Ariana Grande, reigning teen pop idol with a defiant edge

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US singer Ariana Grande was named 2018 woman of the year by industry tracker Billboard. (AFP)
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Grande shattered a number of US chart records and released two albums in six months. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Ariana Grande, reigning teen pop idol with a defiant edge

  • Grande has proven poised in the face of tragedy and a deft manipulator of her own image, all while catapulting to global stardom
  • Grande is set to headline a number of major festivals as part of her global tour

PALM SPRINGS: Bubblegum pop coquette on the outside, saucy master of celebrity on the inside, there is perhaps no current star better at re-fashioning her own trials into larger-than-life success than Ariana Grande.
While suffering a highly publicized burst of personal and professional upheaval — the deadly 2017 Manchester bombing at one of her concerts, the suicide of her ex-boyfriend rapper Mac Miller, the demise of her whirlwind engagement to comedian Pete Davidson — Grande has proven poised in the face of tragedy and a deft manipulator of her own image, all while catapulting to global stardom.
Grande’s adept use of social media to slam her naysayers, drum up support from her “Arianator” fans and flirt with the gossip machine has created the perception that only she is in the driver’s seat.
After a resounding year of hits that saw industry tracker Billboard name the 25-year-old teen idol its 2018 woman of the year, Grande is set to headline a number of major festivals as part of her global tour, including this weekend’s influential Coachella lineup.
She’s just the fourth solo woman to headline the premier festival in the California desert — and the youngest artist ever to nab the coveted spot.
The feat comes after Grande shattered a number of US chart records and released two albums in six months, feeding the streaming beast with earworms while carving out her own version of the modern female pop star.

A Floridian by birth, the petite Italian-American Grande moved to New York as a teen for a spot on Broadway before finding fame on US kids network Nickelodeon.
She forayed into pop music shortly thereafter, releasing her debut studio album to commercial success in 2013.
A fan of miniskirts rarely seen without her signature ponytail snaking down past her hips, Grande had all the makings of a teen pop droid — batting her eyelashes and pouting her lips while wielding her impressive four-octave range to deliver saccharine lyrics.
But in recent years the superstar has co-opted that traditional ingenue image, adding a heavy dose of sex appeal and a biting demand for control.
In 2015 she issued a feminist manifesto attacking the public appetite for news on her personal life and those of other women.
And while last year’s “Sweetener” album — released in the midst of Grande’s turmoil — felt like an optimistic catharsis, her rapid follow-up “Thank U, Next” saw the star baring but owning her vulnerabilities, declaring this the year of Ariana.

Yet Grande’s celebration of feminine power while simultaneously flaunting her sexuality and pinning her art to her tumultuous love life has drawn criticism that she is propping up the very double standards she seeks to destroy.
Her hit “God is a Woman,” hailed as a coming-of-age empowerment anthem, was also derided as embracing tropes of women catering to male pleasure.
“In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement and when women are trying (and succeeding) at rising above our worth being tethered to our sexuality, this is the last thing we need,” wrote Erin Parker for the pop culture magazine Nylon.
Jacqueline Warwick, a scholar of music and gender studies at Canada’s Dalhousie University, agreed that Grande’s feminist bent can “feel a little hollow,” saying the star is “playing into these very conventional ways of looking at women’s bodies — and that seems certainly very well worn.”
But Warwick said Grande also “is articulating desire and speaking very frankly and candidly about her sexual pleasure — that’s certainly refreshing and possibly empowering.”
“It’s not easy for young women artists to be taken seriously and be successful in a pop medium without doing the things that she’s doing,” the academic told AFP.

In recent days Grande — often celebrated for supporting LGBT rights — was also accused of “queerbaiting,” teasing gay fans by suggesting in her new collaboration track “Monopoly” that she is bisexual.
“I think she’s certainly figured out that people are interested in her sex life — that it’s not a bad thing to keep people interested by dropping hints,” Warwick said.
Creating such buzz maintains a steady base keen for Grande’s next bop, which she’s taken to releasing whenever inspiration strikes.
She has voiced irritation with the commodified packaging of pop stars, championing the free release model more associated with hip hop artists.
“My dream has always been to ... put out music in the way that a rapper does,” Grande told Billboard recently.
“It’s just like, ‘Bruh, I just want to ... talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do.’“


Why ‘Gone With the Wind’ eclipses both ‘Avengers’ and ‘Avatar’

Updated 22 July 2019
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Why ‘Gone With the Wind’ eclipses both ‘Avengers’ and ‘Avatar’

  • The $402 million taken in by “Gone with the Wind” after its 1939 release places it in a paltry 285th position in raw dollar terms
  • That compares to $2.7902 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which this weekend just squeaked past the “Avatar” total of $2.7897

NEW YORK: Even as Disney confirmed Sunday that “Avengers: Endgame” had become the top-grossing movie ever, film historians noted that “Gone With the Wind” still has a strong case for being the most successful film of all time.
The $402 million taken in by “Gone with the Wind” after its 1939 release places it in a paltry 285th position in raw dollar terms. But that ignores the huge role of price inflation over time.
The epic historic romance, set during and after the US Civil War, sold the enormous 215 million tickets in the United States, far and away the record in that category, according to the Internet Movie Database. It’s box office was boosted by seven national releases between 1939 and 1974.
“Gone with the Wind” would have sold $1.958 billion worth of tickets today in the US market alone, based on what the National Association of Theatre Owners says was an average US ticket price in 2018 of $9.11.
Worldwide, and with inflation taken into account, the film would have taken in a stunning $3.44 billion, the Guinness Book of World Records has estimated.
That compares to $2.7902 billion for “Avengers: Endgame,” which this weekend just squeaked past the “Avatar” total of $2.7897.
Consider also that the US population in 1939 was a mere 130 million, roughly 200 million less than today.
For some, however, the success of the epic film — it runs three hours and 58 minutes — is troubling.
With a story line based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, some historians see it as one of the most ambitious and successful examples of Southern revisionism.
Immediately after the Civil War (1861-1865), there was a broad push in the US South to cast the formerly slave-holding region in a softer light.
Those purveying the so-called “Lost Cause” ideology insisted that the Southern states had fought not to preserve slavery, but because the North was infringing on their political independence.
Yet in their declarations of secession from the Union, the Southern states were clear about their primary motive: the Northern states’ refusal to extradite escaped slaves and their “increasing hostility... to the institution of slavery,” as South Carolina’s declaration stated.
“Slavery is not even a critical issue in the movie,” said Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” about black maids in the South in the early 1960s.
“You have these African-Americans that are working for these white families, and it’s as if it’s just their job... something they chose to do,” Stockett says in the documentary “Old South, New South.”
For Randy Sparks, a Tulane University history professor, “Gone With the Wind” exemplifies the way Southerners were able to impose their version of events.
“There aren’t many cases in history,” Sparks said, “where the losers write the history.”
It was thanks to “Gone With the Wind” that in 1940 Hattie McDaniel, who plays Scarlett O’Hara’s faithful slave “Mammy,” won the first Oscar awarded to a black actress.
But racial segregation was still deeply rooted in Hollywood, as in many parts of American society, and on Oscar night McDaniel had to sit at a small table in the rear of the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel, far from the film’s big stars, Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable.
Producer David O. Selznick had to intervene personally to secure her a room in the Ambassador, which refused to admit black customers until 1959.