How NOT to write about music – 29. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande

You’re not going to like me liking this.

You’re not going to like me liking this, seriously liking this like I think it’s one of my favourite two or three songs of 2018 easy, its grace and pace and sense of occasion, its yonic-centric video and smoothly provocative (yet not so) imagery, the way it seizes the moment – this moment – so beautifully, Ariana’s voice & its trills & tricks & joy of expression pushing at boundaries, her glam boots, the heteronormative yet oddly transgressive representation contained within her lyricism and visual imagery, the sweet R&B looping & stops & starts, the whoa-whoa-ah, the use of dynamics, her public image, her private image, the way she has toppled her fellow pop icons so gracefully yet so completely since the horror of the Manchester attack and the coming together of #onelove, the whoa-who-ah, the fact I can believe in her as a celebrity/religious figure because she is so believable and seemingly harmless (heteronormative, remember?) but simultaneously not so, the way she speaks up for female solidarity, the actual title of this song & its laughter at stereotypical patriarchy & yet it’s only a fucking pop song (right?), the whoa-whoa-ah, the pacing, her vulnerability, the way she plays to her fragility and turns it into a strength, her strength, the slow build, the carnal rampant sexuality, her boots, the way she is defining an entire generation, I have no idea whether for good or not, the way she laughs in the middle of this, my song of 2017 (that alone makes this performance special, near-transcendent), the way she stumbles and laughs at herself in the middle of this (that alone makes this performance special, near-transcendent), the whoa-whoa-ah, the way she’s so operating at the top of her game right now (as evidenced by her two recent singles), so in control and radiant.

I come at pop not from a teenage girl perspective (that would be absurd) or even a middle-aged white dude perspective (although undeniably this must influence me). In 2018, Ariana is first and foremost a diva, and one that has been greatly affected by tragedy and heartache. (Think Judy Garland, for the archetype.) I come at her music from a gay perspective.  I wrote an article for The Stranger about this once – I can’t find the original, but I reference it here.

I told you. You’re not going to like me, liking this.

But I believe in her.