KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #25: Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #25: Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande.

In our previous post, we reviewed how it came to be that my daughters became involved in this countdown process but, suffice it to say, both were equally unimpressed with a countdown that consisted of songs recorded and released when their grandparents were young, such as Elvis, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin and The Beatles. So, as you know, both girls were challenged to provide me with a list of their own Top Ten music choices; songs that they believed better spoke to the times in which we find ourselves. While Leah’s list had a little bit of this and a little bit of that, Sophie’s list stayed fairly true to her contention that the only good songs are today’s songs. Her list of Top Ten songs included Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, American Authors, The Jonas Brothers, Bruno Mars, Olivia Rodrigo, three by Ariana Grande (No Tears (Left To Cry), Successful, 7 Rings plus, today’s post) and one throwback song by the incomparable, Joan Jett.

In the case of a majority of the songs that Sophie decided to include on her own, personal Top Ten list, she tends to gravitate toward songs that have a good “vibe”, as she likes to call it. When asked to define the word, “vibe”; Sophie stated that it means songs that sound good but that also have a good message and, finally, that are polished and well put-together. When it comes to songs with a good “vibe” none rate any higher than “Thank U, Next” by her pal, Ariana Grande.

When I asked Sophie what it was that made “Thank U, Next” her top song, she became more animated than she had for any previous song. For starters, she was very impressed that, in this day and age of marketing and information overload via Social Media, Ariana Grande was able to “drop” this song without any advance warning. Sophie said the sudden appearance of the song was so unexpected. It was almost as if she had been given a treasured gift, out of the blue.

Next in line of importance was how cleverly constructed the music video for “Thank U, Next” actually is. I could probably write this whole post just about the music video but, for the sake of brevity, let me just say this: The concept for this video is to pay homage to four iconic movies of the early 2000s (“Mean Girls”, “Legally Blonde”, “13 Going On 30” and “Bring It On”). In her video, Grande plays the lead characters in each of these movies, as she re-creates famous scenes from each film. However, that is only the beginning of what made this video special; so much so that it set a YouTube record for the most downloads and streams in a 24-hour period, with well over 50 million views!!! As Grande works her way through these iconic movie scenes, she populates the background of each scene with a veritable smorgasbord of cultural details from earlier in her own career, from the careers of other famous people, as well as, many cultural touchstone references. Critics who watched the video declared it to be one of the most culturally significant music videos of the decade. Not surprisingly, it won “Video of the Year” in every award show in which it was nominated.

The song, itself, is about a string of ex-boyfriends that Ariana Grande has famously dated. In the hands of someone like Taylor Swift, ex-boyfriends tend to become fodder for female empowerment songs that revolve around the sentiment of, “you did me wrong but I will stay strong”. In “Thank U, Next”, she gives the topic of ex-boyfriends a differing take and one, quite frankly, that I espouse to, as well. In “Thank U, Next”, Grande lists the various men she has dated and, instead of putting them down or being negative, she thanks them to adding to the fabric of her life and for helping to make her the person she is today. For me, I never dwell in the past when it comes to former girlfriends but, I readily acknowledge that my time spent with them helped me learn how to be a better man so that when Keri (my wife) eventually showed up in my life, I was ready to be who she needed me to be. If not for those prior experiences, I would have been a different man than who I was and, maybe, just maybe, life would be completely different than it has turned out to be. So, like Ariana Grande, I am grateful to those who came before the one who was meant to be.

