Kumar: The importance of stories about women

“Thank u, next” has proven that even songs about heartbreak can exclude men and empower women all at the same time.



Ariana Grande introduces The Weekend at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 15, 2016 in Los Angeles. Grande is holding a benefit concert in Manchester after this week’s attack. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Michelle Kumar, Opinions Columnist

Growing up, I didn’t hear a lot of empowering songs about women, for women, or by women. Later down the road, I distinctly remember listening to “Born This Way” by Lady GaGa, and thinking about how that was one of the first songs I’d heard in my short lifetime that wasn’t talking about female beauty specifically.

I’m not sure whether it’s because it’s more accepted for female narratives to be shared now or if I’ve just become more aware of them, but female artists have voiced their perspectives lately, and they have been successful across all artistic media. Specifically, the song that comes to mind is “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande.

2018 alone has been dominated with successful stories by women. Janelle Monáe released “Pynk” and celebrated sexuality and the female body. The attention that video got is bound to resonate for quite some time. Kali Uchis came out with “After the Storm” about her own story and being one’s own hero. Here on campus, we had Lizzo perform for Homecoming, and all her songs are about women being comfortable in their own skin.

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Obviously, Ariana wasn’t the first artist to share her story — a slew of artists paved the way for her. However, she has been one of the most successful ones and her “thank u, next” music video broke YouTube’s record of most views in 24 hours at 55.4 million views. Given the hype surrounding her relationship with Pete Davidson, it’s not hard to understand the success of the song and video, but the genius of the song goes beyond that.

Freshman Demi Oo said, “Although ‘thank u, next’ at first sounds like a breakup song, I feel like it’s been a hit with the female audience in particular because it’s not a breakup song. The message it provides is overcome the obstacles that come in your life and use that experience to better yourself and live your best life.”

The song itself is about heartbreak and breakups on the surface, yet it somehow managed not to to be about men at all. It wasn’t disparaging or attacking but rather a celebration of Ariana’s growth as a person. That detail itself is huge and shows that female narratives can be commercially successful despite what we have thought in the past. The music video paid homage to all the strong ladies in classic 2000s movies, further supporting the focus on stories about women.

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“Listen to ‘God is a Woman’ or all of her Sweetener album; Ariana has a lot of empowering words for her audience, and honestly, being an empowering female role model is the new wave,” Oo said.

The honesty in this song and many of Ariana’s others on the Sweetener album have made an impression on many people. These stories are important for women to hear so that they feel seen. That is why it’s important that we build on this and continue to add more diverse voices across all media.