meta-scriptAriana Grande's Musical Growth In 15 Tracks, From "The Way" To "Positions" |
Ariana Grande's Musical Growth In 15 Tracks, From "The Way" To "Positions"
Ariana Grande performs at the 2020 GRAMMYs.

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


Ariana Grande's Musical Growth In 15 Tracks, From "The Way" To "Positions"

Over 12 years and six albums, Ariana Grande has constantly evolved as her sound and life changed. Take a look at 15 songs that display her ever-expanding versatility and vulnerability.

GRAMMYs/Jun 26, 2023 - 05:55 pm

When Ariana Grande first entered the public eye, she played an aspiring artist on Nickelodeon's Victorious. Amid her character's sitcom antics, Grande's musical talent was strikingly apparent (as evidenced by her role in Broadway's 13 two years prior), and it wasn't long before Grande was on her way to real-life superstardom.

In the 12 years since she first started releasing music, Grande has evolved into one of the most recognizable, best-selling, and prolific pop stars of her era. Over the course of six albums, Grande has cultivated an instantly recognizable image, from her signature high ponytail to her unmatched ability to hit high notes with ease. 

Grande has also shown immense growth from the soft-spoken (but big-voiced) hopeful that fans first met on screen in 2010. She's experimented with genres and become more vulnerable in her songwriting, setting countless records along the way — carving out her place in the ranks of pop's greats.

As fans await Grande's next album — and the highly anticipated film adaptation of Wicked — is taking a look at 15 songs that trace how her sound has evolved over the years.

"Put Your Hearts Up" (2011)

To explore Grande's musical growth, it's easiest to start at the very beginning. "Put Your Hearts Up" showcases Grande's voice just fine, but it's fascinating how different it is from the rest of her discography.

Written by a formidable lineup of songwriters — Linda Perry, Matt Squire, and Martin Johnson — "Put Your Hearts Up" has a nice anthemic chorus and tinge of electronic influence. It largely keeps Grande's voice in a narrow range, though, and she has gone on record stating that while she has a soft spot for it, it's ultimately not in line with where she wanted to go as an artist.

"The Way" feat. Mac Miller, Yours Truly (2013)

The first single from her debut album Yours Truly, "The Way" is much more identifiable as a blueprint Grande would expand on over the years. With more R&B influence from writers including Jordin Sparks and Harmony Samuels (who also produced), the track is fun and upbeat — a perfect reintroduction as Grande earnestly began her musical career.

The upper register of Grande's voice — one of her biggest strengths — is on full display here. Mac Miller's verse shows how Grande's voice can seamlessly meld with rap, and the collab previewed how his relationship with Grande would play a large role in her life and artistry. 

"Tattooed Heart," Yours Truly (2013)

Though it was never released as a single, "Tattooed Heart" is an important piece of understanding Grande's musical arc. Some of the best work of her career has taken inspiration from soulful pop ballads that recall the music of the 1950s and '60s, and "Tattooed Heart" is one of her first forays into this world.

With a doo-wop rhythm in the piano and backing vocals, Grande leans into the romanticism at which she excels. The track is also one of the best Yours Truly displays of Grande belting with abandon, a trait that her most beloved tracks have carried over the years.

"Problem" feat. Iggy Azalea, My Everything (2014)

While Grande had a few writing credits on Yours Truly, her sophomore album My Everything is where she started getting more hands-on with the songwriting. This includes the album's lead single "Problem," which climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her most successful single at that point.

The song leans into Grande's strengths with a medley that almost immediately hits high notes, a quicker tempo with an R&B-inspired horn backing, and a bridge that lets Grande bring maximum force and energy on her delivery.

"Love Me Harder" feat. The Weeknd, My Everything (2014)

Collaborations have become a staple within Grande's career, with her both inviting guest stars and featuring as one herself. One of her most fruitful (and successful) musical team-ups is with The Weeknd, and it all began with "Love Me Harder."

