Breakfast at Tiffany’s and bottles of bubbles/ Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble/ Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines/ Buy myself all of my favorite things
Who would have thought that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s’ 1959 song ‘My Favourite Things’ would be being danced to in 2019, a mere 60 years after it first appeared in The Sound of Music?
Ariana Grande, that’s who.
‘7 Rings’, the third single from Grande’s upcoming album Thank U, Next samples the melody from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s innocent, uplifting and oh so smiley, ‘My Favourite Things’. The song which sees Maria serenade the Von Trapp children during a thunderstorm. However, Grande takes the sweetness of the melody and flips it, giving it both an eerie and ominous quality whilst simultaneously making it sound like signals from space.
Grande’s song writing structure is looser and ad-lib at times. She may come from a Pop background, but musicals are where she got her start. Sweetener and her songs from Thank U, Next, feel more in the musical vein of call and response, as if she’s in conversation with someone on stage.
Despite the materialistic heavy lyrics and the overindulgence in all things pink, the music is dark and uneasy; Rodgers and Hammerstein reimagined as something sinister. There are moments when Grande sings a line and you have to go back and listen just to make sure you’ve heard her right. Even in her delivery there’s a mixture of melancholy and bravado.
Been through some bad shit/ I should be a sad bitch/ Who woulda thought it’d turn me to a savage?
The ominousness and the ‘something is not quite right’ vibe, bleeds into the aesthetics of the album artwork and the music video. The cover art is a perfect pink door, with ‘7 rings’ spray painted across it black. The video itself exudes a horror movie vibe. Shot with neon pink lighting, it creates a weird amalgamation of Barbie, Stepford Wives and slasher films. The costumes are pink, the set is pink even down to the champagne bottles, and the cars and bicycles spread out on the lawn. I feel like I am back with the My Little Pony I had that was encrusted with pink sparkles and a fibre optic pink crown. If that My Little Pony had got loose with a chainsaw.
Whoever said money can’t solve your problems/ Must not have had enough money to solve ’em
Police sirens and helicopter blades are the backdrop in the opening shots. There is Grande smashing a champagne fountain to pieces with sociopathic delight. Then there’s her ripping open the walls of a pink dollhouse, which she was lying in only moments ago. Perhaps alluding to perfect white picket dreams turning into nightmares?
There’s a scene where she is lying on the stairs, her signature ponytail on steroids that just keeps going and a spooky take on Playboy Bunnies, a nod to her Dangerous Woman era, stacked one on top of each other above her.
The house is where Grande comes to play with her friends. It’s not a home for a Mr & Mrs but for indulgence and chaos and destruction, all dressed up in pink and glitter.
Grande’s notion of releasing music like a rapper, of not being confined to the traditional Pop artist schedule has come true. She even raps-sings in the bridge, the pace getting faster and faster, until each word rolls off each other like waves.
I got my receipts, be lookin’ like phone numbers/ If it ain’t money, then wrong number/ Black card is my business card/ The way it be settin’ the tone for me
‘7 Rings’ has been labelled an ode to friendship and female empowerment, but in this case, empowerment is through consumerism and capitalism. In the words of Grande, “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”. Riches is the aim and money is power; money makes me happy and I am untouchable and therefore worthy of respect.
Look at my neck, look at my jet/ Ain’t got enough money to pay me respect
Like Maria serenading the Von Trapp children through a thunderstorm, perhaps ‘7 Rings’ is Grande’s reinterpretation of song for herself. Her way of serenading herself through her own tumultuous times? Or maybe Grande is purely being tongue-in-cheek and messing with us all on some grand, pink musical scale?
You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it/ I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)
Or just maybe it is all of those things and more…