Ariana Grande is back and she’s unbothered by your hot takes

Jenessa Williams gives the lowdown on Ariana Grande’s first solo single since 2020


Arianators – the wait is over! For just over three patient years, stans have been assembled in hope of a crumb of information on AG7, a sign that their hero would return to her status as one of pop’s main girls. This Friday, the answer came in the form of ‘yes, and?’, a light, feel-good track that seemingly teases the announcement of a record thought to be titled Eternal Sunshine, due presumably later this year. Aren’t musical easter eggs fun?

Of course, Ariana Grande never truly went away. In the time since her 2020 album ‘Positions’, she’s been pretty busy — running r.e.m beauty, appearing on two separate remixes for The Weeknd, and collaborating live with Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson and Demi Lovato. She’s remained on social media, and has of course been filming the role of Glinda for the upcoming film adaption of popular musical, Wicked, also starring Tony-nominated ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ actor Ethan Slater (more on that later). But with ambition as blonde as the current hue of her iconic ponytail, ‘yes, and?’ is a welcome addition to Grande’s day job oeuvre.

The title itself — a playful nod to improv and the theatricality that has defined her life over the past few years — is decidedly in keeping with the feeling of her wider sonic brand, the shrugging, understated confidence that have made ‘thank u next’ and ‘god is a woman’ feel as much like song titles as they are ready-made catchphrases for the social media age. On the track itself, Grande is definitely feeling the temperature of the current cultural climate. “In case you haven’t noticed/Well, everybody’s tired/And healin’ from somebody” she opens, summing up the sense of post-pandemic ennui that has everybody feeling some kind of way about their lives, workloads, relationships, finances, governments and physical autonomy.


Just as Beyoncé noted with ‘Renaissance’, dance can be a great reprieve from the heaviness of the world, and so ‘yes, and?’ adopts similar inspiration from the pop-meets-house revival, the thumping feel-good spirit of ballroom culture that also serves as a nod to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Working with long-term collaborators Max Martin and Ilya Salmanzadeh (the team behind ‘Bang Bang’, ‘Problem’, ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ etc), the algorithm-busting intro is surprisingly long for a 2020s pop song; by the time Grande hums in with the softer end of her tone, her delivery feels surprisingly intimate, like whispering in a friends ear in the middle of a club. While the lack of ‘full whack’ Grande vocals might be disappointing to some, she appears to be merely emphasising her point; stated plainly and calmly, her words become powerful in their relative chill, leaving little room to argue with the bother-free attitude she’s trying to convey.

Lyrically speaking, ‘yes, and?’ appears to continue the themes of both ‘Sweetener’ and ‘Thank U, Next’’s overall optimism, trying to put painful experiences in the past. Rather than looking inward straight away, the main mantra of the track appears to be a generalistic call to arms, encouraging the listener to shrug off negativity and find empathy for oneself as well as others. As always, it’s positioned with an encouraging wink; by the time she gets to the chorus (“Be your own fuckin’ best friend/Say that shit with your chest/Keep moving like, “What’s next?”), she’s managed to squeeze in a small nod to her beauty brand (“come on, put your lipstick on/No one can tell you nothin’), and set a tone of self-improvement that builds on the wordplay of fan favourite ‘The Light Is Coming’ to suggest that you don’t have to wait for divine intervention to improve your own circumstance: “if you find yourself in a dark situation/Just turn on your light.”

Where Grande is willing to be more personal, she doesn’t waste her words. In the time that she’s been away from formerly releasing music, a divorce from ex-husband Dalton Gomez and rumours of a new relationship with her Wicked co-star Ethan Slater have defined her online narrative, casting her firmly in the glare of gossip over the controversy of her romantic choices, or namely, the alleged ‘blindsiding’ of Slater’s wife and young child. In the spoken word section of the song that most explicitly summons the spirit of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, Grande chooses to acknowledge the Spongebob in the room via snappy couplet: “Your business is yours and mine is mine/Why do you care so much whose dick I ride?” Alongside other lyrics that re-state her bodily autonomy in light of scrutiny around her weight and physical well-being, it’s a smart way to acknowledge recent controversy over her dating life without letting it overwhelm the entire song. If previous album campaigns are anything to go by, it also likely preempts a slightly wider exploration of her feelings on the larger album, rather than the end word. While some pop stans see ‘yes, and?’s nod to her ‘homewrecking’ as being off-puttingly glib, her point about how deeply we invest ourselves in the moralised decisions of celebrities more generally still feels like a timely message, only exaggerated by a clip from the music video’s teaser: “I read it on the internet so it must be true”.

As only the first single from a new era, only time will tell exactly what AG7 will hold. But as the first taste, it’s clear that Grande is happy to stick within her chosen lanes, to push boundaries on terms that can and will not be defined by external perception. Not everybody will like it, or indeed like her; as stan culture grows, fans consistently demand more and more of their favourite artists as models to live by, with potentially unsustainable outcomes. But as an artist who always manages to find something interesting to say about her own lived experience, we’re delighted to have Ariana Grande back in our orbit, and to hear more from her musical P.O.V.