There’s no denying it: Ariana Grande’s a pop machine. Since she launched her music career six years ago, the Florida-born singer-songwriter has offered smash hit after smash hit in forms of “No Tears Left to Cry,” “Problem,” “Side to Side” and more. Released just last week, Thank U, Next has earned her two Billboard Hot 100 number one singles (“Thank U, Next,” “7 Rings”), while its predecessor Sweetener was recently crowned Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2019 Grammys.
But her chart-toppers aside, Grande still has an extensive list of under-the-radar songs that deserve the same level of attention as tracks like “God is a Woman” and “Breathin.” We dive deep into the pop giant’s discography to pick out five underrated tracks.
1“Tattooed Heart” (2013)
When Grande dropped her debut single, “The Way,” the former Victorious actress seemed to have passed through the same bubblegum pop production line as her fellow child-star-turned-pop-sensations Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. However, the arrival of her first-ever LP proved that Grande had plenty more to offer than your standard radio-friendly fare: Yours Truly is chock-full of songs inspired by ’90s R&B, Motown and doo-wop, courtesy of Grammy-winning producer Babyface.
“Tattooed Heart,” especially, is a delicate showcase of Ari’s vocal prowess. The pop star channels old Hollywood over a soulful piano-led melody that recalls The Moonglows’ “Sincerely,” coyly crooning about an intoxicating romance. Playing on the old-school vibe, she even quips at the top of the track that she plans to go steady with her man “Like it’s 1954.”
2“Why Try” (2014)
For her sophomore effort, My Everything, Ari traded her vintage chords for 808s and swapped out show tune-esque bops for charged stadium pop anthems. On “Why Try,” a soaring dance pop composition of dreamy synths and drum snares, Grande lusts after a boy who’s no good for her.
“Even when you’re yelling at me, I still think you’re beautiful / Through it all, you could still make my heart skip,” she sings. Her voice fills with heartache and desire before she breaks into the powerhouse chorus: “I’m loving the pain / I never wanna live without it / So why do I try?” While Ari personally thinks “Why Try” is her “most boring song,” it’s really anything but.
3“Knew Better/Forever Boy” (2016)
Grande’s songs typically fall into two camps: Breaking up with boys or falling for one. “Knew Better/Forever Boy,” off 2016’s Dangerous Woman, combines both. Produced by frequent collaborator TBHits, the two-part song kicks off icy-hot with some ex-dissing, “Knew Better.”
At the track’s mid-point, the sultry R&B-laced melody melts into a celestial interlude and the pop star reappears, this time to deliver heart-eyed-emoji verses. On the synth-driven “Forever Boy,” Grande confesses she’s “never been with a boy more than six months.” But her new man is different, Ari claims, and he might just be the life partner she’s been longing for.
4“Get Well Soon” (2018)
Ari has been known for experimenting with various musical styles. Her hit single “Focus” demonstrated the singer’s take on retro pop, while the Zedd-produced “Break Free” displayed the pop diva’s flair for EDM bangers. But where Grande’s vocals rest most comfortably are on top of a swelling piano arrangement. “Get Well Soon,” the heartfelt closer on her fourth album Sweetener, is testament to that.
Grande has described the poignant number, which she co-penned with Pharrell to honor the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, as a “musical hug” to her fans. It deals with the tragedy’s aftermath, including the singer’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. “I felt like I was floating for three months last year and not in a nice way,” the singer wrote in a tweet to a fan. “I hope [‘Get Well Soon’] comforts people who hear it.”
The song concludes with 40 seconds of respectful silence, wrapping it up at 5:22, marking the date of the attack.
If Sweetener opened a new chapter in Ari’s life, then her latest LP, Thank U, Next, closed one. “Ghostin,” which appears on the latter, is an honest tearjerker centered on two of the pop star’s most-publicized relationships: Last year, Grande called off her engagement with Pete Davidson following the death of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller.
The most heartbreaking line of “Ghostin” comes on the second verse when the singer hints why she split from Davidson. “Though I wish he were here instead / Don’t want that living in your head / He just comes to visit me / When I’m dreaming every now and then,” Ari sings in a gentle whisper to a downtempo instrumental which fans speculate is a sample of Miller’s “2009,” as Vogue noted.
In an interview with Zach Sang, Grande revealed she wanted “Ghostin” removed from the record because it was too emotional, but later decided against it. “It’s a beautiful song […] but I don’t listen to [it],” she admitted.
Stream Thank U, Next here.