them, which btw isn’t the case (just Cinderella is abt me),” she hit back.
Mac Miller died from a drug overdose in November 2018. And his fans began attacking her again. Grande, chose grace over counter attacks. She responded by expressing her helplessness at not being able to take his pain away. “People don’t see any of the real stuff that happens, so they are loud about what they think happened,” she tweeted.
Her rollercoaster relationship with the goofy Pete Davidson, a Saturday Night Live cast-member, was tabloid fodder for months. The two got engaged only three weeks after meeting on the satire show. But five months, a $16 million Manhattan apartment and a pet pig later, the two split. And amidst heartbreak and scrutiny, Grande released two of her most acclaimed albums, back-to-back.
Sweetener comprised the post-grief anthem, ‘No tears left to cry’ with the trope, “I’m lovin’, I’m livin’, I’m pickin’ it up,” sending hope to millions of fans. Just five-and-half-months later, she dropped Thank U, Next, a tribute to all the boys she’d loved, and also a comment on self-discovery, empowerment and gratefulness. The album broke all kinds of records. Three singles – ‘7 rings’, ‘Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored’, and ‘Thank U, Next’ – took the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while the album launched at No. 1, a feat only previously achieved by The Beatles.
Grande’s image, crucial to a teen fan base, but hard to achieve, comes across as authentic and well adjusted.
“Who is ariana’s therapist and are they accepting new clients,” one fan asked on Twitter, to which she responded that therapy has helped her since she was 10, after her parents’ split.
“Singing and performing and making music … that’s what I do,” she once said in an interview. “My real job is taking care of myself, fixing myself, and growing as a person, and taking care of… people that I love... That’s the real work.”