I’ve been a fan of Ariana Grande for over 7 years, way before she reached the mainstream fame she has today. Even though I’m a big fan, her generic music and image has made me lose interest in her in recent years. Despite this, I still keep up with her latest releases and was somewhat horrified when listening to her most recent song ‘7 Rings’. I’d like to think it was written ironically, but I don’t think that’s the case. If you haven’t heard it, to summarise, it is a consumerist anthem about how amazing it is to be rich. Click here to see the music video. I thought I’d write a little bit about my opinion on the song, from the viewpoint of someone who is socially and environmentally conscious.
It’s a catchy tune and easy to sing a long too, but I can’t help but feel uneasy listening to the lyrics of the song. Starting with one of the key lines in the song ‘I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.’ Ariana is saying that whatever she wants, she gets it, because let’s face it she’s got enough money for anything she could ever wish for. A lot of fans of Ariana are young and impressionable, is this really sending out a good message in a time where we are facing an environmental crisis? She is an aspirational figure and so is only encouraging people to go out and buy, buy, buy. Consumerism is one of the main reasons our environment is suffering. As well as the fact that it exploits workers across the world. Okay the rest of us don’t have enough money to spend quite like she does, but most people have enough disposal income to participate in excess consumption. This message encourages us to carelessly buy, as long as you like it, it doesn’t matter. But I want people to care about where the item came from and how it was made. Liking something should not be the only consideration when making a purchase. I know it’s only a line from a song, but music can be heavily influential without us even realising, especially when ‘I want it, I got it’ is repeated 21 times throughout the song. (Yes, I did count!)
There are several references to buying frivolously in the song. For example ‘I bought a crib just for the closet’ noting that she bought a new house just for all the clothes she has. This pains me as someone who spends their whole day thinking about how exploitative and damaging our consumption of clothes is to the planet. ‘They say “which one?” I say, “Nah, I want all of ‘em.’ A reference to when she went ring shopping (hence the title of the song) and the shop assistant asked which one but of course, one is not enough. Ariana is promoting a message of more more more when we really, really need less. ‘Look at my neck, look at my jet’ Ariana apparently spent $169,000 on a choker to wear for one performance last year (which is what ‘look at my neck’ is referring to). I just think this is a big slap in the face when there are millions of people who are living in poverty across the world. Not only does no one need a $169,000 necklace, but what’s worse is only wearing it once.
I can admire that the song has lyrics about not needing a man and valuing friendship instead; ‘I’d rather spoil all my friends with my riches.’ I just wish it could have stuck along those lines instead of the arrogant direction it did take. One of the most cringeworthy lines of the song; ‘Whoever said money can’t solve your problems must not have had enough money to solve ‘em.’ Could you be anymore patronising? That only leads listeners to believe that they’re miserable because they’re not rich, which is likely not the case. Studies have shown that money increases happiness to an extent, but once you pass a certain level where all your needs are taken care of, it doesn’t matter how much richer you get, happiness levels stay the same. See here for a study all about that. I really wish big celebrities did not spout out these kinds of messages because it encourages the average person to feel unsatisfied with their life. The reality is that most of who have time to sit around listening to Ariana Grande songs (myself included) are probably pretty well off in comparison to a lot of people in the world. What’s more upsetting is that Ariana herself is clearly unhappy, see her billboard woman of the year acceptance speech. She even notes at the end of the speech that it’s the things and people she’s has all along that make her happiest. It’s not her riches, so does she have to act that way in her song?
I know that 7 Rings is just a playful song that will likely be forgotten about in a few months, but I feel that someone with as much influence as Ariana can cultivate damaging attitudes. Young women and girls are particularly susceptible to this message that we must buy more, always be shopping and keep consuming. But in a world where so many people are exploited for this and where the environment is being damaged beyond belief, we need to turn this message on its head.