Exploring Ariana Grande's Music Videos: Video Series 1

I am a huge music video fan. As much as I love songs themselves, there's nothing better than a quality music video. There's an extra layer of artistry that's available when you unlock a visual component, and it's a chance to offer fans extra layers of meaning to specific tracks. While songs are made to be interpreted by the listener, music videos are a space that artists can take to either express their intended vision or experiment in a new medium. Spanning from visuals that lend themselves to art to telling a movie like story in the span of four of five minutes, there's so much potential with every single. Every artist has their own style with videos which makes them so interesting to dive into.
I want to start this series by diving into Ariana Grande's videos. With each artist, I want to rank all of their videos (which is a more ambitious undertaking with some than others) and discuss what I like and dislike about each of them because I find figuring out what makes something work fascinating. If you're a music video fan like me, feel free to share your opinions in the comments.
Also, if anyone is wondering about technical stuff, the videos I ranked only came from the ones that were published to Ariana's YouTube page (which is why "Bang Bang" is absent) and all the director and production credits were pulled from the descriptions of the video. I provided all the credits she gave which is why some of them are missing. I've also include their premier date and view count at the time I put this post together on February 16th if anyone is curious about their respective popularity.

1. Thank U, Next
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Produced by Brandon Bonfiglio Edited by Hannah Lux Davis & Taylor Tracy Walsh Production Company: London Alley Executive Producers: Brandon Bonfiglio, Luga Podesta, Andrew Lerios Colorist: Bryan Smaller
Premiered Nov 30, 2018
From Mean Girls to Bring It On to Thirteen Going on Thirty, Ariana explores the world of high school movies throughout the "Thank U, Next" video. This one obviously had quite the budget, and I love how tightly they were able to incorporate the changing scenes with one another. Even though inspiration pulled from many places, it all felt like a single, cohesive video. It almost felt like a mini-movie with how well done it is. 

2. boyfriend 
Video Director: Hannah Lux Davis Video Producer: Brandon Bonfiglio Video Editors: Taylor Walsh & Hannah Lux Davis for London Alley
Premiered Aug 1, 2019
This is a video I would put in a montage of videos that embody the very best a music video can offer. There's a concept and a storyline, but it's elevated beyond the song itself. I'm surprised it's directed by the same woman who directed the "Don't Call Me Angel" video since the shots here are just so much more creative and inventiveThere are so many layers to the video that make it work from the storyline to the camera angles to the color palates. It's set in a museum like setting that gives me Louvre vibes and everyone is dressed accordingly in colors that feel like a garden party. Every outfit is different and textured but blends so well, and this video does a great job of incorporating fashion type shots of Ariana sitting in a room with Social House and close ups without it getting boring or detracting from the concept. While they're Hunger Games like attacks on each other's love interests are over the top, it blends with the world in a way that makes you not question it, and the quirky looks to the camera and small humorous moments ground it nicely. 

3. God is a woman
Video Director: Dave Meyers Video Producer: Nathan Scherrer Video Editor: Nick Gilberg
Jul 13, 2018
This video is directed by one of the most famous video directors in the game, Dave Meyers. And its probably his experience and expertise that facilitates this working so well. This video is composed of a lot of isolated visuals, but they manage to be in continual conversation with each other. Also, each visual is so absurd and over the top that they manage to capture your attention and hold it unlike other repeat visual based videos. Each shot is filled with commentary or extra cues into the meaning, and they're all bold. I particularly was a fan of a comic type frame where a giant Ariana sat unbothered on a platform while tiny, middle aged men hurled mean words at each other. It was a powerful representation of her reality. I also love the detail in the scene with Madonna where she literally shatters the glass ceiling. The attention to detail, artistry, and acting on Ariana's part makes this video.

4. One Last Time
Feb 15, 2015
This video offers a great twist on the apocalypse video concept, and it does fit well with the song. I love how it was filmed to feel like you were following Ariana through this world that was falling apart. It managed to make me feel the pressing nature of the collapsing world. For some reason, it also feels like of all the videos, this was one of the higher qualities just in the sharpness and coloring sense. I really loved this one. And it doesn't even offer a happy ending. 

5. Everyday ft. Future
Directed by Chris Marrs Piliero Produced by Andrew Lerios
Feb 26, 2017
I wasn't sure what to expect with this video, but it made me laugh so hard. I'm surprised that Ariana hasn't employed this common music video tactic in more videos- instead of being the focus, she's just the fly on the wall. The main focus of the video are the random couples making out grossly in extremely inappropriate places like the hood of other people's cars, the workplace, and the laundromat while everyone else looks on in horror. It plays the strings of entertainment and humor well, and Ariana pops into the shots at just the right moments almost like an embodiment of cupid. Also, major props to whoever styled Ariana. I love her bangs and mini space buns along with her jeans and oversized puffy jacket. 

