I want to start by saying that I absolutely love Ariana Grande. I think she is one of our generation’s most underrated and talented singers. For those of you who didn’t see her incredibly on-point impressions on Saturday Night Live, I implore you to go to YouTube and watch them. You’ll be amazed. But at the same time I need to talk about my issue with the super popular song 7 Rings. I had no problem with the song until I listened to the lyrics and heard this line:
“Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”
Admittedly I’ve been a little out of the American pop culture loop as I’ve been living on the beaches of Thailand but when I first heard 7 Rings, I was into it. I quickly Shazam’ed it and thought to myself “of course it’s Ariana.” The girl is on fire. 7 Rings is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a long time. It sounded really familiar, and that’s because she samples My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music (and I’m sure in 15 years somebody else is going to sample 7 Rings).
The meaning of the original My Favorite Things is about finding happiness from simple things : “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…these are a few of my favorite things” None of these items cost a lot of money and many of them are free to enjoy.
Ariana’s version has creatively (and obnoxiously) flipped the meaning of the song with materialistic items that are only easily attainable by the wealthy. According to Wikipedia, “Louboutins can sell from $495 and up, with crystal-encrusted pairs costing up to $6,000.” For the average American, a pair of Louboutins is simply out of their means.
First, let’s establish a few things. Ariana Grande’s net worth is estimated to be $50 million in 2019. If she stopped working today and never earned another cent, and assuming a very conservative 5% average annual growth for the next 30 years, her $50 million would become worth over $216 million in 2049. In other words, she is incredibly wealthy. The average American on the other hand, has an annual income of $59,039.
“Happiness is the same price as red-bottoms”
A pair of $495 Louboutins costs 0.00099% of Ariana’s net worth. Using math, it is the equivalent of the average American spending $.58. The point is, when Ariana Grande wants to buy Louboutins, it’s cheaper for her than for the average American to buy a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee does bring many people great joy – a hot cappuccino during a New York winter or an iced latte during a Thai summer does put a smile on my face, but these are affordable pleasures that most people can afford and enjoy. These are the simple pleasures that she should be bragging about, not a pair of $500 shoes. Or, she should brag about buying a Facebook share in 2011 that’s worth more than 4x more today. She should brag about the piece of property she purchased in 2013 and how it’s value has increased by 30%. Don’t equate happiness to shoes. Because it isn’t true and it’s setting a bad goal for your fans to aim for that a majority cannot afford.
It’s been proven that long-term, sustainable happiness does not come from material items, but instead it comes from having more time,and I would have to agree from personal experience. When I was living in NYC making a deep six-figure income, I also had to deal with a lot of pressure to continue performing. Due to my career choice (which was client-facing), I had to do a lot of entertaining which meant many late nights at lavish restaurants, bars and clubs. To many people, this sounds like a dream life, but it wasn’t healthy. While I was getting fat pockets, I was also gaining weight. Even though I could afford whatever material items I wanted, I knew I wasn’t happy. Living on the beach in Thailand without the time demands and performance pressures of a full-time job has made me infinitely happier. I earn a fraction of what I did when I was living in New York City, but I find my personal happiness comes from things that cost nothing or close to:
-unlimited vacation days
-spending time with my dogs
-a fresh coconut
-foot massage on the beach
-delicious (and cheap) healthy, organic food
I do believe for many of you, a similar lifestyle would bring you far more happiness. If it wouldn’t, why do so many people escape to tropical islands as soon as they get the chance to?
As many of us get older, we will come to the realization that time and living in the moment are what bring us the most joy, not shoes. I used to define the 1% by how much money somebody made but now I define it by how much freedom somebody has and only 1% of us are truly unplugged from the corporate matrix that society told us is the way to go. Many of us are sheeple, too scared to take the risk and lose stability to exchange for the reward of establishing our own schedules, our own hours, our own income.
I have an issue with 7 rings because, like many of today’s empty, vapid songs, it perpetuates the belief that happiness comes in the form of not only material things, but expensive items of luxury. And that’s totally OK if that’s what makes a person happy and they have the financial flexibility to do so. But unfortunately, 99% of Americans cannot afford these items without going into debt or making a significant dent into their net worth. A majority of people will never experience the lifestyle that she’s bragging about: “my receipts be lookin’ like phone numbers…bought matching diamonds for six of my bitches.” By the way, an American phone number is at minimum 7 digits (not including the area code) so she’s referring to spending at least $1,000,000 and up to $9,999,999 (which I do believe is an exaggeration on her part).
I would make the argument that the Ariana Grande song is irresponsible as it encourages financial irresponsibility (financial stupidity) and sets the benchmark for happiness as expensive shoes. For the urban youth that finally has $1,000 extra dollars in their pocket, Ariana’s song motivates them to spend their money on something that almost immediately goes down in value after purchasing it. The responsible thing to do would be to tell her audience that happiness comes from financial freedom (which is really what she’s saying) and the path to financial freedom (for most people) is learning how to manage your money when you first have some. This includes making wise investments such as a diversified stock portfolio and/or investing in real estate.
Perhaps the lyrics should be:
Yeah, breakfast in Thailand and dishes of pad Thai
My investments in real estate just doubled
Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for all the gains
Buy myself all of the best investments (Yeah)
Been through some bad shit, I used to be sheeple
Now I’m unplugged like Neo from the matrix
Rather spend time on the beach not office
No full-time job I just do what I want
Make big investments, the beach, is poppin’
You like my fruit? Gee, thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it (Yeah)
And just so you see the lyrics I wrote work out, I’m debuting my non-singing voice for you. Awk.
My first personal investment was in Facebook when it first IPO’ed. Since then, my investment has more than quadrupled into a nice Thailand retirement fund by itself. My next move is investing in rental properties in Florida. Not only will the principle go up in value, but I’ll have positive cash flow from my renters. This means I’ll have increased financial flexibility and freedom. Can the same person that invested their money in Louboutins say the same thing?
I checked the YouTube comments on the original song My Favorite Things and it looks like I’m not the only person who made a similar observation about this song (but of course I had to write a whole blog post about it and record my own version of her song because I’m extra).
Happiness is not red-bottoms Ariana.
Be Free My Sheeple!