It’s no secret that Ariana Grande is the Queen of Pop right now. With Sweetener having just won Grande her first Grammy from the Best Pop Vocal Album category, and all 12 songs off her latest album, thank u, next, landing on Spotify’s Global Top 50 playlist, there is no denying that this Dangerous Woman is dishing out some of her best tunes. However, one song, along with its music video, has sparked a bit of controversy.
On February 8th, I woke up to the sun shining and birds singing, as it was Ariana’s album drop day (Okay, there were no birds singing, but it was a sunny day in Pittsburgh that morning!) I unlocked my phone to see that the internet had exploded over the power and fierceness that was this new album, and everyone was talking about a music video Grande dropped for the album’s final song, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored”. Before anyone even listened to the song, it was pretty apparent that this wasn’t going to be a great song for couples. It wasn’t until I really listened to the words and watched the music video that I started to notice some problems. So let’s dive in and discuss these lyrics, so I can highlight the lines that stick out to me as being the most controversial and cause for discomfort.
Then I realized she’s right there
And I’m at home like, “Damn, this ain’t fair”
What’s “not fair”? The fact that she got him first? That seems a little too possessive; people are not things to be given or received. They’re not to be “won first” or things to be showcased. They’re people.
I know it ain’t right
But I don’t care (Care)
She is completely admitting that she recognizes this isn’t okay and she shouldn’t pursue this any further because it’s morally wrong, but she does it anyway. This is not the sort of message we should be sending to anyone, but especially to her younger audience. This sort of ideology doesn’t just apply to relationships; it could be about cheating on a test, or not caring about work, or ignoring any other responsibilities you may have. We need to remember that temporary pleasures can lead to permanent consequences.
And you’re at home like “Damn, she can’t compare”
So this is basically saying that the guy’s thought process is similar to this: “Woah, Ariana is SO hot, my girl doesn’t even compare! I’m gonna go ahead and hop on that because I only care about being with the HOTTEST girl in the room; personalities, good characteristics, strong morals, and basic human kindness aren’t really at the top of my list, and I know I don’t know this girl very well but ah, who cares?! Looks are the most important thing!!!” That’s an AWESOME message to send young girls who listen to Ariana’s music!
But I only hate on her ‘cause I want you
This is the most “anti-women” line in the whole song. I know Ariana is a strong feminist, never willing to back down from a fight with a privileged white man who doesn’t understand the first thing about being an independent woman (See “Ariana Grande Drags Piers Morgan for Not Understanding Feminism”), which is why I’m all the more confused by a line like this. How can you hate on a girl for simply dating a guy you find attractive?
You can call me crazy ‘cause I want you
And I never even never fuckin’ met you
As women in this day and age, we have to be really careful when choosing the people we decide to have romantic and/or sexual relationships with. There are some pretty unstable people out in the world, and they can easily disguise themselves as just a normal guy/girl you met at a party one night. If you’re looking for a one night stand- heck yeah, go for it! But you can’t just jump into the arms of the hottest person in the club. You have to be cautious of who you decide to bring home that night.
This song, as a whole, is the farthest thing from a positive, fun “bop”. This mentality is immoral and can be destructive, and I hope everyone recognizes that this is no mindset to be in and that you cannot invade another person’s normal and stable relationship.
If only I could tell you my quarrels with this song end here. Oh, no. They don’t.
In the music video, directed by Hannah Lux Davis (“thank u, next”, “7 rings”), we obviously get the idea that Ariana is after the guy in the relationship. That is until the very end when we see the girl approach Ariana in the pool, turn her head, the two girls lean into each other, and the screen turns to black. Everyone seemed to be amazed by this “plot twist ending”, commenting not only how progressive it was to see Ariana show interest in women, but that the girlfriend can also be interpreted as a reflection of Ariana, and in the end, she chooses herself over the guy. This is where I have to ask that we take a step back and realize how poorly these ideas were executed.
The argument that Ariana’s plan from the get-go was to get with the girlfriend is ridiculous. There’s nothing in the lyrics or the music video that alludes to her showing any interest in her. If anything, it’s the other way around, as the girlfriend is staring at Ariana sitting alone at the beginning and invites her to dance with them. Then, at the end when it seems like Ariana is going to kiss the guy, the girlfriend is the one who turns Ariana’s head her way, not the other way around.
There’s also no real evidence that proves that the girlfriend is a reflection of Ariana. In the music video, Ariana notices the girlfriend’s ponytail and then shows up dressed exactly like her in the next scene, so technically, Ariana is copying the girlfriend. And for what? To show the guy that she can look hotter dressed in the same garb as the girlfriend? Wouldn’t you say that’s not a healthy way to approach a guy you’re interested in? Maybe you just shouldn’t approach this guy and find a new one to fawn over???
Finally, my biggest gripe with this music video transcends any of what I mentioned above. The biggest issue is the mentality that Ariana is using bisexual or gay women as a remedy to heal her broken heart. The message I got from the ending of the music video was, “Man, I’ve been having some issues with guys lately and I’m bored with them, so now I’m gonna kiss a girl for funsies!!” This message is NOT okay. It basically states that you can choose when you want to be straight and when you want to be gay, and completely alienates the bisexual community. I found a lot of women on Twitter who were simply outraged by the way that Ariana was exploiting homosexuality as an “aesthetic” in her music video. The fact that she is allowed to imply that she kissed a girl in her music video and be praised for it is a complete opposite of the reality that is being a bisexual/gay woman today; it’s not something you’re praised for, but sometimes shamed for.
So, whether or not you think there is symbolism in this music video, we have to recognize that it is done in poor taste, and is offensive to a good portion of Ariana’s audience, and those outside of her fanbase. The concepts I mentioned above are extremely interesting ideas, but in order to do something like a reflection of yourself, I believe you’ve got to be loud and clear about what you’re trying to say, and that is not the case here. All in all, I think these ideas were good in theory, but lacking when executed, and the audience reception wasn’t widely considered when discussing this idea. While I still wish all the best for Ariana in her endeavors, I do hope that she is more cautious, and considers ALL members of her fan base and beyond in any future projects.