Over the last seven years, Ariana Grande has gone from Disney star, doughnut licking villain, America’s sweetheart and – with the release of sexy new album ‘Positions’ – a very relatable quarantine horndog. Her musical output in that time has been just as eclectic, developing from the classic retro-pop young stars use to seem mature to EDM bangers and trap-driven low-riders.
With Ari’s latest batch of tracks now firmly settled in our brains, what better time to sift through her glowering back catalogue and sort the stinkers from the stunners. Strap yourselves in – it gets a little bumpy.
90. ‘Jason’s Song (Gave It Away)’ (2016)
Grande got her start on Broadway so the musical influence on ‘Jason’s Song’ is no surprise. It doesn’t really work, though, her pop diva vocals clashing with the jaunty piano that sounds awkward and messy.
89. ‘Almost Is Never Enough (feat. Nathan Sykes)’ (2013)
Recorded with The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes, ‘Almost Is Never Enough’ is a tender piano ballad about a relationship that didn’t work out. With the beat stripped back to simple fingerclicks, it’s sparse and emotional, but lacks the special spark Ari is capable of.
88. ‘Why Try’ (2014)
This ‘My Everything’ track details a tumultuous relationship that “redefine[s] being lovesick”. Despite Grande wailing “I’m loving the pain” with some intensity, it’s not going to make it onto any Essential Ari playlists. For her part, the singer would probably agree – in 2018, she told one of her audiences it’s her “most boring song”. Oof.
87. ‘Put Your Hearts Up’ (2011)
All the way back in 2011, little Ari released her debut single – a piece of Taylor Swift-lite bubblegum pop. It’s bright and fun but could have been recorded by anyone, and Grande distanced herself from it just a few years later.
86. ‘Popular Song (feat. MIKA)’ (2013)
The sentiment of ‘Popular Song’ is all well and good – high school popularity doesn’t last and being one of the outsiders doesn’t mean the rest of your life is going to be miserable – but its pep and vim is nauseating. Sorry to slag off an anti-bullying song, but it’s high time we all learned a good cause does not maketh a good song.
85. ‘Better Left Unsaid’ (2013)
Ah, the early noughties. ‘Better Left Unsaid’ is like a time capsule back to when every big chart pop song had a juddering EDM drop, while the “If you wanna party, put your hands up” refrain (a call back to ‘Right There’) is pure Fatman Scoop at a school disco. Nostaglic, but maybe not in a good way.
84. ‘Don’t Call Me Angel (feat. Lana Del Rey and Miley Cyrus)’ (2019)
Taken from the reboot of Charlie’s Angels, this should have been as iconic as Destiny’s Child’s ‘Independent Women Pt. II’. Instead, it served up disappointment – Del Rey’s bridge sounds like it’s pasted in from another song entirely, while Grande’s verses sound like offcuts from the ‘Thank U, Next’ sessions – and like they were offcuts for a reason.
83. ‘Hands On Me (feat. A$AP Ferg)’ (2014)
When it comes to sultry, lusty pop songs, ‘Hands On Me’ doesn’t stray too far from the mediocre blueprint – winked lyrics that think they’re smarter than they are, a beat ready for grinding to, and a rapper boasting about his sexual prowess. It all adds up to something that’s just fine.
82. ‘Be My Baby (feat. Cashmere Cat)’ (2014)
Ari added to her cool cred in her burgeoning post-Disney career with this Cashmere Cat team-up, but ‘Be My Baby’ sits too much in the middle ground between the two artists for the collab to redeem its value. The results end up just sounding like bland pop, when there was potential for something far more exciting.
81. ‘West Side’ (2020)
Like a lot of ‘Positions’, ‘West Side’ takes a less-is-more approach but leaves the most integral part out in the process – something interesting to latch on to. The results are underwhelming and a little drab – disappointing when we know how exciting Ariana can be.
