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

Kelly Clarkson's Road To 'Chemistry': How Her Post-Divorce Album Completes A Journey Of Resilience & Musical Freedom

Ludwig Goransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer.
Ludwig Göransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer at the 2024 Oscars in Hollywood, CA.

 Photo: John Shearer/ WireImage/ Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Ludwig Goransson's Masterful Composition for 'Oppenheimer' Wins Best Original Score

The 'Oppenheimer' win by one of the youngest composers to ever receive the award for Best Original Score, marks a second Oscar victory for Ludwig Goransson.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 03:52 am

Ludwig Göransson's captivating composition for Oppenheimer has triumphed in the Best Original Score category at the 2024 Oscars.

Göransson's victory represents his exceptional talent and innovative approach to film scoring, as one of the youngest composers to ever receive the Best Original Score Oscar. It marks his second win in the category — he took home his first Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther. Göransson's work on Oppenheimer also won at the 2024 GRAMMYs for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television).

Göransson's work stood out among the competition, going up against the scores of American Fiction, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Poor Things. His ability to convey deep emotional narratives and complex historical contexts through his scores has established him as one of the most innovative and sought-after composers in Hollywood.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Göransson's composition for Oppenheimer serves as the heartbeat of the movie, underpinning the film's exploration of the moral complexities and monumental impact of J. Robert Oppenheimer's work on the atomic bomb. Through his music, Göransson invites audiences into the internal and external conflicts faced by the "father of the atomic bomb," providing a sonic backdrop that is as thought-provoking as it is visceral.

Read more: Watch: Ludwig Göransson Discusses His GRAMMY Win For 'Oppenheimer' At The 2024 GRAMMYs 

The award was presented by fellow GRAMMY winners, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who will star together in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked as Glinda and Elphaba respectively, premiering on the silver screen later this year. Speaking to the power of music to leave an indelible mark on the viewer through film, Grande said, "a great film score can leave a handprint on our hearts forever. It can ignite wonder and astonishment, make us feel sadness and longing and even transport us to new worlds." 

Göransson achieved just that. In his acceptance speech, Göransson thanked his colleagues,  and stars of the film for contributions to his distinctive vision. "Christopher Nolan, it was your idea to use a violin in the score and it allowed me to work and collaborate with my wonderful wife and acclaimed violinist, Serena Göransson," he said.

Göransson ended his speech by acknowledging his parents, "Thank you for giving me guitars and drum machines and not buying me video games." 

2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS
Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish show off their Oscar awards for Best Original Song for 'What Was I Made For?' from 'Barbie'' at the 96th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images


2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish and FINNEAS Win Best Original Song For "What Was I Made For?" From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'

The duo's win for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'] marks the second Oscar win for Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, making Eilish the youngest two-time Oscar winner ever.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 02:23 am

Sibling duo Billie Eilish and FINNEAS are taking home more awards "What Was I Made For" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], this time at the 2024 Oscars, winning the prestigious Best Original Song award for their heartfelt ballad.

Once again, they've proven their unparalleled talent crosses effortlessly between the realms of music and film. Billie Eilish and Finneas won their first Oscar in 2022 for Best Original Song with "No Time to Die," the theme for the James Bond film of the same name.

Fittingly, the award was presented by two GRAMMY-winning musical performers, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who star as Glinda and Elphaba in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked, premiering on the silver screen later this year. 

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Eilish, who admitted to having a nightmare the night before receiving the award, burst into laughs before thanking the Academy and Barbie director Greta Gerwig, "Thank you to Greta, where did you go? I love you. Thank you for this. I'm so grateful for this song and this movie and the way that it made me feel."

The pair contended for the award against a diverse group of nominees: Diane Warren with "The Fire Inside" from "Flamin' Hot," Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt for "I'm Just Ken" also from Barbie, Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson with "It Never Went Away" from American Symphony, and Scott George for "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" from Killers of the Flower Moon.

Ahead of the win, Eilish and O'Connell gave a stirring paired back performance that highlighted their power as a pair.

Read more: 2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

"What Was I Made For?" captivated audiences and critics alike with its poignant lyrics and emotive composition, underscoring the siblings' ability to tap into universal feelings of identity and purpose.

This Oscar win is a significant milestone for both artists, reinforcing their status as multifaceted talents capable of storytelling that resonates across different mediums. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, they had already made waves with the same song, winning Song Of The Year and Best Song Written For Visual Media.

Eilish and Finneas's journey from the music studios to the glitz of the Oscar stage is a testament to their hard work, creativity, and the deep connection they share as siblings. Their ability to collaborate and push the boundaries of music, now recognized by both the Recording Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, sets a high bar for artists striving to make their mark across multiple industries.

