Review: “yes, and?” by Ariana Grande

Vincent Anthony
6 Min Read

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” is an often repeated adage attributed to Irish poet Oscar Wilde. On her latest single “yes, and?” Ariana Grande serves a delightfully derivative dance bop that flatteringly imitates several of the divas who inspire her artistry.

Prancing out of an Oz-induced hiatus, Ariana Grande puts her Glinda the Good Witch character aside (for now), to remind us that she is an unapologetic savage. The lead single from her forthcoming 7th studio album, “yes, and?” combines the dance-pop sounds of “sweetener,” the sassy trap of “thank u, next,” and the sultry delivery of “positions” for a track that attempts to pinpoint who Grande is an artist.

At the same time, there’s nothing particularly original or innovative about it. While “yes, and?” recalls elements of Grande’s most recent hits, it also heavily borrows from successful sounds by her more innovative influences.

Kicking off with a screwed-up vocal sample created an effect similar to Beyoncé’s use of a Big Freedia sample on the intro of her 2022 house-inspired hit “Break My Soul.” Lyrically, Grande’s take on house-inspired dance-pop is a youthful rewrite of the “resilience” theme in Beyoncé’s more matriarchal anthem. Like Queen Bey, Grande also leans into allyship with several lyrics that signal support for the queer community.

Musically, the song has been compared to another Pop matriarch: Madonna. Before its release, early reports suggested the track contained a “heavy interpolation” of Madonna’s 1990, house-inspired classic, “Vogue.” But… it doesn’t. Penned by Grande alongside go-to collaborators ILYA and Max Martin, the track doesn’t credit any samples, nor does it sound like it heavily borrows anything, aside from being a house-inspired, dance-pop song of the same vein. In actuality, the song is less Madonna-coded than it is Mariah-coded. As usual, Mariah Carey’s influence on pop music remains understated.

Once the beat drops, the self-professed Lamb floats atop it with some masterfully Carey-esque high notes. Long compared to the legendary diva, in recent years Grande has gone from sounding like a student to a graduate in how she takes notes from Carey. Throughout the track, it’s clear Grande’s low-key vocal delivery is inspired by Carey’s late 90s pivot to sultry subdued vocals instead of her early 90s bombast. While Carey generally lets loose on her house mixes of the same era, it seems Grande opts to be the “Christmas & Chill” to Mariah’s “Queen of Christmas” when it comes to house track vocals.

This choice is where Grande falters. In the chorus, she sings, “Say that shit with your chest,” so, you’d expect her to do just that. Instead, she merely mutters “yes, and?” as nonchalantly as she’ll ask you to break up with your girlfriend because she’s bored. While she does deliver a few soaring adlibs later in the track, as one of the most talented vocalists among today’s pop singers, she leaves the listener with less of a “yes” feeling, and more of an… “and?”

While it may be a creative misstep, it might prove to be a wise choice commercially. After a few spins, the song, unassuming at first, becomes endearingly infectious — sort of like Grande as an artist. In the end, the “yesses” of the song outweigh the “and?” aided by its minimalistic music video.

Here, Grande is heavily inspired by another late 80s Queen: Paula Abdul in her “Cold Hearted” video. Emulating the concept in more ways than one, the “yes, and?” video is certainly an homage to Abdul’s 1988 classic. With a similar storyline, setting, ensemble, and similar, yet subdued choreography, the comparison is undeniable.

As Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and indeed, Abdul seemed flattered, calling it an “honor.” However, the second half of Wilde’s quote is often left out: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

While Grande’s “yes, and?” is a fun, enjoyable song that is sure to become a hit, it’s a mediocre track in comparison to the greatness that inspires it. Throughout her career, Grande has been consistently successful — and is by no means mediocre — but often sells herself short. Here, the song’s title is quite fitting: two parts “yes,” and one part “and?” After ten years in the industry, it’s time for Grande to perfect her formula — and start innovating rather than imitating.

Listen to “yes, and?” by Ariana Grande

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Vincent is the founder of the magazine and has had a strong passion for popular music since, well, 1997! If it's not obvious, his favorite artists include Destiny's Child, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, P!nk, and many more. Vincent lives in New York, where he is a high school English teacher, and currently he is pursuing a Master's in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.