80. ‘Leave Me Lonely (feat. Macy Gray)’ (2016)
Stormy and soulful, this Macy Gray collab is compelling enough when it’s blasting from your speakers. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression, it difficult to really recall once its graceful drama has swept past.
79. ‘Sometimes’ (2016)
Deep in the yawn part of ‘Dangerous Woman’ is ‘Sometimes’, a light piece of pop that’s driven by a revolving acoustic guitar melody and a refrain of “la, la, la, la, la, la, las”. “Cos we’re collecting moments/Tattoos on my mind,” go the most interesting lines but, other than that, there’s little here to get excited about.
78. ‘Blazed (feat. Pharrell Williams)’ (2018)
Despite the star power behind this song, it doesn’t stand out as one of Grande’s top tier tracks. It’s perfectly fine – her singing about sticking with her lover, Pharrell chiming in to tell his “shawty”, they can “get blazed” – but it lacks something truly special to make it sparkle.
77. ‘Daydreamin’’ (2013)
‘Daydreamin’’ does exactly what it says on the tin – a swooning song that sounds like getting your heads lost in the clouds. It’s the kind of daydream where your mind easily wanders out of focus, though, and you end up vacantly staring at the wall for ages. Nice, but not notable.
76. ‘Everyday (feat. Future)’ (2016)
“He giving me that good shit/That make me not quit, that good shit,” cries Ariana on this revving collab with Future. She never says what exactly “that good shit” is, but from her steamy verses, we think we can guess. While we’re glad she’s satisfied, ‘Everyday’ is only middling, handicapped by being too repetitive.
75. ‘Intro’ (2014)
Short but sweet – as you might expect from an intro – this track sets off Grande’s second album ‘My Everything’ on a bright tip, inviting someone to join her on a “road to the sky”. It’s pretty, but isn’t allowed much time to make an impression.
74. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ (2014)
“I don’t need to live by your rules/Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes,” Ari tells the world on this ‘My Everything’ bonus track. It’s a strong sentiment that fits with her then-growing empowerment energy, but she doesn’t sound quite sure of herself yet as she sings the words.
73. ‘Six Thirty’ (2020)
A cute little song that uses the sun setting at 6:30pm as a way to ask her crush if he’s “down” to be in a relationship with her. ‘Six Thirty’, though, doesn’t stand out very strongly, its hook fairly average and its beat so soft it barely registers.
72. ‘Nasty’ (2020)
‘Nasty’ is when ‘Positions’ really begins to get naughty, the singer making perfectly clear what she wants. “Don’t wanna wait on it,” she sings. “Tonight, I wanna get nasty.” There’s some disconnect between her words and her vocals, though, with her sounding detached and a little bored. Maybe it’s all that waiting she’s been doing.
71. ‘Piano’ (2013)
Grande gets meta on this ‘Yours Truly’ track, singing about songwriting. Her dilemma? Whether to write a song “about how love is a losing battle” (“it’s not hard,” apparently) or “make a song they can play on the radio”. Radio friendly this certainly is and, while it’s sweet enough, it’s not classic Ariana by any stretch.
70. ‘I Don’t Care’ (2016)
“I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be/But if I can’t be me, the fuck’s the point?” Grande spits on this would-be anthem to not caring what people think about you. Would-be because where most would set that sentiment to something brash and bolshy, she instead soundtracks it with classy, brassy R&B, reinforcing her plan to do whatever the hell she wants.
69. ‘Knew Better / Forever Boy’ (2016)
The penultimate track on ‘Dangerous Woman’ comes in two parts – one a post-break-up post-mortem, the other a much happier mediation on her then-current relationship. An ‘80s synth line splits the two, ‘Forever Boy’ moving into more gently euphoric territory as she pledges: “You’re my forever boy.”
68. ‘Tattooed Heart’ (2013)
As Ari herself said on Twitter back in 2013, this track as recorded while the singer was suffering from a lung and skull infection. There’s no sign of sickness here, though, her belting out her notes with confidence and precision as she longs to be “the name on [the] tattooed heart” of her partner.
