Pop

The Best Ariana Grande Songs, Ranked

Ariana Grande has 50 songs?

That’s the question I got from a few friends when I told them about my assignment for this month: Ranking a massive number of Ariana Grande’s best songs. Because even if she’s at the zenith of pop right now, there are still plenty of people who are sort of unaware when it comes to the first two or three albums of Ari’s career. As a former Nickelodeon star looking to make good on a full-fledged career as an adult pop star, Grande slowly inched her way out of the land of musical theatre-infused piano ballads and ’90s throwback R&B into the world of racy lyrics and hip-hop beats she now inhabits. Some fans will argue that Grande’s third album, Dangerous Woman, remains her most outstanding work to date, and there’s a lot of selections in this list that support that. That was also the record Ariana was touring behind when her concert was tragically bombed in Manchester in 2017, and her graceful, courageous response to that hate crime also made it a high-water moment for name recognition and public awareness for her as an artist.

But pausing too long at Dangerous Woman discounts the three massive records Grande has managed to put out in almost as many years, dropping the all-time classic Sweetener in 2018, followed quickly by Thank U, Next only months later in 2019 and her latest album, Positions, as almost a surprise release last fall. The critical and commercial success of these last three albums — particularly Thank U, Next — has been some of the strongest of Ariana’s career, and it’s those powerful metrics that can cause newcomers to overlook her beloved first two records, Yours Truly in 2012 and My Everything in 2014. Now, a decade into her career as a global star, it’s hard to imagine the landscape of contemporary pop at all without Ariana. The list takes into consideration both her own music and collaborations with others, as landing Ari as a feature has now become a milestone moment for plenty of other artists.

In honor of everything she’s accomplished so far, and all the brilliant future music that’s assuredly still to come, here’s a 2021 ranking of her 50 best songs.

50. “Pete Davidson”

Album: Sweetener
Honorable Mention: “Boyfriend” (Featuring Social House)
Jury’s out on whether or not Ariana herself can still stomach this lovey-dovey track after her now very public breakup, but among fans “Pete Davidson” remains just as beloved as when the couple was together. One of Ari’s first collaborations with Social House, who would go on to help co-produce massive hits like “Thank U, Next,” “7 Rings” and “Boyfriend,” this brief snippet marks the beginning of a shift from the muted elegance of Sweetener into the freer, more direct tone of her next two albums.—Caitlin White

49. “Positions”

Album: Positions
While the title track of her most recent album feels like a step back into the 1950’s — in this relationship Ariana defines her roles as split between the kitchen and the bedroom? — the tropical feel and Ari-in-the-white-house fantasy video are a saving grace. Jumping to the top of the charts during one of the most controversial elections in recent memory, the single was something of a bait-and-switch for a record that contained Ariana’s most sex-positive lyrics to date. Oh, and that “re-Pete history” line is a zinger for the books. Sex and puns, it’s the Ariana way.—C.W.

48. “NASA”

Album: Thank U, Next
Given her own experience with all the nuances of failing relationships, it’s refreshing how Ari tackles subjects that sometimes remain undiscussed. In love with someone but not into codependency anymore? She’s got a song for that, and it’s full of plenty of cosmic wordplay, too. Seriously, in anyone else’s hands the execution of this song could’ve gone seriously wrong, but with her stalwart co-writers Tayla Parx and Victoria Monet, Ari pulls it off. Meanwhile, I’m still spinning out that I didn’t grab some of the “NASA”-themed space merch repping this song at her 2019 Coachella headliner set.—C.W.

47. “You’ll Never Know

Album: Yours Truly
Brought back as part of her Sweetener tour setlist, this is a deep cut off Grande’s first album that once again illustrates her ability to speak to the strange, half relationships that populate most of our own romantic history. Looking back on someone who could’ve been a lover, but spoke up too late, Ariana plays with a throwback, ‘90s R&B sound and beat-heavy production by The Rascals to thrust her vocals front and center. Fun fact: Babyface co-wrote this song, along with several of the other standout tracks on Yours Truly.—C.W.

46. “My Everything”

Album: My Everything
The gorgeous, emotional title track of Ari’s second album was a continuation of Yours Truly’s softer, more piano-driven songs — so much so that it almost didn’t fit in on this album’s banger-heavy tracklist featuring production from the likes of EDM star Zedd, Max Martin, Cashmere Cat, and David Guetta. Co-written with her inimitable collaborators, Victoria Monét and Tayla Parx, who also appear as a team on the album opener, “Intro,” the power in vulnerability this song demonstrates was an early sign that the trio would soon become an unstoppable force in pop, shaping and bending the genre to their will.—C.W.