One of the reasons why “Thank U, Next” is such a clever song and why the video for it has made such an impact has a lot to do with how society functions these days. We are Social Media junkies. Many of us could speak more knowledgeably about the Kardashians of the world than we could about global politics or the intricacies of arguments for Climate Change policies. Like it or not, Social Media is how many people interact with the outside world and it has become the #1 source for news for many as well. Therefore, when someone like Ariana Grande, who has grown up in the public eye on TV and on stage, creates a song about her dating life, she is, in fact, taking millions of people on a cultural trip down a newer, more modern version of Memory Lane. Her life, and those of other celebrities, have become intertwined with our own lives and, as such, her life is our life, too. The fact that I know more about her and the recent relationship she had with comedian, Pete Davidson, from Saturday Night Live, than I do about many of the people who live on my own street, tells me all that I need to know about how information-oriented and celebrity-centric our lives have become. The song and video for “Thank U, Next” is a masterclass in how integrated our information streams have become and how unreal our reality is turning out to be.

As Sophie navigates through the world that exists through her own experiences, her job becomes one of tempering the fantasy aspects of Social Media and borrowing from it, the proper elements that will help her to thrive in the real world in which she has to function. For her, Ariana Grande is a success story. She is beautiful, without having to resort to nudity. She is talented; in the world of music and on TV. She is powerful; in the sense that she has created a business for herself and is in complete charge of the content of her work and her public image. Finally, Ariana Grande presents as being a positive person and that counts for a lot when it comes to Sophie.

As I look at Sophie, I see someone who cares about her appearance, who is very intelligent, talented and creative and, most importantly of all, I see a person who possesses good character, is a good friend to others and who expects to be treated with respect, in reply. I am thankful that I get to spend my days with her. For that, I am very lucky. So, thanks, Sophie, for being part of this musical countdown journey of ours. I applaud your song choices and your reasons for choosing them. Thanks to all of you reading this post for your kindness and support shown toward Sophie, as well. I will end this post, as I did with Leah, by reminding Sophie that she is deeply and unconditionally loved.

Without further delay, here is Sophie’s #1 song choice…..”Thank U, Next” by her pal, Ariana Grande. Enjoy.

The link to the video for “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Ariana Grande, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #99: No Tears (Left To Cry) by Ariana Grande.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #99: No Tears (Left To Cry) by Ariana Grande.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #99: No Tears (Left To Cry) by Ariana Grande.

Today’s song comes from Sophie’s list of Top Ten favourites. Ariana Grande is her favourite singer so, it should come as no surprise that another one of her songs has made the list. “No Tears (Left To Cry)” is a special song in the history of Grande’s career and is one that Sophie and her sister, Leah, both like (which is noteworthy because they don’t often tend to like the exact same song). So, here is the story of “No Tears (Left To Cry)” by Ariana Grande and why it is so special to Sophie.

As we have discussed on previous posts, Ariana Grande was involved in one of the most tragic music events in recent memory, which was the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a concert of hers in Manchester, England. Sometimes we forget that those people we call celebrities are still, despite their fame and fortune, real people with real emotions, too. For Grande, that original Manchester concert was a chance for her to prove herself in one of the UK’s top cities for music. Being there filled her with a level of excitement that caused that concert to rise a bit above the norm for a show of hers. When the bombing happened, the first reaction she felt was confusion and then fear, followed quickly by immense guilt. Obviously, the deaths of 22 people by way of a suicide bomber was in no way Ariana Grande’s fault……and, nobody in the crowd or the music press blamed her, either…..but, she knew that, if not for her wanting to perform that night, none of those who died would have been there. So, understandably, Ariana Grande blamed herself for what had happened. Consequently, her first personal decision arising out of this tragedy was that she was going to stop performing. Never again would she allow herself to be responsible for “luring innocents” into a venue where they might get hurt.

We all react differently when tragedy strikes. While Ariana Grande was overwhelmed with guilt, others rushed to her side and encouraged her to rally against the Hate that had claimed so many lives. Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay and Liam Gallagher, lead singer from Oasis, both agreed to stand by her side and help her to sing again in Manchester so as to show the world that Love trumps Hate. With a lot of encouragement from a lot of other people as well, Ariana Grande came to feel strong enough to organize the “One-Love: Manchester” benefit concert. She, and the other organizers, felt it was important to get back on stage as quickly as possible in order to conquer any fear that may arise from gathering together in large numbers in a public space. The concert was televised around the world and was a huge success. The song, “No Tears (left to Cry)” was Grande’s musical response to the situation she found herself in. It was written, specifically, as a message for the world that she had shed her last tear and was determined to stand on that Manchester stage and sing again.

