There are some people who open their mouth to sing and, immediately, the listener knows that it’s what they were put on this earth to do. Ariana Grande is one of those people, whose voice is so staggeringly and intuitively great that it’s impossible to imagine any other life path for her. With powerhouse vocals packed into a tiny frame, there’s something addictive and inherently watchable about seeing Ariana Grande perform.
It’s probably part of why casting directors were so enchanted when she, a kid from Florida without any major prior credits, auditioned for (and booked an ensemble role in) the short-lived Broadway run of 13: The Musical, a Jason Robert Brown endeavor that launched the careers not only of Grande but fellow future Nickelodeon co-star Elizabeth Gillies. The two made the most of their time in the Victoria Justice vehicle Victorious, singing circles around anyone else onscreen, before Grande used the teen program as a launching pad for her next steps.
After Ariana Grande: Proper Pop Star was officially born, her momentum didn’t stop. She commanded the radio and eased into the streaming era, finding collaborators with whom she could nurture her gifts. She’s developed a reputation as someone who is incredibly meticulous in the studio, layering her own vocals, writing and re-writing her own harmonies on the spot, and creating music that allows her to explore her own story while always keeping that once-in-a-generation voice front and center.
From her debut, full-length album in 2013 (My Everything) to 2020’s Positions, Ariana Grande has solidified her place in the pop history books. With so many bops and ballads to work through, the task of narrowing down to just ten is incredibly difficult — what of her many collaborations, like “The Way” with the late Mac Miller? What about gems like Dangerous Woman‘s innovative “Knew Better/Forever Boy,” or Sweetener‘s “Goodnight and Go?”
What a gift that there were so many wonderful songs to choose from (we couldn’t get too greedy, if you will), and what a good problem for it to be so difficult to lock down a ranking.
— Mary Siroky