Ariana Grande featured in Complex Magazine. On Mariah Carey comparison: At first impression, I think it’s an obvious comparison to draw because of the range and style of throwback R&B. But as you listen to the whole album, Yours Truly, you get to know my sound. You get to know Ariana. If I complained about being compared to the great vocalist who ever lived, I would be a very dumb, ungrateful person. So I can’t complain. It’s a massive compliment.’
On her relationships and being honest with her fans: ‘Love comes in many different forms. You can love somebody and not be in love with them. They can break your heart and you can cry over it but still not be in love with love. Love is a really peculiar thing. I think as far as being in love, I’ve experienced it. [When announcing my relationship via Twitter] everybody’s got something to say but I’d rather be the person who’s honest than the person who’s like, ‘Oh that’s personal, I’m not going to tell you.’ I’ve always had an open, honest relationship with my fans.”
On Miley Cyrus: ‘Miley looks like she is having the time of her life, and I think anybody who’s giving her a hard time is wishing deep down they were having as much as she is right now. People are being so cruel. I think that’s bullying, and she should do whatever the hell she wants. Everybody needs to have more fun. If it’s not your taste, don’t look at it. I get so hyped up about the Miley thing because I think she’s cool.’
On being considered as a sex symbol: ‘I don’t see myself as sexy and I’m not comfortable being sexy and dressing sexy. I don’t see myself ever becoming a sex symbol.’ FULL interview under!
It’s the midday rush at Olive & Thyme, a Burbank, Calif. lunch hot spot. As throngs of middle-aged women and studio execs scrape the remnants of their hummus boards, a petite 20-year-old brunette in a distressed sweater slips through the door and slides into the first corner banquette. You might imagine that the first female singer to post a No. 1 album in three years would demand a flashier arrival. But this isn’t Ariana Grande’s first rodeo. She was on Broadway at age 13 and had a role on Nickelodeon’s Victorious in 2010, before she began starring on Sam & Cat in late 2012. Her smile is little-sister cute, and she flashes it often. Why play it cool? There’s no need to act the part of the jaded pop star when you’re winning.
Even if the menopausal women and midlife-crisis-stricken men surrounding Grande at lunch aren’t fussing over her, the music industry is, thanks to a seemingly superhuman vocal range weaponized in her five-foot frame. “I love her voice,” says R&B legend Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds who produced her debut album, Yours Truly, which topped the Billboard charts last August. “Her tone is golden and it just feels good. She’s got one of those feel-good voices we haven’t heard in a long time.”
That voice has attacked pop radio this year like a drone strike. Off the mic, in the cut, her voice shifts from teen-sitcom-star singsong to a snappy, serrated Italian lilt. It’s a coup of charisma that explains why Grande was sought out and signed by Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, today’s pop music Midas.
“She’s the real deal,” Braun says, pitching her like a presidential candidate. “I don’t think she needs to worry about anything other than being who she is.” He might be right, but the business of being Ariana Grande ain’t exactly a nine-to-five, either. During a break from the 14-hour days she’s pulling working on Sam & Cat, her music—a new album is already in the works—and other assorted tasks involved with becoming the next great American Sweetheart, she cracks wise about growing up Italian, her high-profile love life, and the ghosts and demons around her that she can’t help but notice as the whole world takes notice of her.
What was your family like growing up? My family was the stereotypical poker-playing, loud, friendly, food-shoving, loving, Italian family. Growing up Italian, did you ever fake having Mafia ties to appear tougher? I didn’t have to fake anything,, I’m kidding. We didn’t have any Mafia ties. I feel like we knew some of the Mafia but were not involved for sure. I do know somewhere down the line there were some friendships. No Mafia ties though. It wasn’t something I bragged about.
You sound kinda domesticated for a 20-year-old. Where do you get that from? Myself. No one in my family is like me, nobody. My mom is a CEO and owns a company that manufactures communications equipment for the Marines and the Navy, so she’s not really the housewife type, if you get what I’m saying. She’s the most badass, independent woman you’ll ever meet—not the cookies-in-the-oven type.
You’re also obsessed with Harry Potter. I’m a big nerd. I love Lord of the Rings. I love Harry Potter. I love scary movies. I love dinosaurs, science, aliens, ghosts. Alrighty then. “The Way,” is a pretty romantic song, but how bad was Mac Miller’s breath in the video? It wasn’t bad if you like cigarettes and whiskey. It’s certainly a distinct taste.
Was that the hardest part of the video? No, it was fine. The whole video shoot was fun to be honest. The kiss was definitely “directed,” let’s just say. Was he awkward after it? No, he is very funny. He is one of my best friends. People keep trying to start rumors about me and Malcolm, but he is one of my favorite people in the world, like as a friend. So we just look at them and laugh.
Are you annoyed when people compare you to Mariah Carey? At first impression I think it’s an obvious comparison to draw because of the range and style of throwback R&B. But as you listen to the whole album, Yours Truly, you get to know my sound. You get to know Ariana. If I complained about being compared to the greatest vocalist who ever lived, I would be a very dumb, ungrateful person. So I can’t complain. It’s a massive compliment.
You think she’s the greatest vocalist? For sure. Her voice is something that’s untouched: her range, her control, and her ability. I take it as a compliment but I’m very excited when people listen to my whole album and get to know my sound.
If you had to choose between music and acting, which would it be? Music, no question. I started in musicals because I wanted to sing. I never liked acting. I auditioned for TV to get a platform to get a record deal and then I fell in love with acting because it was fun. After I’m done playing Cat Valentine I don’t see myself doing much acting, but I would do a scary movie or a musical, at any moment.
You announced your relationship with Nathan Sykes from The Wanted on Twitter. Is social media a scary place for celebrities? No. Everybody’s got something to say but I’d rather be the person who’s honest than the person who’s like, “Oh that’s personal, I’m not going to tell you.” I’ve always had an open, honest relationship with my fans.
What’s been the most ridiculous thing to happen to you on social media? I took a selfie and everybody was like “There’s a big black dildo on the floor.” Ah, yes—the alleged black dildo. People were talking about this like an hour ago. I was like, “Are you kidding me? That’s a microphone for my looping machine because I’m a singer.” [Ed. note: Ariana showed us a picture of the looping machine.] People have too much damn time on their hands and just need Jesus if you ask me. I hope they find something better to do with their time.
What do you think of the transition Miley Cyrus is going through? Miley looks like she is having the time of her life, and I think anybody who’s giving her a hard time is wishing deep down they were having as much fun as she is right now. People are being so cruel. I think that’s bullying, and she should do whatever the hell she wants. Everybody needs to have more fun. If it’s not your taste, don’t look at it. I get so hyped up about the Miley thing because I think she’s cool.
But it is a drastic transformation. Sure. As long as she’s happy though. Justin Bieber is also going through a big transformation. How close are you two? Not very, but he’s a friend. We never talk or see each other, but he’s really nice and whenever we are in the same building he’s friendly and we play music for each other. Is he flirty? No. He’s super respectful of my situation.