Pop Culture Advent Calendar, Day 22: Ariana Grande
Inspired by NPR, every day (gulp) from December 1st to 24th, I will be highlighting
a pop culture moment from this year that I loved. Today I talk about the Woman of the year!
I write this loaded down with bags of Christmas food shopping, waiting in Greggs while my mum gets the ingredients for pepper soup. It's truly Christmas!
I'm kind of at a loss about what to write, so I thought I'd ponder on Ariana Grande, who I've fallen in love with this year. Of course, with Sweetener, Thank U Next, her BBC special, the graceful way she handled the very tragic Manchester attack, the write up in Time Magazine, a spew of broken records and her recipient of Billboard's Woman of the year award, I'm most definitely not the only one.
I first encountered her music when I was at university, and I listened to Yours Truly on repeat while I worked my way through a mountain of law coursework. I can't listen to Honeymoon Avenue without thinking of Leicester University's hallowed law library. Even though I loved that album, I didn't really pay heed to her afterwards. She was a voice and a ponytail and a good discography. Which is shitty and wow, the internalised misogyny is STRONG in that sentiment.
But something clicked this year. While everyone was getting excited for her first release since Manchester, I listened to Dangerous Woman - REALLY listened to it, and really came to appreciate what a wall to wall banger machine it was. And as my YouTube home feed filled itself up with Ariana performances and interviews, it struck me how charming and weird she is, and how earnest she is. Even in her high-profile relationships, especially her relationship with Pete Davidson, I would look at GIFs of them and how happy they look and think 'Even if this ends, God at least they had that.'
A lot of this sentiment underscores her work. I'm NOT a music critic, but No Tears Left to Cry seems to run away from the type pain that likes to follow its subject. The song grounds itself in the bliss she sings about. 'I'm in a state of Mind I wanna be in like all the time.' Her newest release 'Imagine' paints a picture of a relationship in the quiet, intimate stages, then in the chorus she sings 'Imagine a world like that,' telling us there is big silo between her picture of bliss and the reality of her life. Much of Sweetener is happy, but it feels like a delicate happiness, fully felt but with the understanding that something could tear it away at any time, as has happened in the past. Beyond Manchester there's of course the tragic death of Mac Miller and a big high profile break up, and that's just what's in the public domain.
And Ariana openly walks that line between sorrow and euphoria. In her
Billboard speech, she said she had 'no idea what the fuck I'm doing'. Her twitter feed is hilarious and sad and relatable. Of course, I don't really know her, and like all famous people, and people in general, at least some of this is constructed. But I really like what we got of her this year and truly wish her all the best.