45. “Safety Net” (Featuring Ty Dolla $ign)

Album: Positions
Ariana Grande’s Positions presented the pop sensation at the highest level of her career’s latest chapter. Independence and a focus on enjoying life’s fruits while discarding its most bothersome aspects served as her guiding light. So, it’s only right that she gravitated toward a free-fall into love with her the luscious “Safety Net” from the 2020 album. Accompanied by Ty Dolla Sign, the duo hold hands and jump down from cloud nine with the hope that they’ll not only touch down safely, but land and embark on a worthwhile journey in love.—Wongo Okon

44. “Lovin’ It”

Album: Yours Truly
Another Babyface co-write with production by The Rascals, Grande brings an old-fashioned sentiment into the 21st century via programmed drums and a mid-tempo piano range that defined most of her debut record. Though she spends plenty of time drawing out syllables and showing off her voice with runs and that incredible range, this track was more proof that she could also sing as fast as a quick hook demanded. During a time when darker, more sadistic sentiments were beginning to rule pop (House Of Balloons, anyone?) this song’s carefree feel was a breath of fresh air.—C.W.

43. “Rule The World” 2 Chainz (Featuring Ariana Grande)

Album: Rap Or Go To The League
First off, for those who haven’t spent a lot of time with 2 Chainz’s 2019 album, Rap Or Go To The League, remedy that immediately. It’s one of the Atlanta icon’s strongest projects to date and even Ariana thinks it deserves your attention. According to the rapper formerly known as Tity Boi, this collaboration came about after Grande realized she f*cked up by not giving him direct credit for the pink trap house concept used in the “7 Rings” video, and added a quick 2 Chainz verse to a remix of the chart-topping song. Not only that, but she also jumped on the hook of this dreamy, top-down throwback track while she was it. This collab illustrates both her range across genres, and the ability to pivot and make amends when she makes a mistake. Humility? That’s what rules the world.—C.W.

42. “Why Try”

Album: My Everything
The sound of her second album, My Everything, was typified by Grande’s flirtation with electronic music. And even if “Why Try” wasn’t a star-making commercial single in the way that “Break Free” was, its extremely relatable story of a relationship that hurts so good with a flip between “devils and angels” made it a fan favorite — as did that massive crescendo of a final chorus. When you want to wallow, there’s truly nothing better in her discography.—C.W.

41. “Needy”

Album: Thank U, Next
In a brilliant songwriting move, Grande and her most trusted cohorts, Monét and Parx, flipped the ever-stigmatized, ever-feminized insult of “needy” into a bare-bones affirmation of a woman coping with wave after wave of trauma. The lyric “tell me how good it feels to be needed” further recontextualizes the dynamic, bringing a level of poetic justice to Ari’s admissions of instability and struggles for stability in a relationship. As far as Thank U, Next goes, it’s not the most powerful song on the record, but it deserves a spot on the list for the sake of its subversion alone.—C.W.

40. “Sweetener”

Album: Sweetener
Once Pharrell got into the mix for Ari’s fourth record — a comeback album of sorts following the fallout of the Manchester attack on her Dangerous Woman tour — her signature sound shifted a lot. Nothing presents that shift better than the glitchy title track, breathy and giddy and bubbly, punctuated by Pharrell’s signature freestyle ad-libs. This song cycle began a phase of hopeful songs that acknowledge past darkness but still choose joy, an ongoing theme for Ari ever since.—C.W.

39. “Break Your Heart Right Back” (Featuring Childish Gambino)

Album: Yours Truly
It’s pretty fascinating to follow the diverging paths Ariana and Donald Glover have gone down since their initial collaboration in 2014. And though they were both headlining Coachella in 2019, Glover wasn’t one of the guest rappers who showed up on Ari’s stage to break out his verse here. Between the classic riff sampled from “I’m Coming Out” and the 20/20 vision looking back at a relationship that wasn’t all it seemed, this track set the bar for feel-good breakup songs. That is, until “Thank U, Next” came along a few years later.—C.W.

