After a tough year, Grande faces even more backlash for her new single. (Illustration via Hannah Delmore, Kent State University)
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The hip-hop community is nonplussed, to say the least, with Grande’s latest sampling choices.

At the start of a new year, people often reflect on the various trials and tribulations they’ve had to endure, as well as the goals they’ve accomplished during the past 365 days. For pop-star Ariana Grande, the year 2018 has had its fair share of life-changing incidents.

All within a few months, Grande dealt with an emotional breakup from rapper Mac Miller, a speedy engagement to artist Pete Davidson, Miller’s unexpected death and finally the messy end to her engagement. You could say Grande had a lot on her plate this past year.

After this unfortunate series of events, Grande’s fans wondered how the star was coping and whether she would address things after a presumed hiatus from her singing career.

However, on Nov. 3, 2018, not too long after she broke off the engagement, Grande released a new single, “thank u, next,” in which she sings about her previous relationships with Miller and Davidson. The single vocalizes that the only relationship Grande seeks now is one with someone who will always be there for her no matter the situation: herself.

Fans raved about the new single, posted its lyrics on their social platforms and declared “thank u, next” their anthem for 2019.

While the idea of female empowerment and independence has been a staple of female pop stars for quite some time, the movement recently gained more traction due to the numerous debates concerning the policing of women’s bodies.

For centuries, young girls have been taught that their end goal should be to get married to a man. Nowadays, these ideals are slowly starting to change, as women are putting marriage and family life on hold to have more established careers. In the music industry especially, female artists are vocalizing their opinions on social issues to encourage younger fans to be independent and speak up for themselves.

A few weeks ago, when fans awaited her next new single, Grande created hype for the song on social media. After much speculation as to what or who this song could be about, fans started to conclude that the singer was going to release more songs about her independence much like, “thank u, next.”

While Grande never posted any sound clips of the song before its release, she did tweet lyrics and post images of the cover for “7 Rings,” which would later be announced as her newest single. In a response tweet from Dec. 1, 2018, Grande explained that she recorded this new song on an afternoon that she had a “pretty rough day in NYC,” drinking champagne and buying matching Tiffany engagement rings with six of her best friends.

After listening to the first few beats, most listeners can recognize that Grande co-wrote the song with inspiration from other artists, like the melody of “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.”

Instead of stating that she likes “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,” Grande expresses her admiration for the more lavish things in life, namely Tiffany’s and champagne bottles. In other words, she brags about her extravagant afternoon out in the same way that rappers brag about their excessive amounts of money, Rolexes and Rolls Royces. While this part of the song was not a main point of critique, the beat of the chorus was at the center of the controversy.

In her sudden shift from singing to rapping, Grande showcases her ability to quickly adapt to a new genre of music, one with which she does not normally engage. But some artists, mainly Princess Nokia and Soulja Boy, viewed the switch in a negative light.

Princess Nokia is an up-and-coming rapper who rose to fame through social media. After hearing the song “7 Rings,” Nokia called Grande out for copying her lyric about buying her hair, a phrase Nokia said serves as a celebration of women of color.

Grande’s infamous hairstyle continues to be a hot topic of conversation surrounding the artist. Fans and non-fans alike constantly question why Grande has never strayed from her classic high ponytail.

In response to the public, Grande did what many artists in the past have done and capitalized on her ponytail with the line, “You like my hair? Gee, thanks! Just bought it.” While the line was intended to be a harmless reference to Grande’s hair extensions, some listeners connected this controversial lyric to women who are marginalized for their hair.

In a similar fashion, Soulja Boy called Ariana Grande a “thief” on social media, claiming the female artist stole the beat of “7 Rings” from his 2010 single “Pretty Boy Swag”” These claims sparked a YouTube channel by the name of Thresher to create and post a mashup of all of these songs, as well as songs like “My Favorite Things” and “Gimme the Loot” by The Notorious B.I.G., songs that Grande directly references in her new single.

As an artist who has cited musical icons like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as her influences, and collaborated with Childish Gambino, Missy Elliott, Pharrell, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Future, it should come as no surprise that Ariana Grande would continue to release songs that have roots in hip hop and R&B.

While Grande may not have directly stated which artists inspired her song, she received scrutiny for a practice that has become rather common in the music industry these days: creating songs with the same (or similar) beats and messages. The outrage from hip-hop and R&B artists is, however, understandable, considering how in the past, the community has been undermined by people who take credit for their music or refuse to hear their message.

Despite this controversy, “7 Rings” broke the record for the most streams in a single day on Spotify, with 15 million streams. With her continued success, Grande has risen above the struggles of 2018 to prove that she will continue to spread her message of liberation in whatever way she sees fit.

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