Ariana Grande has returned to a familiar place: the top of the charts. With her song “Positions,” the singer set a record with her fifth straight single debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, while the song also became the first to simultaneously debut at No. 1 on both of Billboard’s new global charts, became her third straight to debut at No. 1 on Streaming Songs, and gave Grande the distinction of being the only artist to have three Hot 100 No. 1 debuts within a single year, following her Lady Gaga collab “Rain On Me” and the Justin Bieber duet “Stuck With U.”
And, with parent album Positions likely headed to a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 next week, that helps SB Projects president and Ithaca Holdings partner Allison Kaye earn the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week, as a key figure on the management team behind Grande.
Here, Kaye discusses the huge splash that “Positions” made immediately upon release, Grande’s “position” as a superstar artist in a time when that distinction is increasingly rare, and how the rollout for Grande’s sixth album differed from her prior releases. “More than anything,” Kaye says, “Ariana made a record that people love and the numbers reflect that.”
Ariana’s “Positions” is her fifth straight song to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, which is a record. What key decisions did you make to help her achieve that feat?
I think it was a combination of things. For Ariana, her music is strongest out of the gate with a very strong visual and “Positions” was no exception. She made a captivating video that was viewed 20 million times on the first day. We also had great partner support from both the streaming services and social platforms that were instrumental in the song’s success. But more than anything, Ariana made a record that people love and the numbers reflect that.
It’s still early, but “Positions” is the first song to simultaneously debut at No. 1 on both of Billboard’s new global charts. What is helping fuel its success around the world?
Ariana has put in the time, both in-person and digitally, with fans around the world. She’s taken international promotional trips in each album cycle and is constantly engaging with her fans online. As a result, her reach is expansive both domestically and internationally.
With such a superstar artist, how much can you count on her star power to make a big impact on a new project like this?
She’s the most-followed female on Instagram. With the push of a button she can reach hundreds of millions of people and there is a great deal of power in that. But she’s also a pop artist thriving in a time where there is not popular culture. This is such a unique time in the world that we are continually looking for new ways to engage existing fans and reach people who might not otherwise know the music is out but would love it.
What were the priorities with the rollout plan for this album? How did they differ from her previous releases?
This was a much quicker rollout than Ariana’s prior releases. Unlike her other albums, where we gave people a taste with long lead singles, in this instance it was important to her that they receive it at once so they could appreciate the whole thing as one body of work. However, at the same time, she knows her fans enjoy the anticipation that comes along with a release and so she wanted to balance the two priorities. I think we were successful in doing that and releasing the single one week and an album a week later while announcing both simultaneously.
How did the pandemic force you guys to work this album and song differently?
Ariana‘s releases are usually capstoned by live TV performances. However, due to the pandemic, we instead employed a strong rollout of visual content to support the release.