Amrit Virdi ranks and reviews the discography of Ariana Grande.
From her roots as a Nickelodeon star to becoming one of the most famous names in pop, I have been a fan of Ariana Grande since her ‘Victorious’ days, and her music has defined my teenage years. As her discography evolves, with her experimenting in R&B on her latest records, I thought now was an apt moment to reflect on her releases so far.
6 – ‘Yours Truly’ (2013)
Grande’s debut album, ‘Yours Truly’ is quintessential pop at its finest – and I simply only rank it last as I have outgrown it and don’t find myself listening to it as much anymore. While the record includes some of my favourite songs, especially The Way (feat. Mac Miller), the majority of it seems based towards her younger audience at the time, and quite frankly some of the tracks are forgettable. Having said this, the inclusion of ballads such as Almost Is Never Enough and powerhouse pop tunes showcasing her amazing vocal abilities (a special nod to Honeymoon Avenue) are appreciated and missed on her later records such as ‘sweetener’.
5 – ‘sweetener’ (2018)
I do have a love-hate relationship with this album. What I love most about it is the sentiment behind it – being Grande’s first record after the tragic Manchester Attack in 2017, it is a record about healing, the power of art and how life can be ‘upside down’, as pictured by the album cover. get well soon is a poignant album closer, featuring a 22 second silence at the end in honour of the 22 victims of the attack, and breathin has been a comfort track for me over the years, detailing Grande’s experience with anxiety. God Is A Woman is also, in my opinion, one of Grande’s best singles with a perfect combination of her powerhouse vocals, whistletones and pop/ R&B production, making it by far one of the most notable female empowerment records of the decade.
While the feel good tracks such borderline, blazed and successful are some of the go-tos on my ‘getting ready’ playlist, it is the overall production of the record which makes it lower on the rankings for me. Pharrell Williams led the production on this album, and quite frankly I don’t think it was the best decision. The repetitive voicenote in the back of the light is coming is sometimes unbearable to listen to, and a lot of the tracks don’t showcase Grande’s vast vocal range as they stay flat with little build up. Where it excels it some places, ‘sweetener’ pulls itself back just as much to make it an ‘eh’ album.
4 – ‘My Everything’ (2014)
Grande’s second studio album, ‘My Everything’ launched the star away from the bubblegum pop princess sound of ‘Yours Truly’ and into the realm of suggestive, empowering pop, laced with R&B influences. One Last Time, Problem and Break Free still retain their popularity to this day, being dancefloor anthems in the club. Best Mistake and Love Me Harder are some of my favourite collaborations of hers, and I appreciate the stripped back ballad featuring in the latter end of the tracklist, named after the album’s title. Having said this, it seems to have definitely been made with mainstream success in mind, and it seems as though Grande’s own creativity, which we see in her newest albums, was sacrificed for the sake ofstreams. Had it been less obvious that Grande wasn’t a label’s puppet at this point (was a feature on nearly every track needed?) it perhaps would have been ranked higher.
3 – ‘Positions’ (2020)
If ‘sweetener’ wasn’t divisive enough, ‘Positions’ is another album which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. It is Grande’s most recent album written at a time in her life where she appears to be her happiest and most stable, and is a key moment in her musical journey for me, as she is making the music that she wanted to be making throughout her whole career. Heavily R&B influenced, her softer vocals and more bravado moments on the record pair blissfully with the trap beats, particularly on nasty and just like magic (which I listen to every morning, yes I am obsessed).
safety net (feat. Ty Dolla Sign) may be my favourite Ariana Grande song ever, as it’s ethereal quality just draws me in. The dreamlike quality carries throughout the album, particularly on pov, yet feel good tracks such as 34+35 and motive add some lighthearted fun. Yet I rate the album four stars as it was definitely a grower – I wasn’t a big fan of the record straight away upon its release. A more cohesive and memorable production style would have also perhaps led to more commercial success, as tracks such as shut up just don’t seem to fit in and slip through the cracks.
2 – ‘thank u, next’ (2019)
I was so close to putting this one first – although it isn’t my top ranked, ‘thank u, next’ showcases musical cohesiveness and vulnerability at its finest. It was written extremely quickly and released not even a year after ‘sweetener’, and seems to be a cathartic release for Grande as she dealt with the aftermath of the Manchester Attack and the passing of Mac Miller. fake smile, needy and ghostin give the listener an insight into Grande’s thoughts and mental state, as she uses her platform to show people that everybody has moments of vulnerability and symbolises art as a form of expression. A voicenote from her best friend also opens up in my head, which was at the top of my Spotify wrapped for two years in a row, exhibiting Grande’s comfortability with her fans.
She uses her platform to show people that everybody has moments of vulnerability and symbolises art as a form of expression
Fun and flirty moments balance out the deeper emotions driving the record, with my personal favourites being make up and break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored. For me, the record marks Grande’s experimentation with the R&B genre before she dives right in on ‘Positions’.
1 – ‘Dangerous Woman’ (2016)
Some say I’m crazy for being a diehard fan of this album, but I genuinely believe it is one of the best female pop albums of the decade, and embodies Grande’s newfound confidence at the time as she broke away from the mould of being a Nickelodeon star. When you just need a feel good pop album this can be a great go-to. I can listen to it from front to back, and feel empowered and self-confident when I do. Greedy, Bad Decisions, and title track Dangerous Woman use bold, in your face production along with Grande’s belting vocals to make the tracks memorable in a busy music scene. Even the more emotional cuts of Thinking Bout You and Sometimes do this in a unique way, with synth and echoing vocals making you feel transported to another romantic world.
What also gravitates me towards choosing this as my go-to Grande album is the fact that it melds both her old and her new sound. Moonlight feels like a ‘Yours Truly’ track if it was refined years later, as well as Leave Me Lonely. The aesthetic of the album feels classy yet fun, and six years later I am yet to grow tired of it.
Whether you agree or disagree with my rankings, Ariana Grande is still one of the most influential pop artists on the scene right now, and as a fan from day one I’m particularly excited to see where her R&B route takes her next… and secretly hoping that it will revert back to a ‘Dangerous Woman’ part two.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. No changes made to this image. Permission to use granted to Impact.
In-article images courtesy of @arianagrande via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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