67. ‘You’ll Never Know’ (2013)
If there’s one surefire way to make your ex come crawling back, it’s to find happiness with someone else. Ari finds herself in that situation on this ‘90s R&B cut, but rightfully refuses to feel bad for moving on. “It’s not my fault,” she asserts. “You’re a little bit too late.”
66. ‘Touch It’ (2016)
Lasering synths add urgency to this lust-filled song that finds our star suffering from her man’s teasing. “Why do you say you want me then tell me you’re not coming in?” She sighs before a chorus that has her practically pleading: “Take me all the way/Ain’t nobody gonna touch it, touch it, touch it.”
65. ‘Baby I’ (2013)
Originally written for Beyoncé, Ari’s second single showed her diva potential, while mining ‘90s R&B sounds. A solid feel-good bop with notes made for trying to belt out at karaoke.
64. ‘Safety Net (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)’ (2020)
On this cloudy Ty Dolla $ign collaboration, Ari calls back to 2019’s ‘In My Head’, using her previously imagined “version of a person” to doubt whether a new fling is real. While she’s trying to figure it out over a ticking beat, she’s simultaneously “tripping, falling with no safety net”.
63. ‘Off The Table (feat. The Weeknd)’ (2020)
“If I can’t have you is love completely off the table?” Grande asks on one of ‘Positions’ more tender tracks. It’s tentative and apprehensive, the instrumental beneath her drifting in and out, reflecting her feelings about jumping into a new relationship. The Weeknd is here to calm her fears, though, promising in his velvet voice: “I’ll wait for you/Even though it always feels like I’ll be number two/To someone you can’t hold anymore.”
62. ’Honeymoon Avenue’ (2013)
The opening track of Grande’s debut album is as clean and polished as you’d expect from a Disney star. Its retro-pop style is pleasant, if nothing too thrilling, but the singer showed her way with writing affecting early on. “I feel like my heart is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic/I’m under pressure cos I can’t have you the way I that I want,” she sings about a relationship about to come to a crashing halt. “Let’s go back to the way it was/When we were on Honeymoon Avenue.”
61. ‘Only 1’ (2014)
It seems absolutely mad that Ariana Grande, of all people, would get insecure about her boyfriend being too hot for her, but ‘Only 1’ finds her dealing with those feelings. “I can’t be your only one/Cos you look twice as good as anyone I ever met,” she sings, seemingly forgetting a) who she is and b) superficial beauty isn’t the mark of a person.
60. ‘Let Me Love You (feat. Lil Wayne)’ (2016)
Fresh in the chasm of newly singledom, Grande entwines with Lil Wayne on this lowkey, longing cut. Where she’s asking for some love, though, he’s bragging about his bedroom moves “giv[ing] her amnesia”. A true romantic.
59. ‘Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart’ (2014)
Written by Harry Styles, this lovelorn piano ballad from ‘My Everything’ is as elegant as it is heartbreaking. Strings glide over steady piano chords as Grande sings downheartedly about being “a fool for” a partner who’s doing the dirty on her. “I know I’m not your only, but at least I’m one,” she sighs. “I heard a little love is better than none.”
58. ‘Right There (feat. Big Sean)’ (2013)
Before Ariana and Big Sean were an item, they made ‘Right There’ – one of the standout tracks from ‘Yours Truly’ – together. In a dialogue between two lovers, the rapper questions: “If my Benz turned back to public transportation/Would you still be at home for me with the candles waiting?” Over a ‘90s R&B foundation, Grande’s caramel voice replies: “I’ll never let you go/You should know I’m never gonna change/I’m always gonna stay.”
57. ‘Best Mistake (feat. Big Sean)’ (2014)
She’d change her mind on this on 2019’s ‘Make Up’ but, on this ‘Your Truly’ song, she shared her feelings on an on-again-off-again relationship: “Total waste of time”. Unlike most of her second album, this track is soft and subdued – a melancholy piano line weaving between a stuttering, unhurried beat – lightly tugging on your emotions.
