Grande embraces all the love and loss but makes it clear that this time around, she’s in love with herself.
Ariana Grande has always been an undeniable talent, but this year she’s stepped fully into her power. Honoring her ups and downs seems to be healing for the singer, and that openness has also made her accessible to a new wave of highly-invested fans. On Dec. 6 in New York, the endearing singer was acknowledged as Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year. While coping with love and loss, Grande released her fourth studio album Sweetener, which reigned No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The success of her singles like “No Tears Left to Cry” and “God Is a Woman” showcase her strength, vocal range and style.
“Ariana Grande is a star on her own terms, never bending to any particular musical trend or path in the industry,” said Ross Scarano, Billboard’s vp of content about the honoree. “Certain in her convictions, she consistently stands up for herself and her decisions in a world that often isn’t hospitable to that sort of strength in young women. She’s got guts, she’s making some of the best music of her career, and she’s absolutely deserving of Woman of the Year.”
To celebrate her immense courage and talent, Billboard has put together a timeline of events that shaped Grande’s journey and how she arrived at Woman of the Year.
Tragedy strikes in Manchester on the Dangerous Woman world tour - May 23, 2017
As fans were leaving the Manchester Arena after Grande’s performance, a deadly explosion injured over 500 people while 22 others were killed from the bomb, including the suspect. Following what London considers its most devastating attack, the singer sadly tweeted, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words.”
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 23, 2017
Grande was badly shaken by the event, as she explained in her FADER cover story earlier this year: “I guess I thought with time, and therapy, and writing, and pouring my heart out, and talking to my friends and family that it would be easier to talk about, but it’s still so hard to find the words. When you’re so close to something so tragic and terrifying and opposite of what music and concerts are supposed to be, it kind of leaves you without any ground beneath your feet.”
The Dangerous Woman tour was postponed for seven dates.
Grande bravely returned to perform in Manchester out of love and support for her fans - June 4, 2017
On June 3, London experienced another attack, but Grande still showed up the next day for the One Love Manchester benefit concert. During the performance of “One Last Time,” artists like Pharrell Williams, Mac Miller, and Katy Perry support her on stage as she fights back tears and a sings to massive crowd of people. After the show, Grande was able to close out the summer and completed the international tour.
She was the youngest artist to perform at the A Concert for Charlottesville - Sept. 24, 2017
When neo-Nazi’s and white nationalists rallied in the streets of Charlottesville, Va. an innocent protestor, Heather Heyer was killed. To commemorate and encourage unity, Grande joined other musicians like Pharrell, and Justin Timberlake to perform at the benefit concert put on by Dave Matthews Band.
Grande teased new music - Dec. 31, 2017
In an Instagram video on New Years Eve captioned, “see u next year,” Grande posts a snippet of her angelic harmonies, that later become the opening notes to her song, “Get Well Soon.”
“No Tears to Cry” - April 20, 2018
Grande’s return was highly-anticipated and her first single from the forthcoming album was everything fans could have dreamed of. Its upbeat and motivational message was refreshing after such a long wait.
Grande announced her long-awaited album Sweetener - May 1, 2018
As “No Tears to Cry” continued to gain speed on the charts, Grande co-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, performed the song live and announced the name of her fourth album. She also showed her bubbly personality and ranging vocals in a game of Musical Genre Challenge.
Grande and Nicki Minaj teased that a song seemed to be in the works - May 12, 2018
This wouldn’t be the first time Grande and Minaj got together in the studio for a duo track (“Side to Side”). This affectionate tweet between the two superstars seem to imply that perhaps some music was on the way.
remember when u called me at 5am and said get ur ass up n come to the stu btch and i propelled myself out the door at the speed of light wearing slippers that later got soaked in rain and we had the best morning of my life i do https://t.co/031YJqU1o4
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 12, 2018
Grande’s engagement to her then fiancé, Pete Davidson is announced - June 11, 2018
After dating for a few weeks, the two found themselves in a whirlwind romance and got engaged. Davidson became a big part of the singer’s life at the time. On Sweetener, Grande sings a sweet and short love song named after him.
“The Light is Coming” featuring Nicki Minaj arrived - June 20, 2018
The Pharrell-produced track caught on quickly, with Grande’s catchy hook, “The light is coming/ to take back everything the darkness stole.” It’s quirky sound was much different than any of Grande’s previous work, but in Grande’s FADER cover story, Pharrell, who produced half of the tracks on Sweetener explained:
“In all honesty, I feel like [after Manchester] was when different people from the record company actually started to understand what we were trying to do,” Pharrell said. “It’s unfortunate that that situation is what gave it context, but they were able to really see it then. And that’s the truth.”
Grande released the powerful song, “God Is a Woman” - July 13, 2018
She celebrated the power of her womanhood on this invigorating track. During a performance for the MTV Video Music Awards, she nailed the song’s soaring vocals while smoothly executing choreography. At the end, she welcomed her mother, grandmother, and cousin on stage to join hands.
Sweetener Day ! - Aug. 17, 2018
The album is everywhere! The 15-track project produced by Pharrell and Max Martin, holds songs that offer a more seasoned, vulnerable, and passionate Grande. One week after its release, Sweetener went #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Grande’s ex-partner and rapper, Mac Miller suddenly passed away - Sept. 6, 2018
To be clear, Grande and Miller were not together at the time of his passing, but many of her listeners empathized with how devastating of a loss it could still be for the singer. She took some time off of social media and returned after a few days with a warm and heartfelt message about Miller.
Grande posted 45 seconds of a song from her fifth album called “Needy” - Oct. 4, 2018
Even though Grande just released an amazing album this summer, she hinted there’s another one coming soon. In an Instagram video, Grande posted an audio snippet of the song “Needy,” and it sounds angelic.
Davidson and Grande call off their engagement - Oct. 14, 2018
It still isn’t clear exactly why the two parted ways, but since then, Grande has continued to pour herself into her music and engage with her fans. But one thing's for sure, we know that she has peace about pushing forward and moving on.
The iconic breakup anthem “Thank U, Next” is released - Nov. 3, 2018
Fans aren’t really sure how Grande was taking the split from Pete, or how she’s coping with the changes in her relationships. But after a both joyous and crushing year, Grande is resilient and hopeful in her latest self-love and empowerment anthem, “Thank U, Next.”
In the song, co-written by her friends, singers/songwriters Tayla Parx and Victoria Monét, Grande recants what she’s learned from experiences with her ex’s in the now viral refrain: “One taught me love/One taught me patience/One taught me pain/Now I’m so amazing.” The three ladies performed the song live on The Ellen Degeneres' Show, in all-white suits as a tribute to the famous scene in the film First Wives Club.
The same day the song is released, Grande announces the name of her fifth album
She broke the news by telling her fans that it’s called "Thank U, Next"
— caroline (@bocaslumos) November 3, 2018
— caroline (@bocaslumos) November 3, 2018
Grande drops hints on her Instagram about the anticipated “Thank You, Next” video - Nov. 27, 2018
After she posted images of the video set all week on her social media, fans were pressed to see the full video. At this point, Grande has shown photos and quotes that hint at the video being some kind of tribute to four iconic teen dramas, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, and Bring it On.
The music video is here! - Nov. 30, 2018
And it’s just as great as we’d imagined.
Grande is ending 2018 triumphantly and is preparing to start 2019 in abundance. Her remarkable music, resilience, and growth all signify just how important she is to pop music and culture.