Ariana Grande’s latest album solidifies her status as a gay icon. (x)
In the past year, singer/actress Ariana Grande has gone from upcoming tween star to bona fide pop diva. Her debut album, last year’s “Yours Truly,” spawned three Top 40 hits and her star power has only risen since. Her latest album has already produced three top ten hits—and the disc was just released last week!
“My Everything” is the perfect next step on Ariana’s path to super-stardom. The album retains the R&B flavor of “Yours Truly,” while adding more diverse—and mature—sonic influences and subject matter, making this Ariana’s true coming out. Like Christina Aguilera (with “Stripped”) and Britney Spears (“In The Zone”) before her, Ariana sings about subjects like love, sex and liberation in a way that feels very gay—but doesn’t feel pandering. There are themes of empowerment and freedom throughout the record that make it relatable on a number of levels—but especially to queer youth.
Call me crazy, but I think this album just might be the gay soundtrack of this generation.
For starters, the album’s second single, “Break Free,” seems to be a tailor-made gay anthem, with it’s 90s dance vibe and empowering lyrics. It’s a breakup song—“I’m stronger than I’ve been before / This is the part when I break free,” the star sings on the track—but Ariana herself has said that she interprets the song as a more general statement of freedom.
With it’s 90s dance influence and empowering lyrics, “Break Free” is a total gay anthem. (x)
“I sang it about my personal things … my fears, certain negativities in my life that were holding me back,” she said in an interview with Time. “I wanted to break free from all that I felt like was making me enjoy my life a little less.”
For some, that could very well mean breaking up with someone. But for a lot of LGBT youth, that could also mean letting go of the doubt, shame and confusion that go along with trying to come to terms with their queer identities, or leaving behind people who aren’t accepting.
As if that’s not enough, the fabulous, campy, space-themed music video even features a gay alien kiss—doesn’t get much gayer than that.
Except it does. Ariana is also featured on Jessie J‘s current single “Bang Bang,” along with Nicki Minaj (the track is featured on the deluxe version of “My Everything”). While it’s not a grouping as relevant or iconic as 2001’s “Lady Marmalade” remake, when that many divas come together to perform a song with a campy, old-school vibe, it’s definitely relevant to a certain subset of gays.
But it’s not just campy fun and dance floor anthems that make this album gay. The queer themes go a bit deeper than that and many of the album’s lyrics can be interpreted from a queer perspective.
In “Love Me Harder,” Ariana sings about wanting more from a physical/romantic relationship. If you’ve ever tried being with someone who’s still in the closet, you’ll definitely be able to relate to the lyrics. “If you really need me, you gotta love me harder,” she croons on the track. And if you’ve been on the other side of that? You’ll identify with The Weeknd’s parts. “So what would I do if I can’t figure it out?” the alternative R&B star sings in the bridge.
Similarly, “One Last Time” features Ariana asking for one last tryst with a lover who’s moved on to a new girl. Maybe I’m reaching, but I think this applies to that sort of situation, too. I’ve run into too many guys who like experimenting with gay and trans people, but can’t commit to an actual relationship with someone who’s LGBT, opting to settle down in a more “traditional” relationship.
Of course, that’s their prerogative, but it still hurts and it can be hard to let go of those relationships. That’s why the lyrics—“I know she gives you everything but, boy, I couldn’t give it to you,” and “I don’t care if you got her in your heart / All I really care is you wake up in my arms,” especially—could hit close to home if you’ve been through something like that.
Another song with a subtle queer undertone is the deluxe edition bonus track, “You Don’t Know Me.” Like “Break Free,” it’s another great liberation anthem. “I don’t need to live by your rules, you don’t control me / Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you don’t know me,” Ariana sings in the song’s chorus. It’s a song about defiance—and self-acceptance, as illustrated by one of the song’s most powerful lines, “All I can be is in love with who I’m becoming.”
In “Break Your Heart Right Back,” the album’s most explicitly gay moment, Ariana laments about an ex who left her for another guy—over a sample of the classic gay anthem, Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” (If that’s not gay, I don’t know what is.) Though it’s not as much of a gay empowerment anthem as the song it samples (it’s more of an angry break-up song), the twist makes the song even more relevant for gay guys getting over an ex.
While these are all great (and gay) highlights from “My Everything,” my favorite parts of the album are the more sultry songs, like “Be My Baby” and “Hands On Me.” Not only do these show Ariana’s growth as an artist, but they’re also super-fun to booty-pop to and can be important for some people to hear. Seriously.
Madonna, Christina and Britney are all considered gay icons partly because of their unabashed expressions of sexuality. When I was 16, listening to Britney’s more seductive songs was one of the main things that helped me get comfortable with my own sexuality. I’m sure Ariana’s songs will do the same for today’s LGBT youth.
Okay, so maybe I’m reaching too much with some of these interpretations but still, the gay influence on this album is undeniable. From the clubby production, to the lyrics, to the cheeky Diana Ross sample, “My Everything” just may be one of the gayest mainstream albums of the year and has solidified Ariana’s status as a pop superstar—and the gay icon of this generation.
What do you think of Ariana’s album? Do you idolize a different diva? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!