56. ‘My Hair’ (2020)
Ariana is well known for her signature high ponytail and, here, she turns her locks into a sexy piece of foreplay. “Usually don’t let people touch it,” she coos over fingersnaps and a chic groove. “But tonight you get a pass.”
55. ‘Moonlight’ (2016)
The opening track of ‘Dangerous Woman’ finds Ari on timeless form. On it, she coos about someone she’s falling for over some polished, clean pop that could have been released any time between the ‘50s and now. If they used to refer to cars as “whips” back in the day, that is, anyway.
54. ‘Bad Decisions’ (2016)
Pop’s obsession with Bonnie and Clyde reaches far back but, in 2016, Ari brought the notorious couple into her world with ‘Bad Decisions’. “We got that Bonnie and Clyde love,” she tells a lover on this bouncy track that pays tribute to a partnership so intense it makes you act recklessly and irrationally.
53. ‘Thinking Bout You’ (2016)
Around the release of ‘Dangerous Woman’, Grande spoke about wanting to be more empowering in her music. Here, she does that by adding to the canon of songs about female self-pleasure. “Oh, I don’t have you here with me,” she sighs, “but at least I have the memory/I try to make it through the night/But I can’t control my mind.”
52. ‘Borderline (feat. Missy Elliott)’ (2018)
Originally Missy Elliott’s song, ‘Borderline’ made its way into Ari’s hands complete with guest verse from the groundbreaking rapper and it’s hard to imagine it any other way. Like much of ‘Sweetener’, it doesn’t shout to make its presence known, taking a softer but cooler path, but still managing to get lodged in your brain.
51. ‘Love Language’ (2020)
“If you’re gonna keep speaking my love language/You can talk your shit all night,” Ari tells a lover on this smooth, violin-laden track. If that nod to the give-and-take needed to make a relationship work doesn’t quite make you go “aw”, the line after it might: “You the medication when I’m feeling anxious.”
50. ‘Obvious’ (2020)
While the main takeaway from ‘Positions’ seems to have been about Ari’s sex life, ‘Obvious’ gives something a little deeper to consider – love starting to redeem itself after you’ve been fooled in the past. It’s still fruity and flirty, but thoughtful too – a powerful combo in Grande’s hands.
49. ‘Pete Davidson’ (2018)
Despite only being one minute and 14 seconds long, this bitesize ode to new love inadvertently sparked a big cultural conversation. When a fan asked Grande “how long is Pete Davidson”, she responded with the not very subtle answer of: “Like 10 inches?” The term big dick energy (BDE) soon spread like wildfire on Twitter and the rest is history. The song itself? A lot sweeter than that back story, with Grande boasting of her then-boyfriend: “I thought you into my life/Woah, look at my mind.”
48. ‘Successful’ (2018)
Ariana keeps it lowkey on this song about being at the peak of your game – when you’re “so young/And so beautiful and so successful” you don’t need to scream it from the rooftops, after all. Whether you’re Grande levels of flourishing or need something to hype you up until you reach that point, ‘Successful’ is a subtle but strong motivational tool.
47. ‘Raindrops (An Angel Cried)’ (2018)
At only 37 seconds, this snippet – a brief cover of The Four Seasons’ ‘An Angel Cries’ – puts Ari’s powerhouse voice front and centre. In only four lines, her vocals swoop and soar, reaching notes that give you goosebumps. Gorgeous.
46. ‘Stuck With U (feat. Justin Bieber)’ (2019)
Ari teamed up with Justin Bieber to raise money for the First Responder’s Children’s Foundation in light of the coronavirus pandemic through this track. Despite boasting two massive artists on one song, it’s a little forgettable, but does offer some comfort while it’s still sliding out of the speakers.