38. “Successful”

Album: Sweetener
Honorable Mention: “Just Like Magic”
Still deep in the pocket of a slinky Pharrell beat, “Successful” shares so much DNA with Ari’s Thank U, Next era that it’s easy to mistake it as a track on that album instead of a Sweetener deep cut. Here she is talking sh*t and flexing about her career, celebrating success with the kind of brazen confidence that women rarely allow themselves in the workplace. It feels so good to hear her brag, and encourage other women to do the same. Relationships are great, but songs about balling on your own dime is my personal love language. Inject it directly into my veins.—C.W.

37. “Get On Your Knees” Nicki Minaj (Featuring Ariana Grande)

Album: The Pinkprint
With five collaborations under their belt at the moment, it’s worth noting that the Ariana and Nicki formula works best when it strays into explicit territory. “Get On Your Knees” was a delicious power reversal that subverts expectations about who is kneeling where and doing what in the bedroom. Providing the veiled chorus that accompanies Nicki’s fiercely direct verses, the two balance each other out on this almost-misandrist ode to cunnilingus.—C.W.

36. “My Hair”

Album: Positions
Ari and her ponytail have long been a subject of fascination for fans and haters alike, and she’s even faced criticism before for referencing extensions and clip-ins in a way that felt disrespectful to women of color and those whose hair choices have long been politicized. Luckily, this song kept things focused in the bedroom, like most of the songs on Positions do, letting a lover know that messing up her hair was on the table during their night together. For a woman as particular as Ari about her locks, this kinid of permission is more intimate than sex! Come for the killer Monét and Parx verses, stay for Ari’s outrageous head voice at the end. Seriously, how is that whistle register real?—C.W.

35. “Right There”

Album: Yours Truly
There was a time when it looked like Big Sean and Ariana Grande were the real thing, a match made in music heaven that was going to stand the test of time. Of course, we now know they’d both go on to several more high-profile romances, but “Right There” is an example of just how much chemistry there was between them, musical or otherwise. As one of two big rap features on her debut album, Sean’s collaboration was a co-sign at a time when Grande was just beginning to establish herself as part of the hip-hop world.—C.W.

34. “One Last Time”

Album: My Everything
As one of the big singles promoting Ari’s second album, and subsequent shift into an electronic sound, “One Last Time” took on even more meaning after the Manchester bombing when Grande re-released it as a charity single in 2017. She donated all the proceeds from the single’s re-release to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, which provided support to victims of the bombing and their families. Its slightly melancholy vibe and the longing in the lyrics make it a good match for the somber occasion, even if the lyrics are technically about asking your ex to cheat on their new lover for a final fling. Ari contains multitudes, always has.—C.W.

33. “Knew Better / Forever Boy”

Album: Dangerous Woman
As with Rihanna’s Unapologetic medley “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary,” Ariana’s “Knew Better/Forever Boy” is one of the pop star’s most underrated gems. The shift between the kiss-off to an ex on “Knew Better ” into the more upbeat “Forever Boy” hits an optimistic sweet spot that most fans believe refers to her exes Big Sean and (then-boyfriend) Ricky Alvarez. Produced in part by TBHits, who would later produce “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings,” the song is a precursor to Ari’s mischievous habit of looking back on all the exes in her life.—Eric Fulcher

32. “Piano”

Album: Yours Truly
The bulk of Ariana’s songs center around romantic relationships, so it’s oh-so-delicious to have the very meta “Piano” — a love song about the process of writing a love song. This song’s focus on the piano itself as opposed to the object of her affection sets it apart within her discography, and was an early sign that Grande was the kind of singer interested in pushing past the obvious. For plenty of Yours Truly fans, this song is the album standout.—C.W.

31. “POV”

Album: Positions
Though Ariana frequently sings about relationships that have gone wrong, or about the rose-colored-glasses phase of infatuation, “POV” is something different. It’s a song about the deep, vulnerable side of a serious relationship, and if anything else was going to tip fans off to the nature of her relationship with then-boyfriend now-husband Dalton Gomez, it could’ve been this track. Delicate keys, feather snap percussion, and a whole swath of strings are the perfect backdrop for Grande’s admiration of her partner’s unconditional love. It’s not just a love song, it’s a forever one.—C.W.

30. “Bad Idea”

Album: Thank U, Next
On one of her many connections with pop super producer Max Martin, Grande struck a chord with a jittery earworm about hiding from your pain in toxic, physically-focused relationships. Thank U, Next was an album that often delved into the difficult, painful work of confronting hard feelings head-on, this song was an example of a different kind of coping mechanism. It’s one of her finest hedonistic moments, and even now that she’s happily married, this song will live on infamy in her discography.—C.W.

