When so much of pop is sculpted within an inch of its life, it’s refreshing to hear something so flippant and fun
If you initially thought that Ariana Grande’s new song ‘Monopoly’ was an April Fools joke, then you’re forgiven. Though she doesn’t seem like the world’s most likely board game enthusiast, it turns out that the pop megastar enjoys nothing more than gleefully building plastic hotels on the Old Kent Road and counting her fake cash. Speaking on the Zac Sang Show earlier this year, Ari professed her love for the game, adding that on one occasion a former collaborator – who she won’t name – stormed out of an especially heated game. “He was like, ‘I’m gonna go and hang with my real friends’” Ariana recounted. “Woah! Is it that serious! And he did! He left! That’s how I discovered who my real friends are.”
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Released with best mate Victoria Monét – who is credited as a songwriter on all but one of Ariana Grande’s albums – ‘Monopoly’ seems to riff off this particular event. “Bad vibes, get off of me, outta here with that fuckery,” sings Monét; a low budget video shows the pair dancing around wielding IRL emojis, tossing giant virtual phrases like “haters” “negativity” and “Trump” off the screen. At first glance it could be mistaken for a stan tribute.
A song about throwing fake friends and energy spongers into the trash, ‘Monopoly’ is a playful, lighthearted moment which seems to fit neatly into Ariana Grande’s recent shift towards sporadic releases. “My dream has always been to be — obviously not a rapper, but, like, to put out music in the way that a rapper does,” she told Billboard at the end of 2018. “I feel like there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren’t… I just want to fucking talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do,” she added. “Why do they get to make records like that and I don’t?’ So I do and I did and I am, and I will continue to.”
Ariana Grande is undoubtedly hyper-aware of the news frenzy around her by now; flinging a line like “I like women and men” into the mix has predictably spawned mass-speculation about whether ‘Monopoly’ serves as her ‘bisexual coming out moment’. And yeah, while that’s possible – really, who knows! – it seems likely that they’re both making reference to Victoria Monét, who told fans last year that she came out to her family at Thanksgiving. Either way it’s a cackling eye-roll towards the gossip whirlwind that seems to orbit around Ariana Grande, at all times; ‘Monopoly’ seems to serve as a lighthearted laugh at how exhausting it all is.
Whether they’re making reference to making “a fuckin’ album off that Clicquot?” (the creation of ‘thank u, next’ was reportedly fuelled by French champagne) or waving goodbye to 90% of ‘7 Ring’s royalties thanks to its Sound of Music sample, ‘Monopoly’ is essentially Ariana Grande mucking about with her best mate. Together, they’re Marie Kondo-ing any poisonous influences that don’t spark joy out of their inner circle. When so much of pop can be sculpted and polished towards perfection for months on end, it’s refreshing to hear something so flippant and fun.