The world has been debating whether or not global superstar, Ariana Grande, is queer-baiting on her latest single ‘Monopoly ft. Victoria Monét’. At surface level, I get why people are accusing Grande of queer-baiting. After all, she sings the lyrics, ‘I like women and men’ on the track. However, she is essentially the biggest pop star in the world right now. Everyone is talking about her every move. So the question needs to be raised – does Ariana Grande really need to queer-bait to get more attention? … I don’t think so.
Grande has always been a huge ally to the queer community. She has been cemented as such through her unwavering support for her openly gay half-brother Frankie, her pride performances, gay bar bangers like ‘Break Free’ and ‘Into You’, and simply her authentic love for the queer community. Billboard named her this generation’s ‘gay icon’ in 2017 article titled ‘8 Reasons Ariana Grande Is The Gay Icon of Her Generation’. But due to online backlash from the queer community, Billboard has retitled the article to 8 Times Ariana Grande Was a Strong LGBTQ Ally.
In her response to even more backlash surrounding her headlining of Manchester Pride, she explains that she is not trying to be the “face” of the gay rights movement. She just wants to put on a show for her fans.
The ending of her video for her single ‘Breakup With Your Girlfriend’ was controversial as well. Despite clarifying that the girl she almost kisses is supposed to be herself, many saw the video as queer-baiting. To be honest, I was also confused at first.
As the LGBTQ+ community, we are supposed to be accepting of all people’s experiences with sexuality and let people express how they feel. For someone in Grande’s position, however, to what extent are we keeping that privilege from her? To the general population, she is just another voice on the radio and her life is a spectacle to be talked and joked about. At the end of the day, however, we can’t forget that she is an actual human being.
Who are we to police the way she comes to terms with her sexuality?
If it ends up in an announcement that she’s bisexual or that she is simply open to the idea of liking a woman without the need of claiming a label like being bisexual, it shouldn’t matter.
Her longtime songwriting partner and best friend, Victoria Monét, is featured on the song. Monét is openly bisexual, so perhaps the line “I like women and men” is coming directly from her, but Ariana sings it too. On the first post-chorus, the duo sings it together, but on the second post-chorus, Ariana is singing that line solo.
In a world where labels are both limiting and freeing, is she really under any responsibility to come out as bisexual? Perhaps she is trying out what it feels like to freely express this same-sex attraction for the first time. I think the exploration of sexuality to test true feelings before having to ‘come out’ is a plight of queer people everywhere. Having to present yourself to the world, essentially offering yourself up for discrimination and people’s opinions is hard. For anyone. Including Ariana Grande.
Expressing her sexuality in this way and then analyzing her feelings after doing so is a freedom she should be given. There is no specific process one should have to go through to validate their sexuality or figure it out. Simply because it could be seen as queer-baiting does not make it so, and truthfully, it feels hypocritical to demand a response from her about her sexuality. Additionally, she does not have to have kissed or slept with a woman to validate these feelings.
Another song that has received backlash for similar reasons is Girls, a collab by Rita Ora, Charli XCX, Cardi B and Bebe Rexha. The key difference here is that Girls representation of bisexuality diluted it to being “fifty-fifty” and only occurring after drinking “red wine” or being in a threesome with a guy. Ariana’s song simply mentions the line without any real context, which is just as confusing but not as problematic.
The real tea will come with her response. If she’s bold enough to explore her sexuality this way, I do think we deserve SOME KIND of response. She doesn’t have to come out as bisexual, because that label may not fit her, but this line does deserve some kind of explanation to her fans. The power she has to inspire her fans who identify with her unwillingness to label herself should not be understated, and hopefully, she can come to a place one day that lets these fans know that their experiences are valid and shared. So far, however, she’s been pretty quiet.
You can also stream Monopoly here!