29. “Bang Bang”

Album: My Everything
Presented at the time as one of the most exciting collaborations of the year, even the combined star power of Ariana and Nicki Minaj wasn’t enough to boost Jessie J up to their level. No matter, it was the song that revealed to Ari and Nicki just how good they could be together, and we’ll be forever indebted to it for that alone. A feel-good, cocky track full of braggadocio, fleets of stacked harmonies, and a very good late-career Nicki feature. Plus it gave us the iconic line: “Anybody can be good to you, you need a bad girl to blow your mind.” Was that a Dangerous Woman hint? Who knows, but “Bang Bang” remains Ari canon. Jessie who?—C.W.

28. “Better Off”

Album: Sweetener
Honorable Mention: “Everytime”
Speculation that the breakup songs on Sweetener were about the late Mac Miller reached an all-time high when Grande revealed on Twitter that she’d written the song quite some time ago but was afraid of “it coming true.” The lyrics detail a defeated but determined escape from a toxic relationship, even while remembering the highs of being together — “let’s put them topics to bed and go f*ck on the roof / just to say that we did.” It’s impossible not to tie the cyclical nature of this song to another Sweetener track, “Everytime,” which relates a different ending, going back to the destructive relationship. Luckily “Better Off” comes later on the tracklist, and seems to hew closer to the reality of what happened.—C.W.

27. “Baby I”

Album: Yours Truly
Back in her early years there wasn’t a mid-tempo R&B track Ariana met that she didn’t like, but “Baby I” rules them all. Plenty of consider this the best song off Yours Truly, and with classic songwriting and throwback ‘90s production from Babyface, it’s easy to hear why. The off-kilter phrasing of “Baby I” gives the song a sense of dramatic flair, an unfinished declaration that completes itself in the song.—C.W.

26. “Moonlight”

Album: Dangerous Woman
There’s an alternate timeline where Dangerous Woman is an album called Moonlight and Ari has gone back to her musical theater and classic piano ballads in a big way. By including the precursor to that since-abandoned phase as the opening track on her third album, Ari also began a tradition of opening her albums with a stately, old-fashioned song. A tradition she threw out the window on Positions, opting instead for the almost-aggressive “Shut Up.” Well, even in the world of Dangerous Woman, we’ll always have “Moonlight,” a funny reminder of what could’ve been.—C.W.

25. “Nasty”

Album: Positions
For fans who grew up with or alongside Ariana Grande, it’s possible that “Nasty” was a shock to the system. Positions has lots of explicit references, most of which are still veiled in some form (34 + 35 adds up to 69 instead of presenting the number head on, etc), but “Nasty” is a declaration that is a far cry from the Nickelodeon star’s early career. After the initial shock, though, it’s obvious that “Nasty” is the kind of slow, sexy anthem that her discography needed. Ari knows best.—C.W.

24. “Dance To This” Troye Sivan (Featuring Ariana Grande)

Album: Bloom
Not only is this one of the best songs off Troye Sivan’s sophomore album, Bloom, it’s one of the sweetest, most tender tracks in Ariana’s discography too. Her feature on the song lent some well-deserved attention from American audiences to the emerging Australian pop star, and doubled down on her support of queer artists. A song about having more fun dancing together alone in the kitchen than out in a glamorous crowd somewhere, the sentiment might be old as time, but the execution has never been so flawless.—C.W.

23. “Ghostin'”

Album: Thank U, Next
This song is one of the most heartbreaking moments on Thank U, Next, and it’s hard not to imagine “Ghostin” is about the death of Mac Miller. Ari sings about being with her current lover while still haunted by the memory of an unforgettable ex. Emotions aside, what stands out with “Ghostin” is the layering of her vocals with the orchestra. Her voice reverberates and compounds on itself, building up to an agonizing apology that’s as beautiful as it is grievous. Unfortunately for Pete Davidson, most thoughts can’t simply be left in bed.—E.F.

22. “Love Me Harder” Featuring The Weeknd

Album: My Everything
The first of many eventual collaborations with The Weeknd, this track is an example of Ari’s many choices on My Everything to be seen as darker and more adult. “Love Me Harder” isn’t necessarily light on sexual innuendo, but it keeps things vague enough not to alienate her younger fans, while fans of The Weeknd were drawn to engage with an artist they might not have encountered before the joint track. Unlike the tepid “Off The Table” collaboration with Abel Tesfaye on her latest album, Positions, this song might be laid back, but it still has enough tempo to go full throttle.—C.W.

