I always thought that my Spanish teachers in middle school were lying to me when they insisted that Google Translate was grotesquely inaccurate. But then Ariana Grande got a kanji tattoo that read not “7 rings” but instead “small charcoal grill.” She tried fixing it, and the ink now translates to “Japanese barbecue finger.” In the song whose title she sought to commemorate on her hand, Ariana opines that “whoever said money can’t solve your problems / must not have had enough money to solve ’em.” I can’t help but wonder how many times she’ll have to spend money on fixing her tattoo to solve it!
What I had once believed to be propaganda from Señora Paramio was actually valuable advice that the nascent Queen of Pop (thank u, next, Madonna) probably should have heeded. Look, I know criticizing her probably won’t be productive — after LaserAway reportedly offered her $1.5 million to remove her tattoo, she tweeted, “i’ll give y’all a million to get off my nuts.” The language of this tweet, however, exemplifies how Ariana is beginning to overtly flex her big dick energy. We all know, of course, that you can’t say you have big dick energy and still have big dick energy. And I, for one, don’t want Ariana to end up with a shrivelled phallus! (Yes, I have taken a psychoanalysis class.) So I’ll stand up and say something. And I’m sure that she, like most Hopkins students, devoutly reads The News-Letter and will see this article.
Let me be clear, Ariana has been through a lot lately, and I empathize with her. In May 2017, following a suicide bombing at her Manchester concert, 23 people died and more than 500 were injured. This past September her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller died from an accidental drug overdose. Then in October she called off her engagement to Pete Davidson.
In spite of it all, Ariana is Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year. She has transformed into a feminist icon of empowerment. In November, “thank u, next” broke the record for most single-day streams gotten by a song by a female artist on Spotify. Its music video in December had the biggest debut in YouTube history. Most recently, “7 Rings” is real fucking catchy, its music video an undeniably aesthetic masterpiece.
Ariana’s much deserved success, however, is inflating her ego. It pains me to say this because she is my Mother Earth, and “thank u, next” might’ve been the best thing that happened to me in 2018.
Even so, Ariana’s got a problem with a capital “P.” She needs to get her head out of the clouds of gold; she should be wiser and realize that she has descended into classist and materialistic narcissism. Ariana characterizes “7 Rings” as a “friendship anthem” that evolved from “thank u, next,” but really the song is three minutes of her bragging about her wealth. The song embodies a devolution from “thank u, next” into monstrosity. When Ariana sings “whoever said money can’t solve your problems / must not have had enough money to solve ’em,” she is sending the toxic message that “retail therapy” is the only way to empower yourself — that buying matching diamonds for six of your bitches is the only way to find happiness. Psychology (i.e., Chaz Firestone, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Hopkins) tells us, however, that people’s levels of happiness stop increasing with increases in income once they’ve hit a $60,000–$80,000 yearly salary.
“7 Rings” glorifies affluence to the point of mocking frugality at best and shaming poverty at worst. Ariana’s commercial achievements seem to have blinded her; she doesn’t think twice about committing cultural appropriation. She sees tattoo, she likes tattoo, she wants tattoo, she got tattoo — even if she don’t got what that tattoo actually means.
In “7 Rings,” Ariana claims that all the “bad shit” she’s been through has turned her into a “savage.” She would be even more savage, I think, if instead of boasting her beamin’ smile, her gleamin’ skin, her flossy neck and poppin’ gloss, she helped those who don’t have enough money to solve their problems by giving them money.
Indeed, psychology also tells us that altruism makes us happier. “Self-respect is putting your needs over the wants of others,” a lifestyle blog called “The B Werd” defines, whereas “selfishness is putting your wants over the needs of others.” I commend Ariana for discovering self-love in the not-so-beamin’ face of adversity, but she’s crossed a line.
To be fair, Ariana is no stranger to altruism; her Manchester benefit concert raised over $13 million, and Kids Who Care in South Florida — a youth singing group she co-founded — garnered more than $500,000 for charities in 2007 alone.
Nevertheless she could use a reminder that “Grande” isn’t the same as “grandeur.” There’s no “i” in “grandeur,” but there is a “u.” She would be one letter closer to grandeur, literally and figuratively, if she started to think about someone other than herself again.