Their vocal styles complement each other well, both singing with pillowy delivery over the most complex of instrumentals. On "Love Me Harder'' the production leans heavily into The Weeknd's electropop and R&B stylings, a sound that Grande easily thrives in. The pair have continued to work together over the next decade, with their two most recent collabs — 2021's "Save Your Tears (Remix)" and 2023's "Die For You (Remix)" — reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100.

"Moonlight," Dangerous Woman (2016)

Grande's third album, Dangerous Woman, featured a more mature, nuanced version of the star, starting with the album's standout ballad "Moonlight." While she has always excelled at the throwback ballads that pepper her work, she's never nodded to those influences as explicitly as she does on this track.

The swinging rhythmic snaps and dreamy chimes are pure oldies goodness, and Grande invites direct comparison to icons of the era, with lyrics like "he's giving me Elvis with some James Dean in his eyes." It's a nice nod to those who came before, and allows Grande to showcase her prowess for old-school nostalgia.

"Into You," Dangerous Woman (2016)

Dangerous Woman thematically finds Grande shedding a bit of her public persona as a teen television star with deeper and more explicit looks into her love life. The album's second single "Into You" details an electric and fiery attraction Grande is experiencing, doing so with a killer chorus that implores her desired lover to come closer to her. The track also showcases Grande's movement towards more electronic influence, with producers ILYA and Max Martin putting together a pulsing nightclub instrumental that would light up any dance floor.

"Leave Me Lonely" feat. Macy Gray, Dangerous Woman (2016)

Grande traces her musical influences to numerous artists from the 1950s all the way into the modern day. On "Leave Me Lonely," she got to sing alongside one of her idols in the form of R&B titan Macy Gray.

The contrast between Gray and Grande's vocals make for a captivating listen, and highlight Grande's ever-growing incorporation of R&B into her music. "Leave Me Lonely" gives the two artists ample space to push their vocals to the max, a sign that Grande knows how to get the best out of these collaborations. 

"no tears left to cry," Sweetener (2018)

Despite the name, Grande's fourth album Sweetener came during one of the darkest stretches of her life. In 2017, her concert in Manchester was the target of a terrorist attack, leaving 22 dead and over a thousand injured. While musically brighter than ever, much of Sweetener is Grande's attempt to process her grief.

"No tears left to cry" is a rallying cry, a call to move on despite the pain. Still, the ethereal music and scenes in the track's music video — which see Grande putting on masks of her own face — show glimpses of a woman still grappling with the magnitude of tragedy she's endured.

"blazed" feat. Pharrell Williams, Sweetener (2018)

As part of the brightening of her sound on Sweetener, Grande brought in Pharrell Williams to help produce and write a sizable part of the album. The results are most evident on the song that features Williams, "blazed."

The production is Williams in top form, a soulful yet lively instrumental defined by hi-hats and a bluesy swing. Grande matches the energy, delicately floating her voice while Williams comes in with the more pronounced vocal hook. Sweetener marks the only time the pair have worked together, and the result is some of Grande's most unique work.

"God is a woman," Sweetener (2018)

From the beginning of her career, Grande has been a proud feminist, fighting against the challenges women face in the music industry and the world at large. She's sprinkled the message throughout her work, but "God is a woman" is one of her most straightforward feminist anthems.

Across a sultry beat, she advocates for her own pleasure and unapologetically asks for what she wants. It's a refreshingly pointed statement that women have agency in romance that needs to be respected, and is one of Grande's clearest statement pieces.  

"thank u, next," thank u next (2018)

After the release of Sweetener, Grande continued to face hardship. A short but intense relationship with Pete Davidson ended, and in September 2018, Mac Miller tragically passed away at the age of only 26.

The result was thank u, next, an album that — even more than Sweetener — was born from a place of immense pain. The album's title track and first single is sparse compared to the production on her previous outputs, and is one of her most introspective tracks to date. Besides giving an ode to Miller and reflecting on her past relationships with both poise and sass, she also looks back at how her parents' troubled relationship shaped her.

