Two Arianators Speculate Ari's Next Era

Two Arianators Speculate Ari's Next Era

by Joan Summers and Ivan Guzman
Jan 11, 2024

It’s been nearly three years since Ariana Grande's last album. Thankfully, the light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole. (Justice for Sweetener!)

To kick off 2024, the dormant chanteuse announced her return with new single, “yes, and?” set to drop Friday, January 12. Since Positions released in early 2021, Grande has laid pretty low in her r.e.m. beauty laboratory, too busy finalizing a divorce and filming Wicked in Londontown to bother much with music. Oh, and she’s dating SpongeBob now.

But when Ari announces a comeback, PAPER is seated. Well, seated in the sense that we’re waiting on hands and knees for whatever she drops next. In real life, we’ve been listening to Dangerous Woman all day and crying over her contributions to music. In between the tears, though, writers Joan Summers and Ivan Guzman took it upon themselves, as true Arianators, to speculate on all the burning theories about our favorite high-ponytailed princess’s new era.

The Arissance

Joan: Rumors say the song interpolates Madonna’s “Vogue,” which has become the de-facto format for most lead singles on the radio these days. We know Ari’s been in the studio with Max Martin, so “yes, and?” will obviously be pop. Martin famously had his fingers all over Dangerous Woman, her most dance forward album, and with a Madonna interpolation, I can confidently guess there will be some Arissance bent to the sound and visuals. (Thanks, Beyonce!)

I Think She Will Dance

Ivan: Whereas Positions was more airy and quasi-trap influenced, we’re assuming that “yes, and?” will have a dancier, light house music influence — especially given the “Vogue” interpolation. There were also rumors that the music video was set at a warehouse, and that there was a choreographer and a full crew of dancers. Grande has become pretty low-key in every aspect of her persona, so I wonder if she will switch it up and bring the full-on theatrics by giving us some energetic choreo. Frankly, I miss seeing that little body shake it for the camera.

*Kyle Richards Voice*: #ApplaudLGBT

Joan: If Ari goes for the more obvious Madonna allusions, I hope and pray and hope and pray and hope that she forgoes kitschy, ham-fisted imagery about inclusivity or the "queer community." I know Ariana Grande is an ally — let’s celebrate that! I don’t need her to come back and hit me over the head with it, though she’s never been one to just let her music speak for itself.

Continuity, But Make It r.e.m. beauty

Ivan: Ari loves a cutesy, running theme. She did another title reveal by posing for staged paparazzi pics wearing embroidered sweaters with the album name, just as she did in 2018. And the title itself could very well fit on the thank u, next tracklist, with its all-lowercase styling. Other clever promotional tactics included a subtle feature on iOS where the lip emoji appears when you type in the number “7” in the Apple emoji search bar, in reference to ponytail’s upcoming seventh album. She also reposted tons of photos of fans wearing the r.e.m. beauty shade “Attention” ahead of the album's release. The single cover itself looks like a r.e.m. beauty ad, so we expect for the visuals to follow this trend as well.

Live From Bikini Bottom

Joan: “yes, and?” is a question, obviously, but also somewhat in line with the sly, winking attitude she’s maintained towards the public in her music since Sweetener and thank u, next. It’s no secret Grande survived yet another scandal in her romantic life last year — you can check out my ten-part series on it here, for a refresher — which leads me to believe the single probably concerns boyfriend Ethan Slater. Or, at the least, carries this attitude: “I know what they say about me on the internet. Like, yes, and?”

'Eternal Sunshine' Strikes Coming in February?

Ivan: I scour pop music forums like ATRL, and I’m happy to be the messenger for this information: allegedly, the album will be titled Eternal Sunshine and is set to be released in early February. If this is true, it would totally track — Ari has publicly expressed her love for Jim Carrey in the past, who stars in the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Given the context of her public persona, this album title makes sense, too: like Sweetener and even thank u, next, signaling sunshine is, in a way, taking excessive public attention, shrugging it off and choosing instead to focus on a brighter, positivity-filled future.

Max Martin Strikes Back

Joan: Let’s go back to Max Martin: He’s produced a sizable chunk of Ari’s discography, starting with My Everything up through thank u, next. Among their collaborations are her biggest hits, like “Into You,” “Problem” and “No Tears Left to Cry.” She generally abandoned the more traditional Max Martin sound after Dangerous Woman, with the last traces of it vanishing after Sweetener. Artists grow of course, but Dangerous Woman was Grande's most traditionally “pop” album and also her least successful. Some say this was backlash to donut-gate, while others attribute it to her falling out with Scooter Braun and general lack of clear direction during the album cycle. With Martin back on duty for the lead single, I think Grande's officially moved away from the more low-key R&B influences into more "house” inspired territory. Just check out her general lack of spray tan these days and that new arrangement for “Honeymoon Avenue”!

Before We All Get Excited...

Joan: Just to cover my bases, though, there is evidence that the song might not be the dance-forward arrangement fans are begging for. Martin famously produced the lead singles for My Everything, Dangerous Woman and Sweetener, “Problem,” “Dangerous Woman” and “No Tears Left to Cry.” Of the three, “Problem” is the only one I was likely to hear when the clock struck midnight at the gay club, although DJs generally opted for “Break Free,” “Love Me Harder” or “One Last Time.” The same could also be said of DangerousWoman and Sweetener’s lead singles. I don’t want the lead single to be a mood piece about the rumors and the nastiness, let alone with this supposed Madonna interpolation.

I’m just stating the facts in case we’ve all gotten ourselves worked up over nothing. (That said, Ari’s my girl for life, and she can put out whatever the hell she pleases!)

Photo via Getty