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16th June 2024
Focus on Me – The Icon that is Ariana Grande
It’s Pride. It’s 1.4. It’s that time of year again. Last year we shone the rainbow on the unimpeachable music video legacy of Kylie Minogue to celebrate June in all its diverse poptastic glory. This year, we’re turning the beauty light towards none other than Boca Raton’s finest, Ariana Grande, to mark her latest album, Eternal Sunshine, and to keep the hype dialled up to 11 ahead of the November release of Wicked. Pull up a chair, grab a notebook and welcome to your crash course in the high-ponied promo history of Her Royal Highness, Ms. Ariana Grande, an artist who has truly mastered her craft - and then some. By STEPHEN WHELAN


Ok, so for the sake of this not just turning into a more comprehensive look back at her videos than her Wikipedia, we’ll have to be selective here. Don’t troll us if we missed your favourite.


Break Free Aug 2014. Dir Chris Marrs Piliero

Campy outer space Barbarella with rocket launcher boobs Madonna would be envious of. The arrival.


Love Me Harder Oct 2014. Dir Hannah Lux Davis

HLD’s first full Ariana collab (excluding Bang Bang). Nuff said. It begins…


One Last Time Feb 2015. Dir. Max Landis

Before Julia Roberts in Leave the World Behind there was Ariana in this lo-fi end of the world 2012 Roland Emerich disaster movie inspired genre piece. No, it doesn’t make sense. Yes, it’s probably too “conceptual”. But we should all watch this and just be thankful greenscreen has moved on from this whole era.


Focus Oct 2015. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

Thank you Samsung for making this product-placed 50’s inspired Judy Jetson fantasy come true. Teeth? Whitened. Lips? Glossed. Pony? Strapped high. Here we fkn go. Ariana hitting accelerate on the performance and lip sync and OWNING purple wayyyy before Olivia Rodrigo tried to act like it was hers. The whole thing is so stunningly well produced, styled, haired and make-upped, art directed, lit, framed, shot, edited and graded that they should just teach this at film school. Like, an entire 3 year course that’s legit just on this video. As she’s taking the word ‘focus’ on a three minute thirty one second joy ride through her vocal range and technical virtuosity,  the unrelenting flawless beauty shots and rhythmic interplay between the track and image becomes borderline hypnotic. One word – captivating.


Into You May 2016. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

If Ariana Grande made an aphrodisiac, this would be it. Desert. Motorbike. Motel. Red lip (spoiler – breathin). The beginning of her off the shoulder slouch top trademark look. 


Side to Side (feat, Nikki Minaj) Aug 2016. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

The one where HLD fkn nailed it. (Did we mention we stan HLD? Clearly the most important pop music video director in the biz.) The video that gave birth to the ICON baseball cap. And now the straight boys are all wearing them with no idea about the origin story. We win.



We’ll have to speed run this to hit all the essentials so let’s just get down to business and TL;DR this shiz. 2018-19 she was on a fkn mission. The definition of climbing the ladder. 


No Tears Left To Cry April 2018. Dir. Dave Meyers

Inception. The post Manchester bounceback. Singing in the Rain. The precise moment Ariana ascended to the status of DIVA and dropped capital letters forever. Max Martin production on fleek. 


The Light Is Coming (Feat. Nikki Minaj) June 2018. Dir. Dave Meyers

We love a “fulfil a brand deal” product placed dial it in and this has to be the gold standard. I mean, literally shot in a forest at night. Make that Reebok money henny.


God Is A Woman July 2017. Dir. Dave Meyers

The one that Lush should have sponsored with the Madonna interlude.


Breathin Nov 2018. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

The red lip look. And because we’ve all struggled with transfers at airports and train stations and persistent low level anxiety. Oh, and the subtle fourth-wall breaking, it’s-all-an-illusion shout out with the lyric “I know that all this shit’s fabricated.” Ariana giving us all a psychiatric pep talk.  


Thank U, Next Nov 2018. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

Kris Jenner, Jennifer Coolidge and Mean Girls. Iconic.


7 Rings Jan 2019. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

HLD doing what HLD does – creating ICONOGRAPHY and delivering Ariana’s biggest hit to date. And also slying in a cameo…


Break Up With Your Girlfriend Feb 2019. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

With the benefit of hindsight across the Ariana timeline this one lands different. But you can’t say she didn’t give you fair warning…


Boyfriend (Feat. Social House) August 2019. Dir. Hannah Lux Davis

A fkn bop the house down beauty retouch masterpiece (find a pore we dare you THERE AREN’T ANY). The ballerina ruffle top and patent eight-inch stack platforms intercut with a Burberry check “don’t fk with me fellas” business suit topped off with the baby blue pastel eye look and the ombre hair extensions. SERVING. Also – you’ve earned that vacation HLD, this is 5 in a row!!



For some of us the timeline of the 2020-21 trauma is permanently marked by Ariana releases. It’s like she went though the stages of grief with her gays in some sort of fkd up jumbled order that still does’t make sense to this day. Grab your face mask (no, not the one with the hyaluronic acid) and let the lockdown ptsd flashbacks begin.