"fake smile," Sweetener (2019)

Across all of thank u, next, listeners can hear how much stress Grande is under. With "fake smile," she acknowledges just how much the previous few years weighed on her. It's bitingly honest, with her refusal to hide how she's feeling anymore. ("And I won't say I'm feeling fine/ After what I been through, I can't lie," she sings on the chorus.)

It's another Grande track that incorporates her love of the past, with a sample from the 1960s track "After Laughter" setting the tone. The bridge is one of her catchiest in her entire catalog, a promise to herself to no longer lie about her feelings.  

"positions," Positions (2020)

With more space to heal, 2020 brought listeners Grande's sixth album, Positions. The LP keeps some of the more stripped-back production from thank u, next while coming from a more positive, playful headspace.

The title track is a great example of this, with an earworm of an instrumental that's based around acoustic guitar. If anything, Grande's voice has also grown stronger over the years, as she delivers some of the high notes on "positions" with more power than fans have ever heard before.

"my hair," Positions (2020)

Grande has always had a certain level of self-awareness, and that awareness contributes to the sharpness of her writing; that's especially apparent on "my hair," one of the sultriest tracks of her discography thus far. Grande knows her hair is closely tied to her image, and lyrics about letting a partner touch it heightens the sense of intimacy of the track. It's a song that's as thoughtful and tender as it is impactful — a combination that has epitomized Grande's growth as an artist.

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20 Years Of 'Wicked': On This Day, The Culture-Shifting, GRAMMY-Winning Musical Premiered
Lucy St. Louis (Glinda) and Alexia Khadime (Elphaba) take a bow with the rest of the cast of "Wicked" in 2023

Photo: Nicky J Sims/Getty Images


20 Years Of 'Wicked': On This Day, The Culture-Shifting, GRAMMY-Winning Musical Premiered

Twenty years after its premiere on Broadway, the deliciously corrupted musical 'Wicked' is still going strong.

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2023 - 09:18 pm

Twenty years ago, the Broadway-shaking musical 'Wicked' opened its doors in New York City — and the theatre world was never the same.

Based on Gregory Maguire's book Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West — itself influenced by L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz — the musical debuted on Broadway on Oct. 30, 2003, six months after it premiered in San Francisco, California on May 28.

Two years later, the musical was honored by the world's leading society of music people; it won the golden gramophone for Best Musical Theatre Album at the 2005 GRAMMYs.

Fifteen years and numberless inspired performances after its premiere,
Ariana Grande, Ledisi and Adam Lambert as well as GRAMMY winners Pentatonix performed with original cast members Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth to celebrate 'Wicked,' in a performance dubbed the "Wicked 15 Anniversary Concert."

Also back in 2018, the play about the green witch named Elphaba also garnered a special called A Very Wicked Halloween, starring the aforementioned musical luminaries.

"The themes of the show, the love and friendship aspects," "Wicked" star Kristin Chenoweth told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "We can look at these two characters looking forward to seeing everything."

For Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix, it was a full-circle moment for him to perform in the special. "It's a full circle moment, we grew up with this show and the [album] kind of shaped us as performers," Grassi told Playbill.

'Wicked' is still on Broadway — and is about to be on the silver screen! On Nov. 27, 2024,
Cynthia Erivo and Grande will star in Wicked: Part One, a film adaptation of the play. (The sequel, Part Two, is scheduled to release on Nov. 26, 2025.)

And on the stage proper, the team behind 'Wicked' is plotting a special anniversary show at the Gershwin Theatre — and on Oct. 30, the anniversary proper, the Empire State Building will light up green in commemoration of the show.

On Halloween, the New York Public Library will hold a free panel discussion about the musical, featuring panelists in book writer Winnie Holzman, producer David Stone and composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz.

And after spooky season concludes, traveling iterations of the show will continue to roll on throughout the world — with a home base in London providing the (slightly altered) experience for Wicked fans in the United Kingdom.

