Ariana Grande: your person of the year 2018
How should we respond to tragedy? At just 25, Grande has had enough for a lifetime, including a terror attack at her concert and the death of an ex. But her music is all about staying positive.
“I’m really lucky and really unlucky at the same time,” pop star Ariana Grande told Billboard in a recent interview.
She has had a big year. Her surprise single Thank U, Next broke multiple YouTube and streaming records, and became her first US number one. She has received Grammy nominations for her fourth album, Sweetener. Now she is The Day’s person of the year, voted for by readers.
But it has been a hard year too. In June she admitted that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after the Manchester bombing killed 22 of her fans in May 2017. In September, her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller died of a suspected overdose. One month later, she ended her whirlwind engagement with comedian Pete Davidson. They have both spoken out about their mental health struggles since.
Yet throughout all the tragedy, her music has mostly stayed light. In the song Sweetener on her latest album, she sings about responding to salt with sweetness. In Breathin, she sings about being soothed during anxiety attacks: “just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’.”
She dispenses 21st-century advice to anyone struggling with their own mental health issues in Get Well Soon: “unfollow fear and just say ‘you are blocked’.”
Then there is Thank U, Next, November’s hit surprise single. In it, she thanks her exes for the lessons they taught her. Unlike many break-up songs, it is empowering without condemning those she left behind: “I’ve learned from the pain. I turned out amazing.”
Grande has struggled with her mental health since she was a child. She has spoken about being in therapy after her parents’ divorce when she was eight or nine, around the same time she began performing.
“Therapy has saved my life so many times,” she wrote on Twitter last month, “u don’t have to be in constant pain & u can process trauma.”
The message is particularly important for her fans, who are mostly young and female. In November, the NHS found that one in four women aged 17 to 19 has a mental health disorder.
Should we always respond to tragedy with light?
“No tears left to cry”
Yes, say some. Grande put it best right after the Manchester attack: “Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.” Her bravery in the face of trauma is inspirational.
It is not always possible, argue others. Grande knows all too well that dealing with trauma is about more than just “staying positive”. It takes honesty about how you are feeling, support from family and friends, and, potentially, professional help. Only then can you start looking for the bright side.
- Is Ariana Grande the right choice for The Day’s person of the year?
- Why do so many young women struggle with mental health issues?
- Try writing a song or a poem which gives advice about mental health, inspired by Ariana Grande.
- Choose another person who you think deserves the title of person of the year. Write a story about them, in the style of The Day.
Some People Say...
“Every time you’re faced with something ugly, focus on something beautiful.”Ariana Grande
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Ariana Grande came top of our poll for person of the year, which asked readers to rank five nominees in order of preference. In second place was England manager Gareth Southgate. Third was the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. Then came Christine Blasey Ford, who accused US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, and Emma Gonzalez, a high school student who helped to found a youth-led gun control movement in America.
- What do we not know?
- Grande has recorded a new album (also called Thank U, Next) but we do not know when it will be released, or how the tone will shift in light of Miller’s death. We also do not know what will happen next for Grande, although on Monday she announced a “special” show in Manchester during her Sweetener World Tour.
- The song’s video broke YouTube’s record for the most views in 24 hours. When it was first released, around 800,000 people were streaming it at once.
- Manchester bombing
- On May 22, 2017, a suicide bomber killed 22 people at Manchester Arena at the end of Ariana Grande’s concert. Ten of the victims were under 20. She organised the One Love Manchester concert two weeks later, raising £10 million for the victims and the Red Cross.
- Mac Miller
- The rapper and producer died on September 7. He had spoken openly in the past about his history of drug abuse.
- Get Well Soon
- The song is the last on the album, and the recording ends with a long period of silence. It is 5:22 minutes long, a reference to the date of the Manchester bombing.
- The song has been number one in the UK for six weeks and the US for five. It also became the fastest song in history to reach 100 million streams on Spotify, achieving this in 11 days.
- One in four
- According to a survey of 9,000 young people in 2017, 23.9% of women in the age range reported having mental health problems, as opposed to 10.3% of boys the same age.