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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Ahead of Abu Dhabi gig, a look at the rise of pop star Ariana Grande

Ahead of Ariana Grande's concert in the capital this weekend, trace the 22-year-old starlet's rise from teen queen to pop princess.
Ariana Grande performs in New York on her Honeymoon Tour, which lands in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The 22-year-old’s rapid ascent has taken her from TV acting to global music fame. Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd / Corbis
Ariana Grande performs in New York on her Honeymoon Tour, which lands in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. The 22-year-old’s rapid ascent has taken her from TV acting to global music fame. Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd / Corbis

That’s (nearly) her real name

Grande was reportedly named after Princess Oriana, a character from the Felix the Cat cartoons. Of Italian descent, Grande’s full surname is the double-barrelled Grande-Butera, taking the name of both her mother Joan Grande (a telephone-and-alarm company boss) and father Edward Butera (owner of a graphic-design firm), who reportedly separated when Grande was about 8 years old.

She started young

That was also the age Grande was when she appeared on national television for the first time, performing American national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner ahead of a Florida Panthers ice hockey game – the footage is on YouTube.

Performing runs in the family

Grande’s older half-brother is Frankie Grande, a stage actor who has appeared in Broadway productions of Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages, and is now an established TV and YouTube personality.

On Broadway ...

In 2008, Grande received her big stage break, winning a supporting role in Broadway musical 13 – for which she won a National Youth Theatre Association Award. While in the Big Apple, she also landed after-hours gigs singing at Birdland, the historic jazz club opened in 1949 to honour saxophone legend Charlie Parker.

... and by 16, she was on TV

In 2009, Grande successfully auditioned for a role in the ­Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious – which quickly began to open many other doors. Playing redhead Cat Valentine, Grande was quickly established as a fan favourite. Her first recorded music appeared on a series of soundtrack albums, and when Victorious was cancelled in 2012, she took a role in spin-off show Sam & Cat, alongside iCarly star Jennette McCurdy. The show ended in July last year, but Grande had already moved onto a career in music by then.

She disowned her first single

While acting in Victorious, Grande began uploading impressive cover version of songs by artists including Adele and her biggest influence, Mariah Carey, to YouTube. She was soon signed to Republic Records, and debut single Put Your Hearts Up was released in December 2011. Despite achieving gold-record sales – yet failing to scrape a chart position – a disappointed Grande distanced herself from its adolescent style. She waited until March 2013 to release a follow-up.

Next time she got things right

Reportedly three years in the making, and preceded by hit singles The Way (featuring Mac Miller) and Baby I, Grande’s debut album, Yours Truly, was an instant success, debuting at the top of the US Billboard charts in September 2013. Grande co-wrote six of the 12 tracks. The year ended with the moderately successful Christmas Kisses EP, and she scored another minor hit with a cover of Wham!’s classic 1980s hit, Last ­Christmas.

And then it all took off really quickly ...

In many ways, that was all an audition for what was to come with sophomore album My Everything, which announced the arrival of a new mature, adult artist, through collaborations with a raft of A-listers. Grande’s coming out party last year went like this: first the multi-platinum Iggy Azalea collaboration Problem, in April. The Zedd hookup Break Free followed in July, and then the triple whammy of Bang Bang, which gave Grande equal billing alongside chart mainstays Nicki Minaj and Jessie J. When the full album arrived in August, it was already among the year’s biggest events, hitting the Top 10 in more than 20 countries, and topping the charts stateside. September’s Love Me ­Harder, alongside The Weeknd, rounded off an incredible year.

Expect to hear a lot more soon

While much of this year has been devoted to her 92-date Honeymoon Tour – which wraps in Japan less than a week after Thursday’s Abu Dhabi show – work is close to completion on her third album, Moonlight. First single Focus might have reminded some listeners of Problem, but it still did tidy business, hitting No 7 on the Billboard charts. Grande isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Ariana Grande performs at du Arena on Thursday, December 3. Door open at 6pm. Tickets prices start at Dh295, from www.ticketmaster.ae

rgarratt@thenational.ae