21. “Honeymoon Avenue”

Album: Yours Truly
Another beloved album opener, “Honeymoon Avenue” is the very first song on the very first Ari album, and deserves a spot on this list for that accolade alone. It’s a sister track to “Moonlight” in so many ways, but telling the story of a relationship about to end instead, and longing for the early days of unadulterated happiness. The traffic sounds incorporated into the song’s fabric remind us of just how taken with musical theater accouterments she was at the time. You won’t hear sound effects like that on a more contemporary Ariana album. Some roads are meant to come to an end.—C.W.

20. “Side To Side” (Featuring Nicki Minaj)

Album: My Everything
On their third collaboration, Ariana and Nicki Minaj proved their relationship was gold. Following up the pop banger, “Bang Bang,” and “Get On Your Knees” from Minaj’s The Pinkprint, “Side To Side” took things to an even more explicit place for an Ariana song. During a year of stellar pop releases — like Rihanna’s “Work” and Drake’s “One Dance” — “Side To Side” had a chokehold on the second half of 2016. Whether scanning the radio, out at a bar, or in a CVS, Max Martin’s reggae-tinged production laid the groundwork for crossover appeal while the innuendo of sex so good you can’t walk adds a layer of playfulness that both stars revel in. I’m sore just thinking about it.—E.F.

19. “Greedy”

Album: Dangerous Woman
There’s a strong argument to be made that “Greedy” deserves the top spot on a ranked list of Ariana Grande songs. It expertly combines her early affinity for big band brass, mid-tempo R&B, and adds in the EDM beats of her Dangerous Woman era, all topped off with an incredible vocal performance. And, just like on later tracks like “Needy,” Grande and her songwriting team flip a traditionally negative characteristic into a positive. I prefer when Ari goes full-on banger, and songs that have the commercial performance to justify their high rank, but this is an all-time great entry in the Grande catalogue.—C.W.

18. “West Side”

Album: Positions
On her most mid-tempo R&B album to date, it’s only fitting that the princess of pop would sample the princess of R&B, the one and only Aaliyah. The simmering and slinking sample of “One In A Million” creates an otherworldly atmosphere where Ari’s breathy vocals invite and entice, adding an alternative edginess to the song, an area she rarely ventures into. The sample sounds just as fresh and dark as it did in the ‘90s, a testament to Timbaland’s futurism. As the shortest track on Positions, she follows through on making us want more.—E.F.

17. “Problem” (Featuring Iggy Azalea)

Album: My Everything
What feels more like a time capsule from 2014 than this multi-week Billboard chart-topping hit? It only took a second album for Grande to land a massive No. 2 hit, flanked by a whispered Big Sean chorus and a then-uncanceled Iggy Azalea verse, this song set the tone for pop-rap collabs that would begin to dominate Billboard charts over the next few years. Look, even if you absolutely can’t stand the mosquito-buzzing brass or Iggy’s regrettable, clunky verse, this song played a massive role in the game of making Ariana into a star. And like it or not, it gets stuck in your head immediately. It’s a problem.—C.W.

16. “God Is A Woman”

Album: Sweetener
On this sultry, feminist-leaning ballad, Ariana let it be known that Sweetener would offer a direct rebuttal to the attack on her show in Manchester in more ways than one. As the bombing was explicitly aimed at her predominantly young, female audience, this song takes the most patriarchal office in the western universe and feminizes it. It’s still a relationship song, but one that takes the stakes to the level of the cosmos. Who but a woman could accomplish that?—C.W.

15. “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored”

Album: Thank U, Next
The third in a string of the most commercially successful songs Ariana had ever released, this NSYNC-interpolating single hitting No. 2 in early 2019 officially gave her the top three spots on the chart simultaneously. With “7 Rings” at No. 1 and “Thank U, Next” still at No. 3, Grande became the first artist since The Beatles to occupy all three slots, and the first solo female to ever do so. Not bad for a song about coveting someone else’s boyfriend for the sake of casual sex, eh?—C.W.