45. ‘My Everything’ (2014)
“Pain is just a consequence of love,” sings Ari here in perhaps her most emo lyric ever. Over barely-there piano, she delivers an emotional ode to a missed ex that’s still her “everything”, putting her divine voice front and centre.
44. ‘Boyfriend’ (2019)
“I’m a motherfucking train wreck,” Grande sings in an arresting opening line on this Social House collab. The cause of her inner chaos? A complicated fling that’s undefined, but already marked by jealousy on each side.
43. ’Motive (feat. Doja Cat)’ (2020)
Teaming up with Doja Cat for the first time, Grande tries to suss out her lover’s intentions on this lowkey dancefloor-ready cut. It’s soft and subtle, even when Doja raps, “Well, I had to bring the fists out/Had to put a wall up”, gently burrowing into your brain like creeping doubts.
42. ‘R.E.M.’ (2018)
Maybe the only song to reference Good Housekeeping, R.E.M. is sadly not a tribute to Michael Stipe and co., but to a dream of a boy. “Before you speak, don’t move,” she tells him over the sparse Pharrell-produced foundation. “Cos I don’t wanna wake up.”
41. ‘Everytime’ (2018)
“You get high and call on the regular/I get weak and fall like a teenager,” Grande assesses of a lover that keeps pulling her back into his orbit. It’s been speculated that it’s about Mac Miller but, regardless of its subject, it’ll hit hard for anyone who’s found themselves unable to quit another person.
40. ‘Shut Up’ (2020)
The narrative around Ari over the last few years has been one of sympathy – unsurprising, given the very public trauma she’s been through. On ‘Positions’’ opener ‘Shut Up’, though, she’s ready to move on from the bad stuff. “All them demons helped me see shit differently,” she sings. “So don’t be sad for me.”
39. ‘Just Like Magic’ (2020)
If you’ve spent even a minute on TikTok over the last few months, a manifestation video has probably popped up in your For You Page. Call Ariana the new patron saint of WitchTok, then, because ‘Just Like Magic’ is the perfect soundtrack for those clips. “I get everything I want cos I attract it,” she sings on the sultry chorus, adding later, “Manifest it, I finessed it/Take my pen and write some love letters to heaven”, like her own how-to guide.
38. ‘Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd)’ (2014)
On this pulsating piece of electronic pop, Ari and Abel sing from two opposite sides of a relationship – her asking him to “take my breath and never let it go” with his love, him promising to “make it feel like the first time”. Given most people’s first time is deeply unsexy, it seems like a weird way to chirpse, but Ariana sticks with him anyway.
37. ‘The Light Is Coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)’ (2018)
Ari and Nicki reunited on ‘Sweetener’ for this piece of positivity, on which the former promises: “The light is coming to get back everything the darkness stole.” Its beat is experimental, unevenly chopping and changing but driving the song with an unpredictability that is rare in mainstream pop.
36. ‘34+35’ (2020)
A good chunk of ‘Positions’ can be quite accurately summarised with the following six-word review: We get it, you’re getting some. On the surface, ‘34+35’’s title might not seem to play into the album’s incredibly horny angle, but add those numbers up and what do you get? 69, of course. One listen to the song makes it all very obvious anyway – there’s really no subliminal message to lyrics like “Can you stay up all night?/Fuck me til the daylight”.
35. ‘Positions’ (2020)
‘Positions’ title track makes good use of double entendre, at once placing Grande in a relationship that rejects stereotypical gender roles and speaks to some lively bedroom activity. “Switching them positions for you/Cooking in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom,” she shares. “I’m in the Olympics way, I’m jumping through hoops.”
34. ‘Bloodline’ (2019)
Coming on like ‘Rude Boy’-era Rihanna, ‘Bloodline’ wobbles with dancehall grooves, punctuated by choruses of brass. Over the top, Ariana sets aside expectations of Mr Right for Mr Right Now. “No, we won’t be talking the next day/I ain’t got nothing to say,” she says, setting her boundaries like a boss.
