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Sweetener – Ariana Grande

Armed with a mesmerizing, nimble soprano—and a vocal register often likened to Mariah Carey’s and Christina Aguilera’s—Ariana Grande began her career as a child star on Broadway and Nickelodeon before transforming into a pop and R&B powerhouse. Instantly recognizable thanks to her signature ponytail, cat ears, babydoll dresses, and breezy self-confidence, her slyly sexual personal brand has, like that of the Spice Girls before her, become an iconic image of young female power. But Grande is more than a symbol: Over the course of several albums and scores of hit singles—beginning with 2013’s “The Way” (featuring Mac Miler) through The Weeknd-assisted “Love Me Harder” and “Break Free” (featuring Zedd)—she has consistently outshined her male collaborators and deftly parlayed her stardom into activism. An LGBTQ advocate and outspoken feminist (“I’m tired of living in a world where women are mostly referred to as a man’s past, present, or future PROPERTY,” she tweeted in 2016), she uses her platform to confront issues like misogyny, sexism, homophobia, and bullying, spreading a message of love over all. Nowhere was this more clear than in May 2017: After terrorists attacked her concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 and injuring hundreds, Grande continued her tour. “Perspective changes your life,” she told Beats 1’s Ebro Darden. “You want to stay in the moment and try not to give into fear, because obviously the whole point of finishing the tour was being there for my fans. You want to set the same example and keep going.” And that she did: Her Max Martin-produced smash “No Tears Left to Cry,” an escapist dance-floor triumph released a year after the attack, sends a message of hope and healing, with a dose of hear-me-roar attitude. 

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