Ariana Grande is riding a wave of success after two hit albums in the last year Photo: AFP/File
entertainment

Ariana Grande, reigning teen pop idol with a defiant edge

20 Comments
By Maggy DONALDSON

Bubblegum pop coquette on the outside, saucy master of celebrity on the inside, there is perhaps no current star better at re-fashioning her own trials into larger-than-life success than Ariana Grande.

While suffering a highly publicized burst of personal and professional upheaval -- the deadly 2017 Manchester bombing at one of her concerts, the suicide of her ex-boyfriend rapper Mac Miller, the demise of her whirlwind engagement to comedian Pete Davidson -- Grande has proven poised in the face of tragedy and a deft manipulator of her own image, all while catapulting to global stardom.

Grande's adept use of social media to slam her naysayers, drum up support from her "Arianator" fans and flirt with the gossip machine has created the perception that only she is in the driver's seat.

After a resounding year of hits that saw industry tracker Billboard name the 25-year-old teen idol its 2018 woman of the year, Grande is set to headline a number of major festivals as part of her global tour, including this weekend's influential Coachella lineup.

She's just the fourth solo woman to headline the premier festival in the California desert -- and the youngest artist ever to nab the coveted spot.

The feat comes after Grande shattered a number of U.S. chart records and released two albums in six months, feeding the streaming beast with earworms while carving out her own version of the modern female pop star.

A Floridian by birth, the petite Italian-American Grande moved to New York as a teen for a spot on Broadway before finding fame on U.S. kids network Nickelodeon.

She forayed into pop music shortly thereafter, releasing her debut studio album to commercial success in 2013.

A fan of miniskirts rarely seen without her signature ponytail snaking down past her hips, Grande had all the makings of a teen pop droid -- batting her eyelashes and pouting her lips while wielding her impressive four-octave range to deliver saccharine lyrics.

But in recent years the superstar has co-opted that traditional ingenue image, adding a heavy dose of sex appeal and a biting demand for control.

In 2015 she issued a feminist manifesto attacking the public appetite for news on her personal life and those of other women.

And while last year's "Sweetener" album -- released in the midst of Grande's turmoil -- felt like an optimistic catharsis, her rapid follow-up "Thank U, Next" saw the star baring but owning her vulnerabilities, declaring this the year of Ariana.

Sexual empowerment

Yet Grande's celebration of feminine power while simultaneously flaunting her sexuality and pinning her art to her tumultuous love life has drawn criticism that she is propping up the very double standards she seeks to destroy.

Her hit "God is a Woman," hailed as a coming-of-age empowerment anthem, was also derided as embracing tropes of women catering to male pleasure.

"In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement and when women are trying (and succeeding) at rising above our worth being tethered to our sexuality, this is the last thing we need," wrote Erin Parker for the pop culture magazine Nylon.

Jacqueline Warwick, a scholar of music and gender studies at Canada's Dalhousie University, agreed that Grande's feminist bent can "feel a little hollow," saying the star is "playing into these very conventional ways of looking at women's bodies -- and that seems certainly very well worn."

But Warwick said Grande also "is articulating desire and speaking very frankly and candidly about her sexual pleasure -- that's certainly refreshing and possibly empowering."

"It's not easy for young women artists to be taken seriously and be successful in a pop medium without doing the things that she's doing," the academic told AFP.

In recent days Grande -- often celebrated for supporting LGBT rights -- was also accused of "queerbaiting," teasing gay fans by suggesting in her new collaboration track "Monopoly" that she is bisexual.

"I think she's certainly figured out that people are interested in her sex life -- that it's not a bad thing to keep people interested by dropping hints," Warwick said.

Creating such buzz maintains a steady base keen for Grande's next bop, which she's taken to releasing whenever inspiration strikes.

She has voiced irritation with the commodified packaging of pop stars, championing the free release model more associated with hip hop artists.

"My dream has always been to ... put out music in the way that a rapper does," Grande told Billboard recently. "It's just like, 'Bruh, I just want to ... talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do.'"

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


20 Comments
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"It's not easy for young women artists to be taken seriously....

Aretha, Dionne Warwick, Amy Winehouse, Madonna, Tina Turner, Lourde, Kate Bush, Souxie. I don't get this narrative that women artists struggle to be "taken seriously."

If a male singer were to behave and say the things Ariana has, he'd be heavily derided, too. As an aside, I make a point of staying away from the local donut shops when she's in town. LOL.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

So, the women's lib movement advocated for women's liberation, and now there are a bunch of liberated women like Ariana Grande who are so liberated they are making the women's lib advocators angry.

Got it.

I've got a solution.

Feminisms stop telling everybody what to do and how to act and we can enjoy living our lives in freedom again.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

How is she a "teen pop idol? She is 26 years old.

This Lolita concept is starting to look creepy.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

And this is the very reason why people often say entertainers should just practice their craft without the political/social commetary.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"flaunting her sexuality".......  "queerbaiting".......   "

She has voiced irritation with the commodified packaging of pop stars

Hmmmmm.....   All of this is just silly.  she should just make pop songs

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hachidori - a teen-pop idol doesn't have to be a "Teenager" themselves.

Their appeal is to a predominately teen audience.