33. ‘POV’ (2020)
“I wanna love me/The way that you love me,” hushes Ariana on this feathery piece of soothing pop. It’s a tribute to finding someone who sees you for who you really are and the powerful effects of that kind of love. Easily the most beautiful song on ‘Positions’, ‘POV’ is Ari at her romantic, heartstring-tugging peak.
32. ‘Better Off’ (2018)
‘Better Off’ wasn’t initially going to make the cut on ‘Sweetener’ because of how open Ariana is in the lyrics about dipping on a relationship. It’s a good thing she changed her mind about the track – the partnership that inspired it might have been toxic, but this is beautiful (and very sad).
31. ‘Lovin’ It’ (2013)
‘Lovin’ It’ samples Mary J. Blige’s ‘Real Love’, but where the New York singer was searching for love on her song, here Ari’s already got it secured. “Boy you got all my, all my love and affection,” she tells the person who’s ended her own hunt for now. “You don’t gotta question if I’m really loving your loving.”
30. ‘Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino)’ (2014)
‘Break Your Heart Right Back’ deals with being cheated on by your boyfriend with another man, so it makes sense that it samples Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’. As with any break-up, Grande’s feeling hurt, expressing her desire to make her ex “cry me a river”. Childish Gambino offers her what he considers the perfect way to get revenge: “Get with me.”
29. ‘Needy’ (2019)
Being “needy” is rarely seen as a positive thing, especially when that adjective is being used to describe women in relationships. Over a revolving, eerie note, the pop star offers up another side to the argument – that needy people are just “passionate” or “love too hard”. Wrong or right, you can’t quibble with her closing defence: “I know how good it feels to be needed.”
28. ‘Sweetener’ (2018)
On the ‘Sweetener’ title track, Ari blends soulful ‘90s pop with modern trap beats, flipping from something pure and sweet right into a chorus that’s a little dirtier and grittier. “When life deals us cards/Make everything taste like it is salt/Then you come through like the sweetener you are,” she sings in reverence of someone who can make everything better, not bitter.
27. ‘Make Up’ (2019)
‘Make Up’ wins points automatically for being able to cram a plug for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty range in without it sounding completely out of place. It gets a bunch more for being a loping bop – one that might give you whiplash from all the breaking up and making up, but also makes this on-again, off-again relationship sound like a lot of fun (if a little exhausting).
26. ‘Get Well Soon’ (2018)
Run times of songs might not usually be very significant but that couldn’t be more different with ‘Get Well Soon’. It clocks in at five minutes and 22 seconds – a reference to May 22, the date of the Manchester Arena bombing. In the song itself, Grande opens herself up to her fans as their support “when you need someone to pull you out the bubble”.
25. ’Imagine’ (2019)
Ahead of ‘Thank U, Next’’s release, Grande teased that its opening song was about “a simple, beautiful love that is now (and forever) unattainable”. The track itself is dreamy and heavenly, reinforcing the idea of something God-tier, but the vision dissipating with each time she sighs “imagine” at its close.
24. ‘Bad Idea’ (2019)
We’ve all been there post-break-up where you know doing something reckless and self-destructive is a bad move, but it’s the only thing you can think of to numb the pain. That’s exactly where we find Ariana here, mining her worst ideas just to “forget about it, forget about him/Forget about me”.
23. ‘NASA’ (2019)
Everyone needs their space sometimes and here Grande makes putting some distance between her and her partner sound out of this world. “It’s like I’m the universe and you be N-A-S-A,” she explains, before leaping into one of her many earworm choruses.
22. ‘Fake Smile’ (2019)
“If I’m honest, I’ve done been through way too much,” sighs Ari on this ‘Thank U, Next’ track, which – following the few years she’d had pre-2019 – is something of an understatement. Shortly afterwards, she ditches society’s expectations to pretend like everything’s OK even when you’re breaking inside via a gently attitude-driven chorus and a half-rapped bridge in which she vows: “If I’m hurt, I ain’t gon’ lie about it/Arms crossed with the attitude, lips pouted.” Combine all that with a hypnotic sample of Wendy René’s ‘After Laughter’ and you’ve got a killer song.