The song, “No Tears (Left To Cry)” is styled upon another song of female empowerment….Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive”. Both songs start out slowly, as the lyrics describe the problem each woman had to overcome. But then, mid-way through, both songs kick into a higher gear as Gaynor/Grande make their public vow to be stronger and more powerful and to vanquish their fears. The song became a #1 hit for Ariana Grande. The official video for the song won the award in 2018 for Best Music Video at the MTV Video Awards.

When I asked Sophie about why she liked the song so much, she responded that she liked the beat of the song and the message of it. She and Leah both are drawn to female role models. In Ariana Grande, they both see someone that they have watched on TV (on the teen shows, “Victorious” and “Sam and Cat”) and now, in music videos for #1 songs. Ariana Grande has been a presence in their lives for as long as they can remember so, when she went through the initial crisis of the bombing in Manchester, they felt it, too, in a way. To see “Ari”, as Sophie calls her, rebound in such a strong manner, encourages them, both. She is tiny (like they feel they both are) but, she is mighty, too. So, every time “No Tears (Left To Cry)” gets an airing in our home, both girls feel good about the song and the singer and what the song means in the larger context of Life.

Ariana Grande behaved in a heroic fashion; in that, she overcame adversity and triumphed over her fear. Celebrities do that sometimes. So do ordinary folks, like you and me and Sophie, too. Life is awesome much of the time but, for those moments when things go awry, it is helpful to have friends to help us and a good song to sing in order to help us screw up our courage. Some days, taking that one, single step forward is the bravest act of all.

Here is Ariana Grande with her song about the Manchester bombing, “No Tears (Left To Cry)”. Thanks, as always, to Sophie for her great taste in music and in role models.

The link to the video for the song, “No Tears (Left To Cry) by Ariana Grande, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Ariana Grande, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #50: 7 Rings by Ariana Grande.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #50: 7 Rings by Ariana Grande.

As they say in horse-racing, we have rounded the clubhouse turn and are heading down the straight-away when it comes to this music countdown. 450 music posts have been written. That is 90% of all posts are now done. That is an amazing feat and I am very grateful to all of you for coming along for the ride. It has been a lot of fun so far. The final 10% promises to be, figuratively and literally, the best yet. So, come on along, everyone! The finish line is in sight. Let’s bring this all home.

As you know by now, every 25th song goes to one of my girls and, in the case of today’s song, that choice goes to Sophie. “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande is Song #2 on her personal Top Ten list of the best songs of all-time. I have written before about how much Sophie likes and admires Ariana Grande. *(You can read about that here). We have all heard her biggest hits played, over and over again, many times in our home. Luckily for us, Ariana Grande is a good singer and possesses a strong singing voice and, as such, even though her songs are not always on my own, personal playlist, I don’t actually mind when Sophie plays her tunes at home. Of all of the tunes of hers that Sophie plays, “7 Rings” is the one I like the best. The message woven into the lyrics of this song are often misconstrued as being about conspicuous consumption when, in reality, Grande wrote this song as a way to show female empowerment through economic clout. I can always remember my own mother, who was a Registered Nurse, always saying how important it was for her to have her own source of income so that she wasn’t beholden to any man. That sentiment is really what “7 Rings” is all about. Here is the story of how the song came to be.