Whether or not you're able to catch the film, these celebration shows, or just a good old performance, keep a little wickedness in your heart in tribute this Halloween!

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Selena Gomez

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images


New Music Friday: Listen To New Releases From Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Blackpink & More

The summer of 2023 may be winding down, but its musical offerings remain white-hot. Check out some new songs and albums that arrived on Aug. 25, from Maluma to Burna Boy.

GRAMMYs/Aug 25, 2023 - 05:51 pm

The faintest hint of fall is in the air, but the summer of 2023's musical deluge continues unabated. Across genres, scenes and styles, the landscape continues to flourish.

We have Miley Cyrus's first song since Endless Summer Vacation — a vulnerable, proudly "unfinished" offering. On the opposite end of the vibe spectrum, Selena Gomez has thrown caution to the wind with the carefree "Single Soon."

And that's just the beginning — beloved acts from Burna Boy to BLACKPINK are back with fresh material. Before you dive into the weekend, add these songs to your playlist.

Miley Cyrus — "Used To Be Young"

On her first song since Endless Summer Vacation arrived in March, two-time GRAMMY nominee Cyrus avoids tidiness, and pursues honest reflection.

"The time has arrived to release a song that I could perfect forever. Although my work is done, this song will continue to write itself everyday," she said in a statement. "The fact it remains unfinished is a part of its beauty. That is my life at this moment ….. unfinished yet complete."

"Used to Be Young" belongs to the pantheon of "turning 30" jams; therein, Cyrus looks back on her misspent youth, and the attendant heat of the spotlight. "You say I used to be wild/ I say I used to be young," she sings. 

In the stark video, she gazes unflinchingly into the lens, without varnish or artifice.

Selena Gomez — "Single Soon"

Where Cyrus' new song bittersweetly gazes backward, Gomez's carbonated new jam "Single Soon" is focused on the promised reverie of tomorrow — sans boyfriend.

"Should I do it on the phone?/ Should I leave a little note/ In the pocket of his coat?" the two-time GRAMMY nominee wonders, sounding positively giddy about her unshackling from Mr. Wrong.

As the song unspools, Gomez gets ready for a wild night out; the song ends with the portentous question, "Well, who's next?" If you're ready to slough off your summer fling, "Single Soon" is for you.

Ariana Grande — Yours Truly: Tenth Anniversary

The two-time GRAMMY winner and 15-time nominee's acclaimed debut album, Yours Truly, arrived on Aug. 30, 2013; thus, it's time to ring in its tin anniversary.

Granted, these aren't "new songs," per se: rather, in a weeklong celebration, Grande is reintroducing audiences to Yours Truly.

Dive in, and you'll find "Live From London" versions of multiple songs. Plus — perhaps most enticingly — the sprawling re-release contains two new versions of "The Way," her hit collaboration with late ex Mac Miller.

Maluma — Don Juan

Papi Juancho is dead; long live Don Juan. "Fue un placer," Maluma wrote on Instagram last New Year's Eve. (It translates to "It was a pleasure.")

And with that, the Colombian rap-singing heavyweight ushered in a new character. He's now Don Juan — in a reference both to the fictional libertine and his birth name of Juan Luis Londoño Arias.

Now, Don Juan's out with his titular album — which he dubs a "mature" blending of the musics that got him going, like reggaeton, house, salsa, and hip-hop.

Burna Boy & Dave — "Cheat On Me"

Just over a year after his latest album, Love, Damini, Burna Boy is back with I Told Them… The Nigerian star offers another forward-thinking missive with his seventh album.

Featuring the likes of 21 Savage, J. Cole, and Wu-Tang Clan's GZA and RZA, I Told Them… is one highlight after the next — and "Cheat On Me" is one of them. For the advance single, the GRAMMY-winning Afro-fusion dynamo teamed up with London rapper Dave.