21. ‘Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)’ (2014)
Hooking up with Iggy Azalea, Grande plumbs those relationships where you can’t help but get sucked back in, despite all the red flags showing. It’s very of its time with skronking sax honks punctuating a chorus that’s half-whispered (by an uncredited Big Sean) and half-belted, and has an impressive habit of getting stuck in the deepest recesses of your brain.
20. ‘Goodnight N Go’ (2018)
One of ‘Sweetener’’s brightest spots, ‘Goodnight N Go’ interpolates the song of the same name by Imogen Heap but makes it classic Grande. “Why’d you have to be so cute?/It’s impossible to ignore you,” she sings, using Heap’s original lyrics, a skipping beat slowly coming into focus beneath.
19. ‘Greedy’ (2016)
In an arsenal full of bops, ‘Greedy’ stands out as one of Grande’s most fun – a bullet of pure joy even on the darkest day. “Baby, you got lucky cos you’re rocking with the best,” she purrs on the funky, brass-laden chorus and who are we to challenge her on that?
18. ‘Be Alright’ (2016)
Sometimes the best cure for your troubles is heading straight to the heart of the dancefloor, be that in a club or your bedroom. Grande provides the perfect soundtrack for dancing your worries away on ‘Be Alright’, a lightly bubbling house beat cushioning her promise that “We’re gonna be alright”.
17. ‘Monopoly’ (2019)
Written with her bestie Victoria Monét, this 2019 track might as well be a sister song to ‘7 Rings’, which was still riding high at the top of the charts when this was released. “Outta here with that fuckery/Treat my goals like property,” Grande and Monét sing alternately. “Collect them like Monopoly/I probably won’t come if there’s not a fee.”
16. ‘In My Head’ (2019)
‘In My Head’ opens with a voicemail message from the singer’s friend Doug Middlebrook, analysing Ari’s behaviour as centring around “a version of a person” made up in her imagination. Later, she admits as much when she whispers: “Look at you, boy I invented you/Your Gucci tennis shoes, running from your issues.” At least her imaginary mates have some style.
15. ‘The Way (feat. Mac Miller)’ (2013)
The first single from ‘Yours Truly’ still sounds great seven years later. On it, Grande and Mac Miller team up for the first time, paying tribute to those stomach-flipping feelings new love brings. Also shout out to Miller for inviting Ari round to watch American Beauty before quickly switching gears to… Bruce Almighty. Whatever floats your boat.
14. ‘Focus’ (2015)
A bona fide banger, this bridge between ‘My Everything’ and ‘Dangerous Woman’ fully cemented Grande as a magnetic star. It’s infectious, fun and powerful all at once, Ari spreading the message to focus not on our outward differences but what’s inside us.
13. ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’ (2019)
On first listen, this is hardly Ari’s most feminist song – telling someone to break up with their girlfriend just cos you’re feeling a little restless doesn’t scream girl power. Yet in the video, the star offers up another interpretation – the girl she’s begging to be dumped is her and the love she’s craving is her own.
12. ‘7 Rings’ (2019)
We’ve all heard The Sound Of Music’s ‘My Favourite Things’, but we’d never imagined it could sound as badass as this before ‘7 Rings’ came out. Interpolating the musical song with trap beats and lines about being a savage, Grande crafts a true capitalist classic, nonchalantly bragging: “Whoever said money can’t save your problems/Must not have had enough money to solve ‘em.” Touché.
11. ‘Side To Side (feat. Nicki Minaj)’ (2016)
‘Side To Side’ deserves to be high up on any list purely because of Nicki’s use of the phrase “dick bicycle”. That aside, though, there’s a stroke of genius in setting a song about having trouble walking properly post-bang sesh to a reggae track that lopes and lurches as if it’s having a hard time keeping upright.
