Her Name is Ari
By: Sean Tran
I always come back to Ariana Grande.
With over 50 million views, Ariana’s music video for her #1 single, “thank u, next,” has broken the record for the most viewed YouTube video during the first 24 hours of its release. Taking the role of four iconic female leads from the early 2000s films Mean Girls, Bring It On, 13 Going on 30, and Legally Blonde, Ariana complements pop perfection with visual nostalgia in a way that feels so personal to her, but universal to anyone who has faced heartbreak before. Pop music and romantic comedies are the key to the universality of “thank u, next;” they’re both unapologetically girly, dramatic in the most fun way possible, and most importantly, each have a sense of heart at their core that allow me to identify with Ariana in all of her personas, including herself, in order to find self-empowerment.
Since I was a little boy, I’ve been rather “girly.” My favorite color is pink, I’m “too sensitive” (according to my dad), and I’ve adored pop culture, specifically pop songs, “chick-flicks,” and the strong women involved. When I want to sit down and cry, I turn to Spotify, the screen, and spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry’s to make myself feel better. Lame? Sure. I’ve been glaringly aware of accusations of romantic comedies’ convoluted plotlines and catchy but “meaningless” lyrics (see, “thank u, next”). Yet, it’s the often critiqued “girliness” of these media examples that I love so much about them because they encourage you to embrace femininity not as weak or undesirable, but as as empowering. Even if it’s girly, it doesn’t present itself as anything else; girliness is the driving factor.
The music video for “thank u, next” epitomizes these positive qualities. Following the devastating 2017 attack at her Dangerous Woman Tour concert in Manchester, as well as the recent end to her engagement with Pete Davidson, Ariana invites the viewer to move on with her through a mid-tempo pop beat, personal allusions, and the female characters that she plays within the video. As a longtime fan of both Ariana’s, in addition to these movies, my identification with her as a model of feminine strength is enhanced by knowledge of these references. Because of Ariana's publicized romantic history, her parodied Burn Book of ex-boyfriends in the Mean Girls storyline is even funnier. As 13 Going on 30’s Jenna Rink, when Ariana falls to her knees with her dream house beside her, her sorrow feels more like reality. And when she teaches a salon how to do her own take on Legally Blonde’s bend and snap, Ariana tells us to bend and snap forward with her.
“thank u, next” is a girly pop song with a girly music video, inspired by girly movies. That’s undeniable. For viewers like me though, it’s what keeps us replaying the video until it’s shattered records. Whether she’s playing Regina George, Torrance Shipman, Jenna Rink, or Elle Woods, her name is Ari.
And I’m so good with that.