Therein, the pair expound on getting out of their own way. The chorus, powered by a sample from British-Ghanian singer/songwriter Kwabs, sums it all up: "I couldn't see/ I was cheating on, cheating on me." 

Blackpink — "The Girls"

BLACKPINK are a bona fide cross-cultural sensation, but they won't stop at the music: they're a game now.

A little over a year after their second studio album, Born Pink, the acclaimed South Korean girl group has released a mobile app, succinctly called "The Game." Therein — and above — players can watch the video for "The Girls," their first post-Born Pink jam.

Don't say Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa didn't warn you: "Stop sign, we're burning it down/ Better watch out, we coming in loud/ Bang, bang, just playing around/ Don't mess with the girls, with the girls, with the girls."

The Killers — "Your Side of Town"

The Killers' beloved debut album, Hot Fuss, turns 20 next year; as a ramp-up, here's "Your Side of Town," a new slice of electro-pop from the Vegas crew.

The sleek, aerodynamic, Auto-Tuned "Your Side of Town" is their first single since their acclaimed pair of albums, 2020's Imploding the Mirage and 2021's Pressure Machine.

Here, the five-time GRAMMY nominees take a Pet Shop Boys-like tack with the music; lyrically, they're still putting the "heart" in heartland rock.

"I'm hanging on your side of town/ I notice when you're not around," frontman Brandon Flowers sings on the chorus. "Can't keep my cool, I'm burning inside/ A broken heartbeat, barely alive."

But the Killers — like everyone on this list — remain very alive.

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Ariana Grande's Road To 'Wicked': How The Pop Star Manifested Her Theater Kid Dreams In The Most Full-Circle Way Possible
Ariana Grande performing on "A Very Wicked Halloween" in 2018.

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images


Ariana Grande's Road To 'Wicked': How The Pop Star Manifested Her Theater Kid Dreams In The Most Full-Circle Way Possible

As 'Wicked' fans await Ariana Grande's debut as Glinda the Good Witch in the 2024 film adaptation of the Broadway smash, revisit the journey that led the self-proclaimed "theater nerd" to her biggest career milestone yet.

GRAMMYs/Aug 2, 2023 - 02:00 pm

Long before Ariana Grande was known as a global pop superstar, Broadway's Kristin Chenoweth was one of the first to recognize her inimitable talent.

"She was maybe seven or eight," Chenoweth recalled of meeting the singer for the first time during a 2019 stop at "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." At the time, the Broadway veteran was starring as the original Glinda in "Wicked," and a young Ariana had won an auction to meet her backstage at the Gershwin Theater. 

"Her mom and grandma brought her back and she sang a little bit of 'Popular,'" Chenoweth continued. "And I thought, 'Well you're pretty good.'"

Fast forward to more than 15 years later, and Grande herself is stepping into the role made famous by Chenoweth for the upcoming big screen adaptation of "Wicked" — a dream casting that has Ozians, munchkins and Arianators alike exclaiming, "We couldn't be happier!"

Directed by Jon M. Chu, the musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz will also star Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba opposite Grande and tell the enchanting story of Glinda and Elphie's unlikely friendship before they became the witches of Ozian lore. A massive undertaking translating beloved songs like "The Wizard and I," "What Is This Feeling?" and "Defying Gravity" to the silver screen, the film will be split in two parts; the first is set to hit theaters nationwide just in time for Thanksgiving next year. (As of press time, production on the two films is currently on pause amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.)

The role of Glinda is a complete full-circle moment for Grande, a proudly self-described "theater kid" — one whose professional career actually started out on the Broadway stage.

On September 16, 2008, a then-14-year-old Ari made her Broadway debut as Charlotte in Jason Robert Brown's all-teen musical 13. The composer had won acclaim (and a Tony Award) for his previous works like Parade and The Last Five Years, but the show — which was centered around a group of 13-year-olds growing up, hitting puberty and surviving the horrors of middle school in small-town Indiana — only ran for a total of 105 performances before closing in January of the following year.

