"A year-and-a-half ago I was wearing a red wig, pretending to be a silly 15-year-old on a television show," says Ariana Grande, referring to her title role as Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Sam & Cat. That was before the native Floridian released her sophomore LP, My Everything, this past August, and made Billboard Hot 100 history by becoming one of a group of female solo artists -- along with Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj -- to control the top five positions for six consecutive weeks, for the first time in chart history. "Now I'm in that company," marvels Grande. "It's kind of ridiculous."
Indeed, this was a big year for the one-time Broadway actress. At 21, she’s the youngest of the superwomen who dominated 2014's charts, and her rise has been meteoric. Back in August 2013 with the release of debut album Yours Truly, Grande established herself as an up-and-comer; this summer she had three songs in the Hot 100 top 10 the same week ("Problem," "Bang Bang," "Break Free").