14. “Tattooed Heart”

Album: Yours Truly
Leave all the rest, “Tattooed Heart” is the true standout on Grande’s debut album. Channeling an undercurrent of a 1950’s doo-wop vibe, this track emanates the kind of open-hearted affection that typified Ari’s first record. Another Babyface special, this song would sound good in any era, the kind of timeless sentiment that never gets old. Tattoos may fade, but the idea of inking someone’s name on your skin is romantic forever.—C.W.

13. “Breathin”

Album: Sweetener
Since she was working on Sweetener while suffering from PTSD triggered by the attack on her show in Manchester, there’s more than one moment on the album where Ariana’s mental state necessarily becomes the subject matter. But since so many other listeners have dealt with similar stressors and traumas, even these darker, anxiety-laced tracks were instantly relatable and immediately became fan favorites. “Breathin” is one example, a pop song about anxiety that manages to be completely soothing without pulling any punches about just how brutal these disorders can be.–C.W.

12. “Be Alright”

Album: Dangerous Woman
“Be Alright” was the first single off 2016’s Dangerous Woman, and it was the track that firmly cemented Ariana’s status as a gay icon. She’d moved past EDM bangers and onto the ballroom floor — utilizing deep house beats and optimistic lyrics (that would normally come off cheesy but work here) to convey a sense of hope during a dark time. Incorporating elements of Vogue during performance, it’s comparable to Madonna’s appropriation of ballroom with “Vogue,” but it’s hard to deny the impact of Ari’s nod to that world given the current mainstream success of shows like Pose and Legendary.—E.F.

11. “Imagine”

Album: Thank U, Next
At the very last minute, Ariana swapped out a song on Thank U, Next called “Remember” that she deemed too personal for the record. Replacing it with the chart-topping “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” it seems like she made the right decision. But, when listening to the highly specific, utterly intimate details of “Imagine” it’s hard not to wonder: What was in that song that isn’t in this one? Referencing everything as private as preferred positions falling asleep together (“love how my face fits so good in your neck”) to take out orders and posting selfies, it’s a wonder this song made the cut. About as obvious an ode to Mac Miller as she could get without simply titling the song with his name, this sweeping album opener is one of the most meaningful and monumental in her entire catalogue. Plus, there’s those whistle register moments at the end that never get less impressive.—C.W.

10. “Rain On Me” Lady Gaga (Featuring Ariana Grande)

Album: Chromatica
Right before the beginning of the worst year of our collective lives, Ariana and Lady Gaga teamed up to give us a hopeful anthem for the end of the ride. After seeing them in action together, it’s actually a wonder that Grande and Gaga never connected before this. As two of the biggest female stars in a male-dominated entire industry who have both been through their fair share of struggles, when Ari and Gaga sing about survival, that sh*t rings true. A shoo-in for a No. 1 debut on the chart, and accompanied by a glorious, dance-focused music video to boot, this song will still be ruling dancefloors for another ten years, if we’re lucky.—C.W.

9. “Touch It”

Album: Dangerous Woman
Another contender for best Dangerous Woman banger, “Touch It” veers back into the lane of delicious innuendo that Ariana so loves to occupy. Lyrically, the song actually refers to no other love coming close to the one she’s feeling in the moment, but the high-octane chorus’ repetition of “touch it” might make the mind wander into other zones. It’s another Max Martin specialty, getting stuck in your head for days at a time, and another excellent example of the fine art of balancing massive production with Ari’s equally massive vocals.—C.W.

8. “34 + 35”

Album: Positions
Honorable Mention: “34 + 35” remix Featuring Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion
It’s very tempting to put the Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat-featuring remix down, but even if that song is very much of the moment, I have a feeling it’s the original that will stand the test of time. One of the most hilarious and best examples of Ari’s propensity to dance right up to the most explicit subject matter without actually getting nasty, “34 + 35” was the early favorite off her latest album Positions for a reason. Math class can be beneficial after all, it just has to be, ahem, positioned in the right light. And never has there been a sweeter request than “can you stay up all night? / f*ck me ‘til the daylight?” It’s nice to know someone made good use of their time in quarantine.—C.W.

7. “R.E.M.”

Album: Sweetener
While the bulk of Ariana and Pharrell’s collaborations on Sweetener could easily be slotted into the top ten spots on the list for one reason or another, there’s just something about the dreamy, casual vibe of “R.E.M.” that sets it apart from the rest. Between her “excuse me, um, I love you!” (the soon-to-be title of her Sweetener tour documentary) and Pharrell’s slow and steady keys, beat, and breathwork rhythms, this track is balanced as perfectly and precariously as a house of cards. But nothing ever falls out of place, even if the relationship it references probably did.—C.W.

