Last Friday, Ariana Grande debuted the song and video for her new single “7 Rings” off her upcoming album ‘Thank U, Next.” The single is supposedly about a random trip to Tiffany’s where the singer gifted her friends with matching engagement rings. Both were met with some serious backlash, and as much as we love Ariana, we can’t help but notice that “7 Rings” kind of borders on cultural appropriation. Celebrities including Princess Nokia and Soulja Boy claim that the singer ripped off their flows. Rapper 2Chainz also suggested that the music video is very similar to his pink trap house in Atlanta. It poses’ the question does “7 Rings” thrive off of cultural appropriation? Does “7 Rings” owe its existence and aesthetic sound to Black and Asian cultures? The answer to that is yes.
Cultural appropriation has existed for some time now in the music industry and frequently shows white people using black culture and sound to sell records to access a broader fan base. One of the most infamous cases is Miley Cyrus’s 2013 VMA performance and her use of twerking, which is a popular dance among the black community. During her Bangerz era, Cyrus “popularized” twerking and also adopted a “hood” persona.
‘7 Rings’ is very reminiscent of 2013 Miley more specifically her in Mike Will Made Its ‘23’ music video. In both videos the artists can be seen rapping and using hip hop inspired slang giving overall trap vibes. They also feature black women as props referencing their weaves, and black women twerking in the background. Ironically both ‘23’ and ‘7 Rings’ were directed by the same person- Hannah Lux.
As long as the music industry keeps allowing it to happen will it ever change? The lines are beginning to blur between appreciation and appropriation.
The ‘7 Rings’ video is pink and glossy and filled with reckless behavior from Grande and her friends. Pink Cadillacs with neon interior sit in the background as Grande sings about how rich she is. The artist starts off by singing to the tune of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things,” then quickly goes into a trap beat. The pink house in the video bears a striking resemblance to 2Chainz pink trap house, which was used to promote his 2017 album “Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.”
Throughout the video, black and brown and East Asian aspects are used heavily to create a vibrant or lit aesthetic. Things that are usually described as ghetto or hood in videos with people of color are now painted to be glamorous when used by artists such as Gwen Stefani or Katy Perry.
Compared to the music video, the lyrics are even more disconcerting. Grande adopts a bad bitch tone as she raps the chorus “I want it, I got it” similar to Beyonce’s ‘Formation,’ she also references The Notorius B.I.G.’s ‘Gimme the loot.’
The lyric that has caused the most controversy is “you like my hair? Gee thanks just bought it,” which references Grande’s infamous ponytail and the extensions she uses. Although some white girls do buy their weave it sounds kind of weird paired with the hair lyric.
Grande landed in hot water when she made a comment stating ‘7 Rings’ will end racism. A fan respnded with a comment upset that Grande missed the point of the backlash.
She then apologized saying “Hi hi. I think her intention was to be like… yay a white person disassociating the negative stariotype [sic] that is paired with the word ‘weave’….. however I’m so sorry for my response was out of pocket or if it came across the wrong way. Thanks for opening the conversation and like… to everyone for talking to me about it. It’s never my intention to offend anybody.”
Other phrases are puzzling such as “when you see them racks, they stack up like my ass,” seem more appropriate for a curvier woman.
In a recently deleted video, Princess Nokia slammed the singer for ripping off her song “Mine,” which is a track off of her 2017 album 1992. The singer played both songs and said to the camera “Doesn’t that sound familiar to you? Cause that sound really familiar to me. Ain’t that the song I made about black women and their hair? Sounds about white.” The post was later taken down after Nokia was accused of stealing the very same hook herself. Soulja boy also noted that the song sounded a lot like his single “Pretty Boy Swag.” He tweeted “Lol stop stealing my swag.” He then called the ‘Thank U, Next’ singer a thief.
Ariana has had a long relationship with black music and black influences in some sorts and not just with her credits, but also her appearance. Over the years she has been accused of blackfishing referring her darkening skin tan, and for adopting a blaccent.
The evidence is present, but it is hard to completely condemn Grande when other Caucasian artists are less forgivable.
Even though this is a misstep for Ariana, this is a chance for her to take accountability and do better. The singer is a tremendous talent and it would be a shame for her to fall down the rabbit hole of the dreaded A- word like so many other artists. Ariana please stick to giving us iconic bops like “Thank U, Next.”