6. Into You
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Produced by Brandon Bonfiglio
May 23, 2016
I'm surprised there aren't more videos in Ariana's catalogue like this one. It's such a classic music video between the motorcycle shots, desert fashion looks, and detailed story. At first, it seems like it's just going to be a cute motel love story, but it has plenty of twists until the end when we learn that she's actually having an affair with her bodyguard, which I didn't originally pick up on. I appreciate how much of a story they're selling through this video, and I also have to give Ariana and the video guy a nod for their acting. They seem genuinely comfortable with one another. 

7. Monopoly w/Victoria Monet 
Directed by: Alfredo Flores & Ricky Alvarez
Premiered Apr 1, 2019
This is a video that's hard to rank because it's not some brilliant video, but it accomplishes just what it sets out to do. It's goofy and fun and makes you smile. It's done in a casual, self-shot style with shaky cameras and filters while also taking inspiration from YouTube videos. When Ariana and Victoria aren't goofing off together, they're throwing off negativity with words like "haters" and "Trump". There's tons of emojis edited in and things that look like Snapchat stickers that interact with them. It feels personal and raw and relaxed. This is a great example of a video fulfilling the need of the song. 

8. 7 Rings
Video Director: Hannah Lux Davis
Premiered Jan 17, 2019
I find this one disappointing just because the song evokes such clear visuals of raiding the mall with all of your friends. Sure, that's the obvious route, but, sometimes, I just want to see what the obvious would look like if it was brought to life. I don't see what the point was here. It's as extravagant as the song, but in a different, more exhibitionist way.  The thing I like about the song is that it's so self-celebratory and just about having fun with your friends whereas the video seems focused on performing for someone else. There are a lot of shots of Ariana stuck on her hands and knees on kitchen counters and tiny rooms that just look awkward. It's nothing against Ariana, she looks amazing, but I found it a weird direction to take the song. The one scene I did enjoy was the one where she poured champagne over the drink fountain with all of her friends. That felt much more in character. Also, major props to Ariana for being able to dance in those insanely high heels. 

9. Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored
Video Director: Hannah Lux Davis Video Producer: Brandon Bonfiglio for London Alley Entertainment Inc
Premiered Feb 7, 2019
This video is one I have mixed feelings on. From a purely quality of visuals prospective, I love the aesthetic of the whole thing. The coloring is amazing, the use of a city sunset and the neon lights creates the perfect mood. I also love the styling in the video, Ariana's opening dress and boot combo in particular. Charles Melton showing up as the video boy definitely was a surprise. My issue with this is the story. We're introduced to dark haired Ariana, blonde Ariana, and a girl who's his girlfriend who's dressed like dark haired Ariana. While blonde Ariana gets Charles's attention, she's all but forgotten when it's time for girlfriend and main Ariana to square off before she triumphs in the end. There's a clear adversarial web laid out, but I don't feel like the players were defined clearly enough. 

10. Breathin'
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Produced by Fuliane Petikyan & Brandon Bonfiglio Edited by Hannah Lux Dav
Nov 7, 2018
I want to start by saying how powerful of a song this is lyrically. It's super relatable and an important message to put out there. That being said, it's not one of my favorite videos. There are some interesting isolated visuals, but they don't quite manage to gel. I like the initial cabaret scene where the world is moving fast without her, but the more it was used, the more cliche it felt. It jumped between tons of visuals including fog, a head in the clouds edit, one of her swinging in the clouds, and a very musical theater looking set of her sitting with her suitcases. The swing in the clouds was really pretty, but, by the time I got to that section, I was already disengaged from the video as a whole because of the disjointedness. 

11. Side to Side ft. Niki Minaj
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Produced by Brandon Bonfiglio
Aug 29, 2016
Ever wonder what it would be like to go to the gym in heels? From the weight room to the boxing ring to Soul Cycle, Ariana gives you a peak into what that's like. The video has a very Barbie feel to it, which matches the song well. It feels like a cohesive visual offering but nothing that will stand out in years to come like some of these other videos. 

12. Right There ft. Big Sean
Oct 30, 2013
Is this the best take on Romeo + Juliet I've seen? No, that goes to Halsey and her entire Hopeless Fountain Kingdom album and video experience. But I'm never going to turn down a Romeo + Juliet take because that movie has my heart. It made for a cute early video that's fun to watch. I also find it amusing how they chose to blend very modern looking make-up and hair situations with Marie Antoinette reminiscent clothing. 

