Ariana Grande Is Running Her Business Like A Rapper Now, And I’m Here For It
At the 61st Grammy’s today there was one noticeably absent performer. Yes, music’s biggest night didn’t feel quite so big without the spectacle, energy and (WeAreNotWorthy) beauty of the world’s most talked-about pop star, Ariana Grande. And there’s a Twitter storm to prove it.
On Friday, Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich claimed that Ariana would no longer be performing at the award’s show because “she wasn’t happy with what we had pitched to her and she felt it was too late to pull something together.” Ari quickly fired back with a tweet that read, “I’ve kept my mouth shut but now you’re lying about me. I can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken. It was when my creativity and self expression was stifled by you, that I decided not to attend.”
The epic clap-back was just another page in Ari’s latest chapter that has seen her reclaiming her narrative and intentionally adopting industry practices (like going Ham on Twitter) typically reserved for rappers and hip hop moguls. In an interview with Billboard last December, Ari said, “I feel like there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren’t. We have to do the teaser before the single, then do the single, then wait to do the preorder, and then radio has to impact before the video, and we have to do the discount on this day and all this shit…I just want to fucking talk to my fans and drop music the way these boys do.”
So she put her money where her mouth is and, less than six months after dropping her chart-topping album Sweetener, Ariana released another album, Thank U, Next, named after the song she wrote on the heels of a broken engagement with Pete Davidson. Maybe it’s Ari’s post-break up hyper-productivity to thank for writing and recording an album in a two-week visit to New York, or maybe she was just sick of adhering to a different set of rules than her male counterparts, “I want to do it on my own terms from now on.” Ari is now divorcing herself from carefully-plotted magazine interviews, methodical album roll outs and tour schedules, instead following the paths of Kendrick and Kanye, Travis Scott and Drake.
Take sampling for example: Kendrick Lamar sampled Beach House’s “Silver Soul” in his song “Money Tree’s”, Kanye West has sampled six different Nina Simone songs throughout his career, and Ariana has now sampled N’Sync’s “It Makes Me Ill” on her third single “Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored”. Or look at her lyrics: typically female pop stars have had to weave their personal lives into songs via subtle clues and metaphors while hip-hop and R&B singers have always explicitly referenced past and present girlfriends. Drake name-dropped J. Lo in “Diplomatic Immunity” and name-dropped Rihanna in approximately 64 songs since their first date in 2009 (I’m exaggerating but also I’m not). Travis Scott references Kylie all throughout his Astroworld album and now Ari has featured the names of Pete Davidson, Mac Miller, Big Sean and Ricky Alvarez.
Is the pop strategy sexist? Maybe. Is it flawed? Absolutely. Female pop stars are expected to be socially conscious in television interviews, musically literate in radio interviews and fashionable to a fault; three expectations not often extended to their male counterparts. Rising star Maggie Rogers evidently ticks all three boxes, and sat front row at the Rodarte Fall ’19 show in LA last week.
Could the same be said for American rapper Post Malone, who’s career took off in the same year?