She also began in her teens and was actually an idol when she was a teen.

IMO the title "teen-pop idol" is a bit old hat, esp in Arianna's case as her appeal now includes a much broader base as people begin to realize her outstanding vocals for one.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And this is the very reason why people often say entertainers should just practice their craft without the political/social commetary.

Yeah, shut up The Clash, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, Sleaford Mods, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte et al.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Her hit "God is a Woman," hailed as a coming-of-age empowerment anthem, was also derided as embracing tropes of women catering to male pleasure.

"In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement and when women are trying (and succeeding) at rising above our worth being tethered to our sexuality, this is the last thing we need," wrote Erin Parker for the pop culture magazine Nylon.

So Erin Parker wants to control what Ariana sings? How about Erin Parker write and performs her own songs about whatever she likes, and let's Ariana sing about whatever she wants?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But Warwick said Grande also "is articulating desire and speaking very frankly and candidly about her sexual pleasure -- that's certainly refreshing and possibly empowering."

Wow. I have never heard of a female singing about sexual pleasure. That's completely new and novel. She is truly a trend-setter and budding genius....so refreshing and empowering.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A Floridian by birth, the petite Italian-American Grande moved to New York as a teen for a spot on Broadway before finding fame on U.S. kids network Nickelodeon.

Ya wouldn't believe how she turned out from looking at her Nickelodeon show:

https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2019/01/16/ariana-grandes-total-style-transformation-from-nickelodeon-starlet-to-international-pop-queen/23644580/#slide=7503815#fullscreen

Shows one never knows how a girl turns out until she's grown, lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This Lolita concept is starting to look creepy.

The Lolita look Is awesome, but I prefer it done by legit lolitas.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Unlike Dylan, Nina Simone, etc, its very safe to say no one will bebothering to listen to Ms Grande in 20 years. Or Lady Kaka either for that matter.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

She doesn't look a day over 25, methinks her teen career is almost over. So what do most songstresses do when they need to evolve to new market ? Ask thee many who did this you know so well who made it and wonder whatever happened to those who never did ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unlike Dylan, Nina Simone, etc, its very safe to say no one will bebothering to listen to Ms Grande in 20 years. Or Lady Kaka either for that matter.

You do realize, in 20 years, the people who will decide on this would be the Millennial Generation and newer, not our old generation.

So if that's what those new generations want, then guess what, that's what will be listened to in 20 years.

It's not gonna be up to us; most of the old generation would be dead by then. It'll be up to those who are youths right now - those who are listening to these songs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So, Taylor Swift is now classic rock/country? It must get confusing for these young kids to remember who their favorite music artist is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Anyone who thinks she's going away any time soon is kidding themselves. She's one of the biggest pop stars in the world, and has held that for at least 3-4 years already.

So, Taylor Swift is now classic rock/country?

Not now, originally. Her first album was much, much more country than her later albums which were more pop.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unlike Dylan, Nina Simone, etc, its very safe to say no one will bebothering to listen to Ms Grande in 20 years. Or Lady Kaka either for that matter.

I've never heard of Lady Kaka, so I'll have to take your word on it. But Ariana Grande is fine, pop music. None of us can predict what we'll be listening to in 20 years time. If I'm still alive (doubtful) I might still be listening to Kyle Minogue, Korn and King Crimson.

It's very liberating not being a music snob. I can highly recommend it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's very liberating not being a music snob. I can highly recommend it.

Usually, the music snobs are people who don't really get music. It's pretty rare to meet an actual musician who is a music snob. I don't care for most of the younger pop stars because their songs all sound the same, and are often written by the same couple of people. Also they tend to over sing, losing all subtlety. Worst of all, they use auto-tune and other voice editing software to drain the authenticity out of their song. But what they are really selling is sex appeal. If they looked like Susan Boyle, nobody would give them a second glance.

But everything has its place. Elevators and supermarkets need music too. Some young artists grow into becoming interesting artists as they get older. Everybody loves Bob Dylan, but few people know he stole almost all of his material from established folk songs. Bowie stole like crazy as well, but he was pretty honest about it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Toasted HereticApr. 16 04:30 pm JST

Unlike Dylan, Nina Simone, etc, its very safe to say no one will bebothering to listen to Ms Grande in 20 years. Or Lady Kaka either for that matter.

I've never heard of Lady Kaka, so I'll have to take your word on it. But Ariana Grande is fine, pop music. None of us can predict what we'll be listening to in 20 years time. If I'm still alive (doubtful) I might still be listening to Kyle Minogue, Korn and King Crimson.

It's very liberating not being a music snob. I can highly recommend it.

My sentiments exactly. Love all music of quality.

Can shift seamlessly from Dvorak to Black Sabbath to Maria Callas to Iggy Azalea to Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash

Love it all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Everybody loves Bob Dylan, but few people know he stole almost all of his material from established folk songs.

I think his obsession with Guthrie is pretty well-documented, though. Even the casual fan would know that.

I'd personally have no problem having both Bob and Ariana in my music collection. I can distinguish between the art, artist and product but I don't get bothered about "which artist is better" arguments. Each to their own.

Today, I'll be listening to Kraftwerk, Thomas Dolby and The Chieftans.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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