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Ariana Grande Explains the Making of Her Hit ‘Problem’

Ariana Grande
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Ariana Grande is smashing records with her latest single, ‘Problem,’ a hit that was a long time in the making for the actress-turned-singer.

The 20-year-old began her career on Nickelodeon’s 2010 comedy hit ‘Victorious,’ where she played the red-haired Cat Valentine. Her reputation exploded among Nick teens, but despite her major television success, the star wasn’t happy.

“I hate acting,” Ariana admitted to Rolling Stone with a laugh. “It’s fun, but music has always been first and foremost with me.”

Yet applying her massive TV fame to music proved to be difficult. Her 2011 debut single, ‘Put Your Hearts Up,’ was “so inauthentic and fake.”

The pop star said, “That was the worst moment of my life. For the video, they gave me a bad spray tan and put me in a princess dress and had me frolic around the street. The whole thing was straight out of hell. I still have nightmares about it…”

Yikes! Luckily, her next big break, her 2013 album ‘Yours Truly,’ was more geared towards Ariana’s own tastes and brought her a hit she could be proud of with the track ‘The Way.’ The success of that album captured the attention of producer-songwriter Max Martin, who has worked with huge names like Britney Spears, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5.

Martin and his team of writers began working on half a dozen songs for the budding singer. One of the crew members, Savan Kotecha, responsible for several of One Direction’s hits (including ‘What Makes You Beautiful’), says the idea for ‘Problem’ began on his phone.

“I don’t remember where I came up with it,” he said. “Maybe in an airplane bathroom. On my phone I have an audio note where I whisper, ‘One less problem.’”

‘Problem’ was nicknamed ‘The Whisper Song’ because it was meant to have a structure not normally used for pop songs.

“Their objective was to do the opposite of a traditional song structure,” Ariana shared. “The idea was to have a really belt-y verse and then a completely minimalistic, whispering, basic chorus. At first, I just didn’t like being all belt-y right away.”

Once Iggy Azalea was added to the track, the hit song started to come together. Martin added his touch of genius — the song’s starting horns — and a chart-topper was born.

‘Problem’ topped the iTunes chart within 37 minutes of its release, and earned the titles of fourth-largest debut week for a woman and the biggest-ever debut for a singer under 21. It took her a little while, but Ariana Grande has officially hit the big leagues.

Next: See Ariana Grande Without Makeup

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