Even still, the show gave Grande a small taste of the spotlight, and in an unearthed interview with MTV News from the time, the future pop star adorably predicted exactly where the next 15 years would take her. "Whatever I end up doing with my career, I really hope that it's in this sort of business. Whether it's, you know, being on Broadway or recording albums, I really just hope I'm always singing and acting and dancing and, you know, making movies would work, too!" she manifested, citing everyone from Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey to India.Arie and Imogen Heap as a few of her musical idols.

Though her time on the Broadway stage was short-lived, Grande quickly pivoted to television,   landing the role of Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious, (which ran from 2010 to 2013), and its subsequent spin-off, Sam & Cat, alongside Jennette McMurdy. The pair of kiddie sitcoms gave the teenaged star a platform to both build a fanbase of loyal tweens and regularly show off her musical prowess — a harbinger of the international pop fame soon to come.

By late 2011, the burgeoning triple threat had signed with Republic Records (then known as Universal Republic) and released her debut single "Put Your Hearts Up." However, it was "Popular Song," her 2012 collaboration with MIKA, that landed Ariana her very first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. And what do you know? The campy duet interpolated none other than "Popular," the very same song from "Wicked" that she'd sung to Kristin Chenoweth all those years earlier.

Grande's debut album, Yours Truly, arrived in September 2013, with "Popular Song" joining the tracklist alongside hits like "The Way" featuring Mac Miller, "Baby I" and the Big Sean-assisted "Right There."

Over the course of her next two records, 2014's My Everything and 2016's Dangerous Woman, Ariana shot to the pop stratosphere. She landed seven more top 10 hits on the Hot 100 (including "Break Free," "Bang Bang," "Love Me Harder" and "Side to Side") and headlined two sold-out arena tours, joining the upper echelon of singers she'd spent her life admiring.

But even as she became a bonafide household name, the singer stayed connected to her theater roots. Months before Dangerous Woman arrived, Grande popped up as a special guest at one of Jason Robert Brown's cabaret-style concerts in Los Angeles, where she sang "The Lamest Place in the World" and "Brand New You" from 13 — the latter with Broadway luminary Shoshana Bean — as well as deep cut "Getting Out" from 2005's Wearing Other People's Clothes.

The two also got to reunite for the deluxe version of Dangerous Woman for the aptly titled "Jason's Song (Gave It All Away)." While the jazzy, piano-inflected bonus cut was an undeniable outlier to the album's more R&B-leaning sound, it still served as the project's third and final promotional single; Grande even performed it live on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in September 2016.

By the end of that year, Grande tapped into her musical theater roots again, but with an altogether different kind of role: Penny Pingleton in NBC's Hairspray Live! Alongside the likes of Dove Cameron, Jennifer Hudson, Garrett Clayton and Broadway royalty like Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein and Martin Short, the superstar brought both a daffy charm and her powerhouse voice to the show's lovable sidekick and certified "checkerboard chick," belting out fan favorite numbers like "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," "Without Love" and "You Can't Stop the Beat."

"I started doing theater when I was younger, I have always been a huge theater nerd," Grande gushed from the Hairspray Live! press junket red carpet, Chenoweth by her side. "And a lot of people don't actually know that this is, like, my soul. It's like my heart." ("Her DNA!" Chenoweth proudly piped in.)

"So being able to do this production that I grew up singing every single day in the car… I worship this role," she added. "And also working with so many people who I have grown up worshiping is just, I can't say it enough times, it's so inspiring and so crazy and so beautiful and it'll never get old to me."

In between her next two albums — 2018's Sweetener and 2019's thank u, next, which both debuted atop the Billboard 200 — the megastar returned to NBC for "A Very Wicked Halloween," a special musical celebration of "Wicked"'s first 15 years on Broadway. For her supreme performance of Elphaba's Act 1 showstopper "The Wizard and I," Grande sported dazzling green lips as footage of Chenoweth and Idina Menzel played on a giant projector behind her.

