Let's Face It: Ariana Grande Might Just Be The Saviour We All Need
In 2017, pop music has become more about the spectacle than anything else. Did he cheat or didn’t he? Team Taylor or Team Kanye? Who will Rihanna drag next? Tie that in with the huge cultural regression society is undergoing, and it can all be a little overwhelming. Gone are the days when carefree, escapist pop reigned over the music landscape as everyone, now more than ever, needs their voices to be heard louder than those trying to divide us. However, that shouldn’t suggest that the one vital connection keeping us bound is love and no pop star knows that more than Ariana Grande.
When Ariana’s Manchester concert was attacked back in May, she became the face of a tragedy no-one expected and that no-one asked for. The singer, usually one to never let us see her sweat and simultaneously one that was constantly surrounded by diva rumours, was broken. The tweet she sent out following the bombing has subsequently become the most liked tweet of all time, which, if nothing else, shows us that the world stood behind Ariana. The most problematic thing she’s ever done involved licking a donut, and now she was a symbol of one of the most horrific attacks in recent memory – one against predominantly children.
With all that considered, it would be fair to assume that her Dangerous Woman tour would be cancelled. However, Ariana proved just how dangerous she is by not only continuing her tour but also tackling the epicentre of the tragedy head on by hosting a benefit concert – one that raised over $13 million. Her courage, chutzpah and unshakable confidence in love being all-conquering resonated with millions across the globe and now seeing her live show was more of a hot priority than ever before.
Naturally, when Ariana took over the International Convention Centre in Sydney on Sep 9, not one seat was left empty. Not one soul was left apathetic. And not one mind was left un-blown by Ariana Grande’s iconic and powerful vocal performance in opening number ‘Be Alright.’ Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? A woman who endured a tragedy like few have experienced before her reminding everyone, before anything else, that everything is going to be okay.
That gentle optimism is what anchored Ariana’s entire show. For long sections of the show, she sang sitting down or delicately walking around the stage with minimal audience banter. But, even when she did dance and strut her way through hard-hitting bangers like ‘Side To Side’, ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Problem’, we still got an overwhelming sense that she was pouring her heart out to every single person in attendance. This was strictly a no-hate zone. More to the point, it seemed like the post-Manchester end of the Dangerous Woman tour had been a renaissance for Ariana. Certain songs, like ‘Break Free’ and ‘One Last Time’, had been immersed in a completely new, humbling aura. As she sings ‘I’m stronger than I’ve been before’, we got the feeling that this was no longer a generic break-up lyric – it was a testament to the ultimate resilience and strength of a woman who went through an unimaginable tragedy.
What's more is that is that none of this is being used directly to sell her music or her brand. This isn't the Dangerous Woman Who Survived The Manchester Attack tour. Ariana didn't choose this to happen to her, and she certainly never wanted to be the poster child for resilience because of what she went through. She takes it in her stride, but she never lets it define any aspect of her. The One Love Manchester event wasn't done in selfishness and nor was the continuation of her tour beyond that point. The attack is something that happened to her, but there's no way she's hauling that baggage along with her. Instead, she is wearing her plea for us to love each other on her sleeve brightly and so everyone can see.
Love – of self and of each other - is the message Ariana Grande was unashamedly showboating and that makes her show one of the most important we’ll see for quite some time. When she took to the stage by herself to sing her rendition of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, the audience was completely illuminated by the shine of iPhone torches and the glistening of tears. By far the most tender moment of the performance, Ariana let her legendary vocals be heard by a near-silent crowd. As she ambled across the T-shaped stage, a barrier-side fan was waving a rainbow flag (probably in hopes that she’d wear it) and that single moment in time perfectly surmises the entire show. With the bullsh*t LGBTQIA+ people are facing in Australia right now it was incredibly comforting to see that unity exists, even if just beyond the theatre walls there are people who try relentlessly to divide us. Add visuals of same-sex couples embracing one another during her performance of ‘Thinking Bout You’, and it was hard not to feel your heart beat through your chance.
Beyond the importance of love and acceptance of each other, Ariana Grande’s final impression that she left Sydney with is that she is one not to be f*cked with. A visual interlude showing herself with words like ‘strong’, ‘divine’ and ‘intellectual’ superimposed in front of her may have gone unappreciated were it not for the blatant repletion of ‘female’ and ‘not asking for it.’ Ariana is wearing her feminist badge proudly and encourages us all to do the same. Closing her monster, 22-song set with ‘Dangerous Woman’ we finally understood what she meant by this that whole time.
Ariana Grande is not threatening, she’s not mean-spirited and she’s by no means out to harm anyone. Her definition of dangerous reads of strength, confidence and sureness of self. Her voice, both literally and metaphorically, is so powerful that it resonates with millions beyond her, and she might not even fully realise it. In a pop world that is so rampant with shade and subtweets, and a society that is rampant with far worse, Ariana Grande has proven that she is the most important pop star in the world right now and that lies in her constant reassurance that love will, indeed, conquer all.
- Jackson Langford