- Victoria G, AIT and Anusha Iyer, MHS
How Ariana Grande Dominated the Charts
Who do you think of when you hear “queen of the charts”? Madonna? Taylor Swift? Mariah Carey? Rihanna? While these names might initially come to mind, another woman is storming the charts: Ariana Grande. The 27-year-old has released six studio albums to date, and she is just getting started. Despite being in the industry for less than a decade, Grande has shattered records with her music. Her journey to the top was long, but now Grande will be dominating the charts for years to come.
Before her music career, Grande made her professional debut in the Broadway musical 13 in 2008, and later, starred in the Nickelodeon television shows “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat.” Her debut album, Yours Truly, was released in 2013, and her next two albums, My Everything and Dangerous Woman, followed in 2014 and 2016 respectively. During that time, Grande’s best-performing single was “Problem” from My Everything, which debuted at number three and peaked at number two. Although she was becoming one of the most well-known names in pop music, Grande still could not get nearly as many number ones as her peers.
2018 saw the release of Sweetener, Grande's fourth studio album, which marked a turning point in her career. It received mixed reactions due to the experimental nature of the songs and the production. At this time, Grande was exploring new stylistic choices and healing from a dark time after a suicide bomber set off an explosive at her concert the year before. Songs like “the light is coming,” “sweetener” and “get well soon” brought themes of positivity, healing, and self-love. Grande worked with Pharrell Williams on this album to add sounds inspired by alternative music to the seven songs he produced. In the end, the singles off of the album were the most successful yet. “No tears left to cry” peaked at number three, “God is a woman” peaked at number eight and “breathin” peaked at number twelve. An additional six songs from the album made it onto the Hot 100. Grande’s fame started growing exponentially as more and more of her songs were charting. The attention and praise allowed Sweetener to win a Grammy for Best Pop Album.
Then, another life-changing event occurred when Grande’s ex-boyfriend and best friend, Mac Miller, died of an overdose in early September right after Grande got engaged to Pete Davidson in a whirlwind relationship. Grande broke off the engagement and retreated into the world of music, releasing another album in February of 2019, only six months after the release of Sweetener. At that time, critics and fans called thank u, next the best album of her career. The bulk of the album was written and recorded over one week in October, making it her most personal album. Trap beats and orchestral backgrounds were front and center, making the album a breath of sweet air in her discography. With thank u, next, Grande scored her first and second number ones on the charts, which were also debuts. “thank u, next” and “7 rings” both debuted at number one on the weeks of their releases and stayed at that position for seven and eight non-consecutive weeks respectively.
Thank u, next earned Grande the opportunity to reach places that she had only dreamed of before. When the album came out, the third single, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” debuted at number two, allowing Grande to become the first artist since the Beatles to hold the top three spots on the Billboard chart. Additionally, this was the first time Grande got an entire album on the charts as all twelve songs from thank u, next made it. She then embarked on the Sweetener World Tour, which included a setlist that spanned her discography and allowed her to visit cities in over 100 shows.
Now, this brings us to the time we know too well: the pandemic. Grande was planning to take a rest year in 2020, but when the lockdown struck the United States, the only thing left to fill the time was to record music from her home studio. In early May, “Stuck With U” featuring Justin Bieber was released as a surprise and was used as a fundraiser for the First Responders Children’s Foundation. Two weeks later, “Rain on Me” with Lady Gaga was released as a single off of Gaga’s album Chromatica. Both songs debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, bringing Grande’s total of number one debuts to four. While may not sound like much, Grande broke the previous record of three number one debuts in under two years. With that speed, she became the first artist to have number one debuts every year for three consecutive years. She also holds the record for the fastest accumulation of number ones, with only two weeks separating “Stuck with U” and “Rain on Me.”
This October, Grande released positions, a surprise album created during the pandemic. The lead single, sharing the name of the album, debuted at number one on the charts, bringing Grande’s total to five and breaking her own record. Positions is an album filled with strings, whistle notes, and soft, breathy vocals, and it is centered around the love, passion, and acceptance that comes with being in a healthy relationship. This album also marks the most songs that Grande has charted in one week, as every song on the album made it on the charts. She held 14 out of 100 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of November 7. Shortly after the album’s release, Grande got engaged to Dalton Gomez, who she had been quarantining with since March.
Grande’s supposed rest year turned into a continuation of her success from 2019. Aside from working on her album, Grande has stayed busy this year in other ways, collaborating with Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson on the remix of “Oh Santa!” and releasing the official movie following her Sweetener World Tour on Netflix. Despite her young age, she has had a record-breaking past two years in the industry she has taken by storm. With all of these records to her name and a career that is just getting started, it is easy to say that Ariana Grande will be dominating the charts for a long time.
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