13. No Tears Left to Cry
Director - Dave Meyers Producer - Nathan Scherrer Editor - Nick Gilberg Director of Photography - Scott Cunningham Production Designer - Ethan Tobman Visual Fx - Buf Colourist - Stefan Sonnenfeld
Apr 19, 2018
This video offers a similar outlook to "God is a Woman" without quite landing it. This video swaps between a couple different visuals at the same CGI high budget level effects without completely landing. This video takes place in a strange, tipping world and seems to have an underlying layer of social commentary that isn't totally illuminated. In the GIAW video, it's interwound in every scene, and they each have weight whereas some of these don't seem like they add to the messages. I did find one of the final scenes really interesting where a faceless Ariana tries to figure out which face to choose for the day. That was a cool way to discuss public faces, and I wish that idea would've permeated the rest of the video more.

14. Problem ft. Iggy Azalea 
May 30, 2014
Despite repetitiveness, I feel like this was one of the more successful moments early Ariana had with the choreographed dancing and bubble gum look. It's not my favorite, but it definitely feels like a time capsule. 

15. The Way ft. Mac Miller
Mar 28, 2013
This is a really fun video. Mac Miller and Ariana play with balloons, take photos of each other, and generally look like they're having a blast through the video. I love thee colors that were used, and I want to steal Ariana's full outfit. My only critique of this video is that there's a lot of repetition so you really enjoy the first minute while your attention fades as it goes on. 

Video Director: Hannah Lux Davis Video Producer: Brandon Bonfiglio for London Alley
This video is definitely more on the disappointing end, but it's also not a true representation of Ariana's videos, or any of the other artists involved for that matter. It's a song that seems overly manufactured for a movie, just like the song it goes with. The video vaguely clings to the Charlie's Angel's concept. It lacked a real storyline while trying to consistently hint at it. It's almost like Bad Blood Meets Bad Boxing.

17. Focus 
Directed by Hannah Lux Davis Produced by Brandon Bonfiglio
Oct 29, 2015
Samsung commercial and slightly awkward choreography moments aside, I want to give a round of applause to whoever thought of the opening circles scene. Ariana does a lot of visually motivated videos, and those backlit circles with her signature boots might be her best early visual concept. The rest of the video, however, leaves something to be desired. 

18. Dangerous Woman
Directed by The Young Astronauts Produced by Peter Williams and Jona Ward
Mar 30, 2016
This would make a great Victoria Secret commercial. I don't have much else to say about it because the video doesn't say much beyond, "Ariana Grande can be sexy" or at the very least older now which sorta feels like the entire focus of the "Dangerous Woman" era on the whole. So it doesn't make the most engaging video, but it does convey a message. 

19. Love Me Harder
Nov 3, 2014
I love Ariana's outfit here, but, beyond that, the video doesn't have much substance or interest to really offer. It feels like it's moving in the right direction without totally arriving

20. Baby I
Sep 6, 2013
This video is brightsunny, and super cute but is also just the beginning of Ariana. I think it manages both to showcase her potential while also showing just how far she's come in the last seven years. 

21. The Light is Coming ft. Niki Minaj 
Video Director: Dave Meyers Video Producer: Nathan Scherrer Video Editor: Zoe Mougin
Jun 21, 2018
This one was underwhelming. It was shot to appear to be a single shot that follows Niki and Ariana though the forest which is interesting in theory, but it takes out a feature that could break up a fairly monotonous video. There's just not much to hold your attention here, and, because it was shot relatively minimally at night, the lighting and fog techniques really aren't the best at times.

22. Let Me Love You
Directed by Grant Singer Produced by Jordan Harkins & Nina Soriano
May 22, 2016
This is one of those videos that seem to just lack a point of view. There's plenty of alternating visuals, but there isn't that much there in substance. She has better videos, but this also wasn't a major single so it doesn't seem like they had a huge budget anyway.

23. Break Free ft. Zedd
Aug 12, 2014
Here's a high concept video that I somehow have no love for. The song is great and offered a lot of potential paths. I did not anticipate fo-Star Wars being one of them. But that's what happened. From the cheesy, off brand title scroll to breaking out of intergalactic prison, there's a lot of weird without anchoring going on. 

I didn't feel like I could technically include this one since it's a Troye Sivan song, but I love this video so much. It's super simple, but it always puts a smile on my face.

Dance to This 
Director: @bardiazeinali
Jul 19, 2019
absolutely adore the concept they came up with for the video. It doesn't super lend itself to a visual concept, but setting it at karaoke at the rec center works so well along with the extra twist of it being a day dream. It's a drab, depressing place, and no one else there appreciates their music, but they can still sing and dance together. A great time can happen anywhere. Ariana and Troye are such naturally good performers that even alone in an empty room, they can hold your attention


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