“7 Rings” is a song based upon a true event in Ariana Grande’s life. At one point, just as her career had taken off and she was becoming a full-fledged music star, Ariana Grande began a romantic relationship with comedian, Pete Davidson, who is best known as one of the stars on Saturday Night Live. Sometimes, a celebrity relationship works out and stands the test of time but, more often than not, young celebrity couples end up buckling under the strain of their busy lives. Such was the case for Davidson and Grande. As with any couple, sometimes a breakup comes as a relief while, at other times, it is a heartbreaking loss. For Ariana Grande, the truth lay somewhere in the middle. In any case, her response to the breakup was to flex her economic muscle and engage in a little retail therapy. She, and six of her friends, went shopping and ended up in a Tiffany’s jewelry store. While there, Ariana bought a ring for herself and then, six other matching rings for her friends which accounts for the “7 Rings” of the song title. Upon returning to her studio, armed with her army of friends and their glittering rings, she was inspired to create a new song that was an announcement to the world that she was going to be alright after the big breakup and, in fact, she was prepared to live her best life and to thrive.

“7 Rings” was directly inspired by the song, “Favourite Things” from the musical, “The Sound of Music”. The opening verse borrows directly from it and, as a result, a settlement was reached with the people who own the rights to that song, for 90% of the royalties to “7 Rings”. That is a huge payout for any song but, Ariana Grande believed in the power of the statement she was making and forged ahead with the song, anyway. The whole song describes the financial clout she possesses and how in control of her life she is at all times, in all regards. At first blush, she paints “being in control” through the lens of materialistic excess but, in the end, her message is that because she is who she is, Grande will always have the ability to provide for herself and, by extension, for her family and friends so, take that, ex-boyfriend!

From Sophie’s point of view, she likes the song for the message it gives off but, as well, for the cohesiveness of the song, in terms of how the musical structure complements the lyrics and how the fashion sense/style of the dancers in live performances all fits together, seamlessly, in style and in function, too. Sophie is very much a young lady with takes pride in being “put together” and co-ordinated when it comes to her wardrobe, how her bedroom is organized, how our house functions and so on. To her, style is more than mere physical appearance; it is a way of living in which everything of importance flows together and is connected in ways that are efficient, make sense and are aesthetically pleasing. While Sophie may be the youngest member of our family, her influence is felt everywhere in our home. So much so that her older sister, Leah, who works in our local Public Library, recently re-organized the children’s board book section based upon one of Sophie’s prime organizational methods which is…colour. To Sophie, life is simply better when it is well-organized and, even better still, is when organization beautiful to look at, too.

So, as you listen to Ariana Grande sing “7 Rings” live, note the look and the function of every aspect of the video. Sophie really enjoys the thoughtfulness that went into how this video plays out in terms of style, organization and functionality. She, also, enjoys watching a female sing about living a life from a position of confidence and power. All in all, I enjoy the way Grande sampled “Favourite Things” and the whole dramatic sound of the song. I hope that all of you will like it, too. Regardless of that, Sophie likes it enough to make it her second most-liked song of all-time and since she has good taste, that should count for something.

So, here is Ariana Grande and her break-up song with Pete Davidson, “7 Rings”. Take that, Punk!

Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Ariana Grande, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #250: Successful by Ariana Grande.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #250: Successful by Ariana Grande.

Every twenty fifth song goes to one of my girls thus, we time travel over sixty years from yesterday’s Elvis post, all the way to the modern-day song stylings of Sophie’s favourite singer, Ariana Grande. Sophie is a big fan of many female singers such as Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato but, by far and away, Sophie’s favourite performer is Ariana Grande. Sophie likes to sing as she putters around in her room so, the rest of us in the family are quite familiar with Ariana Grande’s song catalogue because that is where Sophie so often draws her musical inspiration from. So, let’s take a few moments and get to know one of modern music’s most talented and successful stars, Ariana Grande.