Eilish and FINNEAS are not just a powerful duo in music but also formidable talents in film music composition. Their Oscar victory tonight is not just a win for them but a win for the incredible synergy between music and storytelling in cinema.

2024 Oscars: Watch Ryan Gosling And Mark Ronson Perform A Soaring, Hilarious Version Of "I'm Just Ken" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Ariana Grande Press Photo 2024
Ariana Grande

Photo: Katia Temkin


5 Takeaways From Ariana Grande's New Album 'Eternal Sunshine'

On her latest LP, Ariana Grande feels more self-assured than ever before — and 'eternal sunshine' details all of the life lessons and revelations that led to her most confident album yet.

GRAMMYs/Mar 8, 2024 - 09:47 pm

Ariana Grande's seventh album, eternal sunshine, begins with a single question: "How can I tell if I'm in the right relationship?"

The superstar has always been known for wearing her heart on her sleeve in her music — just look to 2018's Sweetener and especially 2019's thank you, next for a catalog of examples — and eternal sunshine is a mature evolution of that same level of transparency.

Grande's life has turned upside down since she released 2020's woozy, lovestruck Positions. She divorced husband Dalton Gomez after two years of marriage, and seemed to quickly move on to a new relationship with her Wicked co-star Ethan Slater. The huge changes created a firestorm of drama in the tabloids and across social media with fans left confused about timelines and even accusations of downright infidelity leveled against the singer.

Though she stayed largely quiet at the time, when Grande released "yes, and?" as her first new single in three years, the pop star was standing in her truth. "Now I'm so done with caring/ What you think, no, I won't hide/ Underneath your own projections/ Or change my most authentic life," she sings on the second verse.

While cleverly positioning the project as a concept album inspired by the 2004 drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Grande uses the rest of eternal sunshine to add to the unapologetic statements of "yes, and?", affirming through the music that there's much more to her story than tabloid headlines and internet rumors. 

In a multitude of ways, eternal sunshine showcases immense growth on Grande's part as a pop star, musician, and songwriter — but most of all, as a human being. Below, take a look at five takeaways from Ari's most self-actualized album to date.

She's Learned That Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Grande chose not to release a second single ahead of the album's March 8 unveiling, telling fans she wanted them to experience eternal sunshine in its entirety as a full body of work. Instead, she dropped second single "we can't be friends (wait for your love)" and its accompanying music video in tandem with the LP's release, and the ethereal banger perfectly encapsulates the themes of love lost — and the pain of moving on — that tie eternal sunshine to its cinematic source material starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

In the "we can't be friends" video, Grande elects to have her memories of a past relationship erased, much like Joel and Clementine in the beloved Oscar winner. "I don't wanna tiptoe, but I don't want to hide/ But I don't wanna feed this monstrous fire/ Just wanna let this story die/ And I'll be alright," she intones on the opening verse. 

However, by video's end, she, too, learns that it's better to live with the memories (and boundaries!) than to forget the love ever existed. 

Grande explores the same theme even more acutely on the album's title track, directly referencing the plot of the film as she tries "to wipe my mind/ Just so I feel less insane." (Though unlike Joel and Clementine's story, the pop star and her ex have both clearly moved on, as evidenced by the eyebrow-raising refrain: "Hope you feel alright when you're in her/ I found a good boy and he's on my side/ You're just my eternal sunshine, sunshine.")

Glinda The Good Witch Has Transformed Her

In numerous interviews ahead of the album's release, Grande spoke at length about the ways playing Glinda in the upcoming Wicked movies impacted her internally, recentered her priorities and healed her relationship with music. She had been adamant about not releasing new music while spending all her energy in the Good Witch of the North's magic bubble, but the impact the character's assured and confident nature had on her is evident throughout the entire body of work.

"Something that Glinda has is this very sure sense of self," Grande said in late February on The Zach Sang Show. "And she's not very apologetic. She's very good, she's very kind, but she's very certain. She takes up a lot of space unapologetically. And I think I, maybe before knowing Glinda and spending a lot of time with her, would cram myself into tiny little spaces and be kind of apologetic about what I come with and who I am." 

That same unapologetic kindness runs through virtually every song on the album, from the self-assured confidence of "yes, and?" to the disco-tinged heartbreak fantasia of "bye."

She's Just Fine Being Labeled The Villain

Being a concept album, eternal sunshine allows Grande to inhabit new roles and toy with perceptions of her pop star persona, and nowhere is that more evident than on "true story" and "the boy is mine," a one-two punch filled with '90s-inflected R&B and lyrical sass.

