Earlier this week, Ariana Grande was crowned Billboard‘s Woman of the Year with a generous, intimate cover story and a banquet of striking photos. In it, she opened up as much as she could about her upcoming fifth album — yes, the one apparently due to drop only a few months after this year’s excellent Sweetener — that’s officially called Thank U, Next. (Its vibe, she said, is “feminine energy and champagne and music and laughter and crying.”) But that was only the beginning.
Thursday night (December 6), Grande took the stage at Billboard‘s Women in Music 2018 to officially accept the honor after performing the album’s title track. And following a thread she first presented in November when she debuted it on Ellen, the singer gave even more details on what to expect. “I feel like we made if The First Wives Club were an album,” she said onstage, adding it was “some of the most fun times of my life in the studio.”
After a loving (and genuinely hilarious) intro by soul legend Patti LaBelle, Grande alternately got very real and punctured the more serious moments with light ribs at her own expense. “I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life,” she said, before admitting that while people may see her success as a sign that she has her shit together, she decidedly doesn’t. But she’s trying.
It was a joyful and cathartic expression of sentiments, in line with the tenor of the entire evening. Some laughs, some tears, and a lot of celebrating the endless drive and work of women in the music industry. Here are the highlights.