We Need To Talk About Ariana Grande

Meera Singh ’19

We all know Ariana Grande, one of the world’s biggest pop stars at the moment. She hasn’t left the spotlight since 2013, when she began a solo music career after the cancellation of Nickelodeon’s Victorious, in which she played one of the main characters. Grande burst into the pop music scene with “The Way” featuring rapper Mac Miller, and the rest is history. Following her time on Nickelodeon, her career as a pop singer has been characterized by desperate attempts to break away from her former “good girl” image and brand herself as a “dangerous woman” — the namesake of her 2016 album.  

Grande is white, and one could easily tell from looking at a photo from her Nickelodeon days. However, she has become increasingly tanner over the last few years, appearing racially ambiguous to newer fans. Contrary to popular belief, she has no Hispanic background and is actually of Italian descent. Internet users pointed out that Grande has also adopted a “blaccent,” which is, according to Urban Dictionary, “A distinctive manner of speech, pitch, or tone particular to African American urban inner city youth.” This manner of speech is utilized by Awkwafina, who is Asian-American, as well as Iggy Azalea, a white rapper who was briefly popular around 2014. Grande’s growing racial ambiguity has not gone unnoticed. Singer Patti LaBelle even once (lovingly) told her that she was a “little white black girl.”

Let’s talk about “7 Rings,” the second single off Grande’s newest album, titled Thank U, Next. Right from the get-go, it’s clear that no part of the song is original. The verses follow the melody of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things,” and the chorus is a sped up version of American rapper Soulja Boy’s flow in his 2010 hit, “Pretty Boy Swag.” Soulja Boy is not credited on the song. Unfortunately, the problems with this track don’t stop there. Among the blur of materialistic lyrics, one line stands out: “You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it.” This line could be alluding to how Grande has had to wear extensions since her Nickelodeon career ended due to the hair damage caused by constantly dying it to fit her character. However, there are definitely multiple better ways to get that message across without trying to make the general public think you are actually an entirely different race.

At this point, you also may be wondering why she feels the need to wear another race and culture as a costume. It appears that Grande’s spray tans and new manner of talking are efforts to permanently leave behind “good girl” Ariana to become a “dangerous woman.” She is trying to live as a black woman who has the privilege of a white woman, capitalizing off a culture that is not her own while completely ignoring the struggles that black women continue to face. In acting black through wearing a weave, having dark hair, and a plethora of other actions, she is perpetuating a toxic notion that black women are edgier and more dangerous than white women.

Ultimately, the most important thing to learn as popular music listeners is how to hold artists accountable for their actions. Ariana Grande can pump out hit after hit, but we need to consume her content responsibly and recognize that she is filling up a space that is not meant for her.