12 Ariana Grande songs we can’t live without | Sunday Observer

12 Ariana Grande songs we can’t live without

25 October, 2020
Words: Crystal Bell
Words: Crystal Bell

Ariana Grande often sings about the intensity of her feelings, mooning over love, and reckoning with herself and her desires. In the seven years since her debut album, Yours Truly, the 27-year-old has emerged as one of the defining voices of modern pop music — a liberated woman who can craft fully-realised bodies of work that are confident and vulnerable.

Grande exists in this contrast: a young artist with an old soul and a powerful voice; a sound that blends retro-pop and R&B with modern trap; and a discography that’s both of the time and ultimately timeless. She can take her specific pain and make it our pain. Her sugar-coated tracks and bold, intimate declarations have sound tracked everything from our break-ups and make-ups to our bad ideas and our tears. The singer knows that feelings are exhausting, sometimes destructive, but they can also be beautiful. And the only way to grow and to heal is to address them head-on.

All her music is fantastic, but these 12 Ariana Grande songs we can’t live without. Dangerous Woman

A dangerous woman knows what she wants and takes her time getting there — or, in this case, getting off. The moody title track of her 2016 album, Dangerous Woman simmers with a slinky guitar and a flirtatious groove. “Nothing to prove and I’m bulletproof and know what I’m doing,” she declares with all the bravado of a young woman in her 20s. In the Dangerous Woman era, Ari truly comes into her own. She’s expressing her desires and owning her sexuality. And there’s nothing more dangerous than an empowered woman. Honeymoon Avenue

Real ones know. Honeymoon Avenue represents the very best of Grande’s retro-pop sound, a potent blend of timeless melodies, smoky vocals, and sleek production. It’s an ambitious way to start her 2013 debut album Yours Truly, but in retrospect, it’s the perfect introduction to her artistic sensibilities. There’s drama, doo-wop, and soul all in one soaring pop confection. Thank U, Next

A true cultural reset. (Don’t act like you don’t remember what you were doing the exact moment the video for Thank U, Next dropped.) Most pop stars hide their feelings behind vague lyrics and thinly-veiled references to their exes, but Grande showed the receipts — and real grace — on this playful, poignant single. In the wake of her ex Mac Miller’s death and her very public breakup with Pete Davidson, Ari dropped the most confessional track of her career, and in doing so she rewrote her own narrative, turning heartbreak into personal growth. And she gave us a glorious, anthemic breakup song to help get us through it, too. Be Alright

A fan-favourite for a reason, Be Alright is a bouncy Dangerous Woman cut imbued with a 90s deep-house groove that soothes and invigorates. It’s a baptism by sweat and glitter. Heavily influenced by ball culture and voguing, Be Alright knows just how healing it can be to let go of your worries and dance it out, alone in your bedroom or on the dance floor under the glow of neon lights. Santa Tell Me

It’s never too early to listen to holiday music, especially when it’s a bop like Santa Tell Me. The 2014 single finds the pop star in a familiar predicament (longing for a love that lasts longer than a calendar year), but there’s a joyous self-awareness in the way she exclaims “this year I’ve got to be smart!” on the bridge before the song turns into a spirited sing-along. It’s a real mood. With Santa Tell Me, Grande accomplishes the impossible: a new seasonal classic that we can bump all year with a clear conscience. One Last Time

With her 2014 album My Everything, Grande established herself as a bona fide pop star with a roster full of soaring EDM bangers and stirring melodies. A bittersweet song for Grande and her fans, One Last Time is a sparkling contrast: The lyrics are racked with guilt, while the propulsive beat never lets the mood sour. While the song became the enduring anthem of the One Love Manchester benefit concert, it’s that powerful dichotomy between heartbreak and healing that now makes it all the more meaningful. No Tears Left To Cry

Before there was Rain on Me, Grande’s boppy balm No Tears Left To Cry did what it had to do. The transformative power of pop music has long been documented, but it’s the ability to spin joy from trauma that makes a song like No Tears Left To Cry so transcendent. Her first release of the Sweetener era — and her first single after the 2017 Manchester bombing — No Tears Left To Cry is pure, pop catharsis. Moonlight

A lullaby for the lovestruck, Moonlight is an alluring ballad that puts Grande’s celestial vocals front and center. It’s a quintessential make out song, and you can almost picture teens dancing to it at homecoming. On Thank U, Next, Grande coyly sings, “Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh,” alluding to her ex Ricky Alvarez. It’s entirely possible that Moonlight from 2016’s Dangerous Woman, is one of those songs. But that’s also its charm. There’s something sweet and a bit naive about it, kind of like falling in love for the first time. God Is a Woman

If Dangerous Woman saw the singer flirting with desire, then its older and more experienced sister, God Is a Woman, fully employs her sensuality for her own pleasure. Dark and hypnotic, the song depicts a sexual experience so transcendent, so otherworldly, that the pop diva likens herself to a deity. It’s a spiritual and sex-positive awakening with trap beats and a sultry guitar riff. But the true appeal of God Is a Woman is that it paints a woman’s sexuality as a divine superpower. Only 1

A breezy bonus track, Only 1 is the uncut gem in Grande’s blinging discography. Included on the deluxe edition of 2014’s My Everything, the percussive boom-bap song is uptempo and light, the kind of sugary bop that you sing in the shower. Though, good luck. Only 1 features one of the singer’s most impressive vocal runs — and you can even watch her hit it live (flawlessly, of course). Into You

Into You is a sultry, synthy dream, or is it a flirty fantasy? Like every good dance floor fling, it starts with a breathy declaration: “I’m so into you, I can barely breathe.” From there, the track pulses with a heated rhythm that is at once all-consuming and intoxicating, reaching a state of nirvana that can only be described as true pop perfection. Breathin

Inspired by the singer’s own struggle with anxiety, Breathin is the closest Grande has to an arena rock banger. It’s massive, both in sound and impact. The angsty dance-pop song hits you with feelings and wavy synths — and then, release. “Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’,” she sings like a mantra. Or maybe more like a prayer. Breathin embodies so much of what makes the Sweetener era so impressive: It channels pain into perseverance. A pop star can’t save you, but she can give you the soundtrack to save yourself.

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