As you read this, Ariana Grande is in her mid-twenties. Despite her, relatively young age, she has been in the media spotlight most of her life. Prior to being a Pop star, Ariana Grande first gained fame as a television star on the Nickelodeon shows, “Victorious” and then, on that show’s spin-off, “Sam and Cat”. On both shows, Ariana Grande played a character known as Cat Valentine. On “Victorious” (which came first), Ariana Grande was not the star of the show and, in fact, was billed sixth or seventh in the opening credits. The show was set in a fictional school for the Arts in Hollywood and, even though Grande was starting to release her own material in the real world, she was not the main singer on that show. She was a popular yet, supporting player in that cast. Yet, there was something about her tiny size and the spunkiness of her personality that attracted Sophie right away. So, when “Victorious” ceased production and a spin-off show called, “Sam and Cat” was announced, Sophie and thousands of other fans were thrilled. “Sam and Cat” took place outside of the world we had come to know at “Hollywood Arts High School” and allowed Ariana Grande to more fully develop her “Cat Valentine” character. Despite this, she never used the show as a vehicle for her music career which, in the real world, was starting to take off!

For such a young singer, Ariana Grande has already sold millions of records and has enjoyed hundreds of millions of “views” on her YouTube channel, as well as, on other social media sites such as Instagram and TikTok. A quick glance of her hits is to see much of what passes for music on today’s radio. Songs such as, “Problem” (with Iggy Azalea), “Break Free” (featuring Zedd), “Bang, Bang” (featuring Nicki Minaj, “No Tears Left To Cry”, “God is a Woman”, “Breathin'”, “Thank U, Next”, “Rain on Me” (with Lady Gaga) and “Save Your Tears” (featuring The Weeknd) are but, a few of her many well known songs that we hear on the daily in our house as Sophie moves about.

The story of Ariana Grande would be one that focussed solely on her singing and acting, if not for her unfortunate involvement in a terrible tragedy a few years ago. As some of you may recall, Grande was performing a sold-out concert in that music Mecca of Manchester, England when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb toward the end of her show, killing several members of the audience in the process. The bomber had no political gripe with Grande but, none-the-less, the deaths happened on her watch and she was devastated by it, as you can probably imagine. In order to meet hate with Love, Grande organized a benefit concert to help raise money for the survivors of the bombing, as well as, the families of the victims. The concert was dubbed, “Manchester: One Love”. It was attended by 55,000 fans who helped overcome their fear of attending a concert in Manchester and ended up raising over $10,000,000. Musical stars such as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams and many more all took the stage with Grande throughout the day. Rolling Stone Magazine declared the “Manchester: One Love” concert to be the “Most Successful” concert of the year in 2017.

Arising out of the sadness of the Manchester bombing, Grande released a new album called, “Sweetener”. As she explained it, a person who is a “sweetener” is someone who brings positivity into the lives of others. She wanted to be that for others so, she wrote the song that Sophie has chosen for today, called, “Successful”. One of the things Ariana Grande promotes the most is the idea of women boosting up other women. Female empowerment is one of the central themes that runs through her musical catalogue and is one of the reasons that younger girls such as Sophie, are drawn to her. In the song, “Successful”, the chorus talks about how great it is to be young and beautiful and successful. At first, when I heard the song, I thought it came off as being self-absorbed but, that common mis-interpretation was soon put to rest when I learned how she perfroms the song. In live concerts, Ariana Grande turns the spotlight on the women in her audience. When it comes time for the chorus, instead of it turning into a shower of adoration from the audience to her, she goes silent and gets the audience to sing the lines themselves, making it a form of affirmation from her to them that they are, in fact, young and beautiful and successful, too.

When I asked Sophie why she liked this song so much, she replied that she liked the “vibe” it gave off. In her Dad’s old-speak, I think she means she appreciates the message behind the song. That works for me. Because Sophie is such a fan, we will see a few more Ariana Grande posts before our countdown list is through. But, for now, here is Song #6 on her personal list of her favourite and important songs of all-time……”Successful” by Ariana Grande. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Successful” by Ariana Grande, can be found here.

The link to the video for the lyrics-version of the song, “Successful” by Ariana Grande, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Ariana Grande can be found here.

The link to the official website for “Manchester: One Love” can be found here.