In August of 2018, Ariana Grande’s fourth and most recent studio album Sweetener rocked the music industry, showcasing the 25-year-old singer’s impressive vocal range with a backing of soulful lyrics. In response to an incredibly successful year, Grande has been granted the title of Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year, which she will receive at Billboard’s 13th Women in Music event in New York on Dec. 6.
From Nickelodeon to Billboard’s top charts, Grande has experimented over the years, ultimately finding a niché in a blend of R&B and soft-pop. Her talents have been recognized as a musician in regards to her distinctive sound, but the award is also a nod to her role as an empowering female figure and activist among many other iconic celebrities such as Madonna and Taylor Swift.
“She’s got guts, she’s making some of the best music of her career, and she’s absolutely deserving of Woman of the Year,” said Billboard’s vice president of content Ross Scarano.
According to Billboard, Ariana Grande has reached the number one spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart three times throughout her career. HotNewHipHop also states that “Sweetener pulled in the largest streaming numbers by a female pop album ever.”
The pop star’s recent domination of the top charts has come in the face of adversity from a terrorist attack at her Manchester concert to ex-boyfriend Mac Miller’s death to her most recent break-up with ex-fiancé Pete Davidson.
May of 2017 marked a suicide bombing at Grande’s concert in Manchester, England in which 22 people were killed and more than 500 were injured. According to The Atlantic, the star returned to Manchester less than a month after the attack to throw a benefit concert, and has since performed at the March for Our Lives rally to further impound her stance against gun violence and demonstrate her activism.
Refinery29 reveals how the track “Get Well Soon” finishes up with 40 seconds of silence in tribute to the fans killed in the terrorist attack, bringing the song’s length to five minutes and 22 seconds. May 22 was the date of the attack. The lyrics are raw and discuss the anxiety associated with tragedy, and go hand-in-hand with Grande’s advocacy for mental health awareness.
Many other songs featured on Sweetener are used as platforms for other issues, many even having strong feminist implications. Most prominent is “God Is a Woman,” a track that is unapologetically sexual and places women in a position of power.
Even the album title as a whole holds significant symbolic value. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Ariana Grande revealed that the title of her most recent album was “about bringing light to a situation or to someone’s life or somebody else who brings light to your life, sweetening the situation.” This unadulterated optimism appears to shine through in her music despite the circumstances of the terrorist attack that was a foreground to her performance, and continues to be true despite her personal heartbreak.
In the wake of her most recent break-up and the late Mac Miller’s untimely death, Grande is expected to release her next album entitled Thank U, Next before the end of 2018, only a few months after the release of Sweetener. BigTop40 reveals that the album will feature nine different songs, while the tracklist is still being kept in the dark. Also, starkly different from the most recent album, there will be no collaborations on Thank U, Next.
This coincides with the main theme of the new album, which is all about self-love. This is indicated with the recent drop of Grande’s new song “Thank U, Next,” mimicking the album title.
“She addresses each of her ex’s by name, and for Pete [Davidson] says, ‘Even almost got married, and for ‘Pete I’m so thankful,’” said Cosmopolitan journalist Alanna Greco. “Overall the song is very positive about each of her relationships.”
Grande appears to be taking the high road, finding the light in each of her past relationships and showing gratitude towards the lessons they’ve taught her. Although the song did drop 30 minutes before Pete Davidson’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, fans choose to view the song and future album as Grande’s transition to a life of self-love rather than a focus on being loved by others.
“Plus I met someone else … her name is Ari and I’m so good with that,” Grande’s lyrics state. “She taught me love, she taught me patience, how she handles pain.”
Overall, Grande’s hard work in producing genuine and transparent music has proved successful with her recognition as Billboard’s Woman of the Year, leaving fans eager for her upcoming album.
The star announced she will be combining the Sweetener tour with the tour for Thank U, Next, and dates are available online for the North American portion of the tour beginning in March 2019.