Stuck with You (Justin Bieber) – May 2020

Released with a “UGC” video when UGC had already become as boomer a term as “viral”, this slow jam was launched as a fundraiser for First Responders Children’s Foundation.

Covid lyric of choice – “And there’s nothing I can do, I’m stuck with you”.



Rain on Me (Lady Gaga) May 2020. Dir. Robert Rodriguez.

3 months in and we were all p*ssed off and scared and confused AF. But we still wanted to party. And kudos to Gaga who had her whole Chromatica live era cancelled just as we were all showing up for the disco revival thanks to Dua Lipa. Watching the pair of them fully middle-fingering lockdown in a socially distanced, virtually produced bop of a video was PRECISELY what we needed to spin tragedy into irony into resistance. Take note Boris you…

Covid lyric of choice – “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive”.


Fun fact – The duet performance in masks in August at the VMAs sparked a “what the f did Gaga say to her” meme (we’re voting for “don’t out sing me”, although Reddit says Gaga confirmed it was “I fucking love you”. We’ll go with the spice shot over the tea though…)



Positions Oct 2020. Dir. Dave Meyers

Ariana’s visual thesis on the challenges of balancing the various sides of her identity. Not much happens but it all looks gorgeous so we’re not mad at it. 



34+35. Nov 2020. Dir. Dave Meyers

A brief two-scene set up amuse-bouche throwback sci-fi moment. All we can say really is ‘“it happened I guess….”

Covid lyric of choice “I’ve been eating healthy, know I keep it squeaky”. (She’s talking about hygiene…)



Save Your Tears (feat. Weeknd) April 2021. Dir. Jack Brown

Frankly at this point we’d all fkn had enough. So when Ariana slid on stage like melting butter at the iHeart Radio awards after we’d all been locked up for a year without a jury trial, purring an ‘over it’ ’‘mmmmmmmhhh” to a crowd of still masked fans while wearing a silk wrap aubergine gown, drenched in diamonds, rocking abs when the rest of us had FULLY let ourselves go, and hit a C#6 whistle note it was LITERALLY like a heavenly choir of angels had just announced “rejoice, it’s over”. 

Covid lyric of choice – the C#6. Periodt.


iHeart performance


PRESENT DAY ARIANA  (aka The Return To Musical Theatre)


Yes, and? Jan 2024. Dir. Christian Breslauer

Say less – this wasn’t the return to form we’d been hoping for but the Stans were there for it. Riffing on the drama surrounding her latest situationship with Ethan Slater and the problematics of singing God is a Woman and then stealing someone else’s MARRIED baby daddy, this track was the sonic equivalent of “speak now or forever hold your piece.” AKA – IDGAF. 

Fun facts – the GPS coordinates shown on the business card at the start of the video direct you to a random location in Montauk, NY – a sly easter egg for her next release (and bigger hit). Also, the pinch and pull hand choreo is actually the ASL gesture for “and” delivered with the precise attitude of the song. And, lest we forget, this track saw legendary pop producer Max Martin leapfrog George Martin of the Beatles to hold the record for most Billboard Number 1’s. Oh, and the Mariah remix but we don’t talk about that out of respect.


We Can’t Be Friends (Wait For Your Love) Mar 2024. Dir. Christian Breslauer

It’s rare a second song off a “come back” album makes more waves than the first. But hey, this is Ariana. No rules. Christian Breslauer got a second chance to stamp his mark on her Eternal Sunshine drop and let’s be honest, it HAD to be a remake of the movie. We all cried when she did. Don’t lie. And we all sent it to an ex who won’t leave our mental health alone. And the SNL lower register performance in full blonde hair, with the thrift store fake fur jacket (regulation Ariana off shoulder) and the slightly deranged glued on arts and crafts paper eye thing? Just give her the fkn Grammy already.



The Boy Is Mine June 2024. Dir. Christian Breslauer

Breslauer makes it a hat-trick with this homage to Michelle Pfeiffer (and no, we’re not even having a debate about this. Go back and watch Batman Returns. It’s the Selina Transforms scene and the reference to Pfeiffer’s catwoman meeting DeVito’s Penguin and bathing herself on his bed. So no Berry, no Hathaway, this ain’t about either of you. Maybe you can have a nod though Eartha just for being a trailblazer in the role). I don’t know about you Ms. Grande, but I feel… sooo much yummier.




The Boy Is Mine

Director: Christian Breslauer

Production Company: London Alley

Producers: Andrew Lerios, Mike Breslauer

Executive Producers: Luga Podesta, Brandon Bonfiglio

Director of Photography: Andrey Nikolaev

Production Designer: Alexander Delgado

Starring: Ariana Grande, Penn Badgley, Brandy Norwood

Monica Arnold, Nicholas Pistone, Elizabeth Gillies

Post Production Supervisor: Ivan Ovalle

Editor: Luis Caraza Peimbert

Assistant Editors: Tanner Jackson, Chloe Scrushy

Colorist: Matt Osborne

Visual Effects: Digital Axis