10. ‘One Last Time’ (2014)
Originally written about having an affair, this David Guetta-produced track took on new meaning in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack. In memory of the victims, Arianators launched a chart campaign to honour the lives lost. Even without that meaningful addition to its legacy, this is a gorgeous, touching song that gently lifts with a far more sensitive touch than you might expect of a Guetta assist.
9. ‘Bang Bang (feat. Jessie J and Nicki Minaj)’ (2014)
The 21st century ‘Lady Marmalade’, ‘Bang Bang’ had no right being as great as it is. And yet, it slaps incredibly hard, Jessie J and Grande’s powerful voices exploding together while Nicki delivers an iconic, full throttle verse. Repeat after us: “B to the A to the N to the G to the hey.”
8. ‘Dangerous Woman’ (2016)
“Don’t need permission/Made my decision to test my limits,” asserts Grande in the opening lines of her third album’s title track. The song takes its title from feminist author Nawal El Saadawi’s book Woman At Point Zero, in which one character notes: “A man does not know a woman’s value.” For her part, Ari pledges to take control instead of leaving things up to her man, forming a commanding presence on a track that should be the soundtrack to any gender-flipped Bond film the future might deliver.
7. ‘Into You’ (2016)
One of Grande’s finest songs, ‘Into You’ unabashedly puts her desires front and centre, scoring the empowering feel she started craving around the time of ‘Dangerous Woman’. “A little less conversation and a little more touch my body,” she instructs in a chorus that slinks and seduces with potent ease.
6. ‘God Is A Woman’ (2018)
“When all is said and done/You’ll believe God is a woman,” Grande purrs on this ‘Sweetener’ track. Judging from the pure sultriness of this song, her interpretation of “love thy neighbour” might be a little different than the big guy – or girl – above intended, but at least her heart is definitely in the right place. Bonus fun fact: this is apparently Grande’s grandma’s favourite song off this album to which we can only say, let’s get it Nonna.
5. ‘Break Free (feat. Zedd)’ (2014)
An EDM-pop crossover banger, if ever there was one. “This is the part when I say I don’t want ya/I’m stronger than I’ve been before,” Ari hollers, lasering synths cutting in when she adds: “This is the part when I break free.” One of her biggest, most euphoric anthems.
4. ‘Ghostin’ (2019)
Grande’s magnum opus when it comes to earth-shatteringly emotional songs, ‘Ghostin’’ is sublime but utterly heartbreaking. It details the guilt Grande felt grieving for ex Mac Miller when she was still with Pete Davidson and does so in painfully honest terms. “Though I wish he were here instead/Don’t want that living in your head,” she sings at one point, before promising to get through things together.
3. ‘Breathin’ (2018)
“Some days, things just take/Way too much of my energy,” Ari explains at the start of ‘Breathin’’. Written about her struggles with anxiety, it’s as much an exploration of what’s going on in her mind as it is a distraction tool to deploy when you’re on the verge of a panic attack. All you have to do is follow her instructions in the chorus: “Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’.”
2. ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ (2018)
The first new song Ari released after the Manchester Arena bombing, ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ found an artist shining in her resilience. “We’re way too fly to partake in all this hate/We out here vibin’, we vibin’, we vibin’,” she sings, like a mantra to keep the demons at bay. It’s a powerful reminder – from her superior vocals to its tough lyrics – that the bad times will always pass.
1. ‘Thank U, Next’ (2019)
After a very high profile relationship, engagement and subsequent break-up, Grande could’ve used a record to take aim at her most recent ex Pete Davidson. Instead, on this iconic, flawless reflection on loves lost, she takes the high road and notes the valuable lessons learned from all her dalliances. Her conclusion? “I’m so fucking grateful for my ex.”
Like what we do? Support The Forty-Five’s original editorial with a monthly Patreon subscription. It gets you early access to our Cover Story and lots of other goodies – and crucially, helps fund our writers and photographers.Become a Patron!