I thought I “got” Ariana Grande, but I don’t. There’s actually a negative correlation between my getting of Ariana Grande and the songs she releases. That is to say, the more I see her around, the more baffling she becomes. Case in point: her latest collaboration with Ultimate Queen of the Pop Universe, Nicki Minaj, and sort-of-pretty-good-I-guess Jessie J, on the track “Bang Bang.” The whole thing reads as though Nicki and Jessie were forced to include their annoying 12-year-old cousin in their new music video because their moms said they had to. And you sort of feel like Ariana probably threw a tantrum that made one mom call the other moms on the phone tree, and that’s how the mom involvement started in the first place.
For the most part “Bang Bang” is an inoffensive pop tune. Jessie and Ariana both have pipes they know how to use. If you ignore the lyrics--which are mostly about JJ and Ari trying to convince some dude that they’re better than some other girl, who actually sounds fairly rad if you ask me (“She’s got a body like an hourglass… She’s got a booty like a Cadillac.” Sounds like Nicki?)--you could pretty safely dance around to this in public. It’s got a really strong 2000-2003 all girl super-star collaboration vibe to it, which is a very specific genre of pop, but also one of my most favorite.
The only other thing I’m slightly confused about is that the titular lyric “Bang, bang” sounds ejaculatory, and I’m not sure if this is an ode to female ejactulation or if it’s in reference to a dude jizzing all over everything. Either way, a video starring three hot babes is always going to be visually stimulating, and between Ariana’s high pony (yawn) and Nicki’s perfect ass, there’s some powerful style lessons to learn.
PEOPLE HAVE SOME WEIRD IDEAS ABOUT WHAT NEW YORK LOOKS LIKE IN THE SUMMER
It’s not this video’s fault that somehow the paradigm of New York in the summer is “Models in skimpy outfits hanging out on the street fellating ice cream cones.” “Bang Bang” is part of a long history of pop culture mythologizing New York like this, but we of the city know this idealization to be untrue. Yes, there are hot women in New York. But most of them a.) Have jobs they’re at during the day, thereby cutting their “corner hang time” drastically, b.) Are sweating like galloping wildebeest and c.) Will cut your face off if you even try to objectify them in public for not wearing a bra because fuck, it’s hot, and it’s our God given right to let our tits flop about with impunity.
SUSPENDERS ARE THE WORST
Jessie J is a hot babe, and her outfit is kind of amazing. It’s not everyone that can pull off a lacy bralet and camel-toe threateningly high waisted pants. It’s even fewer people that can pull off old world style suspenders with their pants. And when I say “even less people” I mean no one. Not even Jessie J.
CONSISTENCY, I GUESS
Having a “look” based on your “persona” is a really Spice Girls thing to do, but I suppose it’s making a comeback because Ariana Grande is really honing in on something very specific with her style. Between the Barbarella high pony, lace, diaper-like satin hotpants and THE SAME FRIGGIN PAIR OF WHITE PUMPS EVERY TIME SERIOUSLY ARIANA BUY SOME NEW SHOES, I’m not really sure what that specific style is supposed to be, but it’s working for her. Which is the American Dream, right?
If you’re going to live in a windowless basement, or anywhere at all, really, you should definitely have neon palm trees surrounding your bed. It’s very Vegas harlot, but in a good way.
SUNGLASSES GAME CHANGES EVERYTHING
It’s the art of the selective memory. Jessie J’s sunglasses are so good you’ll blank out the part of your brain that ever saw her stupid suspenders. Likewise, Ariana’s embellished heart shaped sunglasses are so tacky-good you might even forget that she’s a hummingbird buzzing annoyingly around this video long enough to swoon a little.
IT’S NICKI MINAJ’S WORLD AND WE’RE ALL BLESSED TO LIVE IN IT
Did you even notice the backup dancers when Nicki stepped outta that helicopter? Historically, we are living in the age of Nicki Minaj. This is her moment and I’d challenge you to contest this. Even Beyoncé believes it, inviting her to rap on the “Flawless” remix and gifting her with a diamond “Flawless” necklace at the VMAs. And if Beyoncé says it, you know it’s true.
ANIMAL PRINT IS A STAPLE
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: all animal print, all the time. JJ’s spangly, thigh-slitted, tiger print shift is the best look in the video, and Nicki’s Leopard, bubble butt gripping skirt is a close second.
THE SOONER THIS ARIANA GRANDE THING IS OVER, THE BETTER
Does anyone actually believe that Araiana Grande is a “bad girl” when she sings it? I mean, I know she’s a woman with a vagina, which is 100% of what’s required to rock a man’s socks off, so it’s not like its entirely unbelievable that she’s got some sexual prowess, but it’s prowess by default. By comparison Jessie J has a playful confidence about her that lets her pull off the “bad girl” line, and everything about Nicki Minaj—looks, personality, talent—screams sexual destruction for mankind. Ariana just seems like the kind of girl who has a hat box full of different colored glitters that she shakes into envelopes every time she sends personal mail. I don’t want to be reductive when it comes to different kinds of femininity and female sexuality existing harmoniously side by side, but it is hard to see the merit of having Ariana Grande sing such aggressively sexual lyrics when she looks like someone who still has posters of Nick Carter on her wall and a 9 PM curfew.
I guess recently I’ve been blessed by ladies in pop. Maybe all the Beyoncé-ing and and Jennifer Lopez-ing and Taylor Swift-ing and Minaj-ing has warped my sensibilities. The infantilization of women in pop culture, especially in the presence of so many self-empowering, boss-like, hear-me-roar WOMEN, is tired. It’s more than tired: it’s gross and trite. Ariana Grande’s saccharine coyness doesn’t do her talents as a singer and performer justice—that which she (and her machine) seeks to define herself by only serves to diminish her true qualities as a woman and a pop artist.
Kat is wearing a leopard onesie right now (probably). She's on Twitter - @kat_george.
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