6. “Break Free” (Featuring Zedd)

Album: My Everything
About as EDM-centric as Ariana ever got, the Zedd-featuring standout of My Everything includes a drop so endorphin-inducing that it’s been used in infinite exercises since, convincing tired joggers, cyclers, and dancers everywhere to push themselves a little harder. Sparking a million social media conversations about the sweetly earnest oxymoron “I only want to die alive,” the song’s real message is about standing up for yourself and choosing a better path after a history of self-betrayal. It might not be aging as well as some of her other bangers, but nevertheless, the sentiment is a great one.—C.W.

5. “Seven Rings

Album: Thank U, Next
Honorable Mention: “Seven Rings” remix Featuring 2 Chainz
Love it or hate it, this song catapulted Ariana to a whole new level — and showcased her ability to spit flow while she was at it. Yes, there’s a pretty heavy-handed Soulja Boy comparison, and yes, that pink trap house in the video felt directly lifted from 2 Chainz. But here’s where Ariana illustrated her ability to quickly pivot and make right, adding the remix version and jumping on his track “Rule The World.” Haters be damned, if Ariana — or Beyonce, or Halsey for that matter — decided to put out an entire rap album, I would be 100% on board. The story of Ariana giving up the bulk of her publishing on this track just to incorporate the “My Favorite Things” interpolation from Rodgers & Hammerstein and potentially break a record for chart-topping hits is a pretty hip-hop move, too. She wanted it, and she got it.—C.W.

4. “The Way” (Featuring Mac Miller)

Album: Yours Truly
Honorable Mention: “My Favorite Part” Mac Miller (Featuring Ariana Grande)
Knowing what we know now, hearing Mac and Ari duet will always be a painstaking, bittersweet listen. But throwing on this song is worth any latent sadness, and it’s hard to stay somber long when it’s on. Purposefully kept very PG as Grande’s first foray into hip-hop collaboration on her very first album, this track is a perfect example of how these two brought out the best in each other musically. While Ari keeps her vocals very clean and tight on the chorus, Mac’s verses are loose and jovial, offering the perfect foil to her razor-sharp high notes. “You a princess to the public but a freak when it’s time,” Mac rapped, and looking at how much Ari has opened up in her music since 2012, sounds like he knew her true colors way back then.—C.W.

3. “No Tears Left To Cry”

Album: Sweetener
When this song came out it felt like a beacon. It laid out the stages for recovery and healing in three simple steps: Acknowledging the harm that has been caused, mourning it appropriately, and then moving on. Unfortunately for all of us, those who are familiar with Ari’s story know that the back half of 2018 came with lots of tears, over the accidental overdose of Mac Miller, the dissolution of her engagement to Pete Davidson, and the fear and pain that came along with processing both. Still, I like to think of “No Tears Left To Cry” as a reset button. It’s not a forever thing, but it’s a temporary chance to sink back into joy. At least for the length of this song, they can’t hurt us.—C.W.

2. “Thank U, Next”

Album: Thank U, Next
Never has a title track pulled its weight more than this song. Despite her well-documented success leading up to the Thank U, Next era, it still felt like this song was a turning point for Ariana. A culmination of her propensity to turn straw into gold, and a testament to her refusal to vilify her past exes, no matter how flawed they might be, this song might just usher in a new phase of grace to replace our current paradigm of pettiness. A self-love ballad that’s still a banger sounds like it would be both impossible and cheesy, but this song is neither; it’s catchy, funny, sweet, and even a little edgy. Still, I can’t wait until she tops it.—C.W.

1. “Into You”

Album: Dangerous Woman
For all the accolades, critical praise, and commercial success that “Thank U, Next” rightfully earned, there’s still one song in her discography that sums up the Ariana ethos better: “Into You” is an infatuation banger to end them all. It touches on the dancefloor beats that have been with her from the very beginning, flirts with the line between relationship and fling, and has the kind of crescendo chorus that has dominated the best songs in her discography for years. For the newcomers who have only been here since the Thank U, Next era, “Into You” has been proof that Ariana is on her way to full-fledged stardom for the last half a decade. It might not be the highest-charting single, or the most vulnerable or emotional, and it might not include her highest head voice notes or feature a big collaborator. It’s simply Ariana, no gimmicks or quirks, at her very best.—C.W.

×