Though most of thank u, next chronicled Grande's headline-making, whirlwind romance (and breakup) with comedian Pete Davidson, she once again found a way to inject a little Broadway on the album. But this time, the theater tribute became one of the biggest hits of her career: a little post-breakup bop known as "7 Rings."

Spinning the real-life tale of Ari treating her besties to a shopping spree at Tiffany & Co. in the wake of her split with Davidson, the trap-pop hit's ingenious melody came from quite the unexpected ditty — an interpolation of "My Favorite Things" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music.

Instead of waxing nostalgic over raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, though, the superstar cooed over, "Breakfast at Tiffany's and bottles of bubbles/ Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble/ Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines/ Buy myself all of my favorite things" on the braggadocious track. (Interestingly, she also chose to sign 90 percent of the song's royalties over to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization ahead of its release — a truly unheard-of split in the age of the modern music industry, particularly for a song that went on to spend eight weeks at the top of the Hot 100.)

The song became Grande's second consecutive hit to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (following "thank u, next"), breaking numerous streaming records in the process. And for the self-described "theater nerd," the fusion of pop and musical theater was not just a commercial success — it was also an authentic recalibration of her point of view as a recording artist.

"We started at home base — me," she said in a 2018 Billboard cover story honoring her as Woman of the Year. "And then we went in this place where I kind of played the game for a little bit, and did the big, big, big pop records. Then we slowly started incorporating my soul back into it — and that's where we've landed again with thank u, next."

Grande spent the majority of 2019 touring in support of Sweetener and thank u, next, including headlining Coachella and launching the Sweetener World Tour. The latter — which was later released as the live album k bye for now (swt live) and the Netflix concert documentary Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You — featured another Broadway homage, as the singer performed a coquettish cover of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" from the 1938 Cole Porter musical "Leave It to Me!" for the show's final intermission.

The tour's third and final leg officially concluded on December 22, 2019, just months before the entire world shut down due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Like many homebound artists, Grande used her sizable talents to make a difference during the crisis. And though everyone surely remembers her delectable take on "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" for the Disney Family Singalong (playing both Meg and, yes, all five of the Muses at once), the singer also joined forces with Jason Robert Brown once again for a special one-night-only concert benefiting musicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the occasion, Grande delivered a touching rendition of "Still Hurting" from The Last Five Years. In a statement following the virtual concert, Brown acknowledged just how remarkable her talent remains.

"I've known Ari since she was an astonishingly talented 14-year-old," he said. "We've gotten to make music together a couple of times throughout the years, and whenever it happens, I am struck by how comfortable our collaboration is and how relentlessly hard she works to get things exactly right. My text said, 'Do you know my song "Still Hurting"?' And her response was, 'Am I a person?' Ari was in."

By 2021, the world had begun to cautiously rouse itself from its pandemic slumber, and that November, Ariana and Erivo were announced as Glinda and Elphaba in the long-awaited adaptation of "Wicked" on the silver screen. (Even Erivo knew the scale of Grande's casting, sending her a bouquet of flowers with a note that read, "the part was made for you.")

When filming reached the halfway point this past April, Grande shared a photo of herself standing under a rainbow on set alongside a gratitude-filled (and awestruck) caption. "I don't know what to do or say," she wrote, "to be here in Oz where everyday is a life changing one."

Even more than two decades after her fateful first meeting with Chenoweth, it seems Grande's heart remains in Oz — proving that her childhood wish really has taken her somewhere over the rainbow. 

"Savoring every millisecond left with my Galinda (although she'll be with me irrevocably, forever). she shows me so many new things every day," Grande added in her April post. "I hope this isn't all a dream because as present as i am attempting to be, it sure does feel like one… my fellow Ozians. my heart will be stuck here forever."

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(L-R, clockwise): Hayley Kiyoko, Ricky Martin, Brandi Carlile, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Orville Peck, Omar Apollo

Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa


Listen To's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2023 - 04:21 pm

In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."

Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.