"I'll play the bad girl if you need me to…and I'll be good in it too," she pronounces on the former, clapping back at the media narrative swirling around the timeline of her split and new relationship with Wicked costar Ethan Slater. On the latter, as its title suggests, Grande taps into the feisty vibe of Brandy and Monica's 1998 smash while making it crystal clear she isn't competing with anyone for her new love's affections. 

Taken together, the two tracks affirm that Ari really is feeling more resolute in her truth than ever — regardless of what the masses have to say or what other narratives may be running rampant. 

She Remains A Master Of Vocal Production

Whether she's layering harmonies over a melody line or vocal arranging an entire bridge on the fly, the superstar's mastery over her instrument only continues to grow with each new album — evolving from a singer with a once-in-a-generation voice into a powerhouse who can ably execute her own vision from behind the mic.

eternal sunshine proves that point again and again, from the sumptuous extended whistle tone intro on "yes, and?" and the transcendence of the floating harmonies on "don't wanna break up again" to the ways she punctuates her dreamy, staccato vocal delivery on "i wish i hated you."

She Knows Love Is "Imperfect"

After making peace with the end of her marriage, Grande spends the tail end of eternal sunshine giving listeners valuable insight into where her head is at these days, relationship with Slater included. She addresses the unexpected start to this new love story head-on in the off-kilter melody of "imperfect for you" as she coos, "My love, they don't understand/ But I'll hold your heart in the box here beside me/ How could we know we'd arrange all the cosmos?/ We crashed and we burned/ Now I just can't go where you don't go."

And by the album's end, she finally finds the answer she's been searching for since the first track — in a nugget of wisdom from her beloved Nonna, who serves as the only guest credited on the album's 13-song tracklist. "Never go to bed without kissin' goodnight, it's the worst thing to do, don't ever, ever do that," the Italian matriarch advises. "And if you can't and if you don't feel comfortable doing it, you're in the wrong place, get out."

Not only does Nonna's advice wrap eternal sunshine up in a bow, it also speaks to the hard-earned lessons Ari has learned over the past few years — but also that she's come out on the other side stronger, wiser and more unapologetic than ever.

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

Women's History Month 2024 Playlist Hero
(Clockwise, from top left): Jennie, Janelle Monáe, Anitta, Taylor Swift, Victoria Monét, Ariana Grande, Lainey Wilson

Photos (clockwise, from top left): Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella, Paras Griffin/Getty Images, Lufre, MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR THE RECORDING ACADEMY, Paras Griffin/Getty Images, JOHN SHEARER/GETTY IMAGES FOR THE RECORDING ACADEMY, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


Listen:'s Women's History Month 2024 Playlist: Female Empowerment Anthems From Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Jennie & More

This March, the Recording Academy celebrates Women's History Month with pride and joy. Press play on this official playlist that highlights uplifting songs from Taylor Swift, Victoria Monét, Anitta and more.

GRAMMYs/Mar 8, 2024 - 04:44 pm

From commanding stages to blasting through stereos, countless women have globally graced the music industry with their creativity. And though they've long been underrepresented, tides are changing: in just the last few years, female musicians have been smashing records left and right, conquering top song and album charts and selling sold-out massive tours.

This year, Women's History Month follows a particularly historic 66th GRAMMY Awards, which reflected the upward swing of female musicians dominating music across the board. Along with spearheading the majority of the ceremony's performances, women scored bigtime in the General Field awards — with wins including Best New Artist, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Album Of The Year.

Female empowerment anthems, in particular, took home major GRAMMY gold. Miley Cyrus' "Flowers" took home two awards, while Victoria Monét was crowned Best New Artist thanks to the success of her album Jaguar II and its hit single "On My Mama." As those two songs alone indicate, female empowerment takes many different shapes in music — whether it's moving on from a relationship by celebrating self-love or rediscovering identity through motherhood.

The recent successes of women in music is a testament to the trailblazing artists who have made space for themselves in a male-dominated industry — from the liberating female jazz revolution of the '20s to the riot grrl movement of the '90s. Across genres and decades, the classic female empowerment anthem has strikingly metamorphosed into diverse forms of defiance, confidence and resilience.

No matter how Women's History Month is celebrated, it's about women expressing themselves, wholeheartedly and artistically, and having the arena to do so. And in the month of March and beyond, women in the music industry deserve to be recognized not only for their talent, but ambition and perseverance — whether they're working behind the stage or front-and-center behind the mic.

From Aretha Franklin's "RESPECT" to Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)," there's no shortage of female empowerment anthems to celebrate women's accomplishments in the music industry. Listen to's 2024 Women's History Month playlist on streaming services below.