Ariana Grande’s presence is otherworldly. It feels electric being in the same room with the formidable singer who has time and time again told her adversity to fuck off. Her Sweetener World Tour is the physical embodiment of not only her superb talent, but incredible emotional endurance. Here stands the woman who has overcome or endured a terrorist attack, the PTSD that followed, then, an insanely public engagement to Pete Davidson, the passing of her ex-beau Mac Miller, a very public breakup with Pete Davidson, and all the while released two excellent number one albums; here she stands before the nearly-filled 19,000 seat Barclays arena, empowered through her vulnerability, and showing us how to make the light chase the darkness away.
When you pause and think about how much Ariana Grande has opened up and given us through her music, it’s awe-inspiring. Within the two years since Manchester, she has made music that’s resilient; it celebrates her success and it highlights her readiness to fall in love and it offers us an opalescent, mellifluous balm for any size wound. There was a moment where no one was sure if she would ever take the stage again, which is very understandable. Just because her singing is near perfect and her dance moves innate gestures, there are nights that are more difficult to perform than others. And yet, she sings through the pain, and at times the tears, looking to us in the stands for affirmation. “No Tears Left To Cry” wasn’t meant to be understood as literal, but a testament that her tears weren’t going to hold her back. From the opening night of her four-day stint in New York City, it’s clear that Grande is using the stage as a healing sanctuary.
Grande’s set opens with a solar eclipse. A hemisphere-shaped screen sticks from the stage’s giant backdrop. An orange halo is what remains of the cosmic darkness as Grande belts Sweetener opener “Raindrops (An Angel Cried).” As we wait for her to appear from underneath the stage, her voice pours over the stadium—enforcing that she’s powerful and celestial even without her physical presence apparent. She effortlessly leads into forever-anthem “God Is A Woman,” strutting around stage in knee-high, platform boots with a deep purple mini skirt and bralette combo. Throughout the night, she flaunts an array of outfits in the pink and purple spectrum, transitioning from Maleficent purple to Sleeping Beauty Pink to a vibrant rhinestoned outfit à la Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers and then Dangerous Woman-era black patent leather. There seems to be no obvious concept to these phases, except that we get a feminine array of sweet, sultry, and sexy.
Grande doesn’t say much to the crowd besides many loving shouts of “New York.” She’s got too many songs to get through, too many hits to sing, and even then we only get a small portion of her acclaimed catalogue. The show is chopped into a few different segments, regimented by somewhat bizarre and unconnected videos — one an adorable video of a young Ariana doing a comedic bit as an Eyewitness News anchor, one a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Close To You,” one an abstract video of Grande in shadows while “In My Head” plays, and then a short of Grande sitting on a staircase with a Rapunzel braid singing Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” Cohesive? No. Granting us access to the varied and strange and amusing corners of Grande’s mind? Yes.
There was something incredibly hypnotic about seeing the crowd last night drenched in pink light. We partied as if it was a Wednesday — one massive group of Plastics watching our Regina George flourish in the limelight, feeling the thrill that any contact with her (even being punched in the face) is glorious. I felt one with beglittered tweens next to me that asked me to videotape them do a choreographed dance when “Be Alright” dropped. Together, we were in awe of it all: The diva belting! The choreography! The running and jumping in seven-inch platform heels! So many emotions!
The Arianators don’t just love Ariana Grande, but they’re part of her support system. This was made apparent when it came time for her to sing “Breathin,” a transcendent pop song that captures the paralysis of internal panic. The song itself is already a mantra for Grande, telling herself just to keep her lungs moving and that the anxiety will pass. But to hear thousands of fans sing it back in unison to you is a giant hug of validation.
During the controversial, but colossal hit “7 Rings,” our Plastic pink transformed into a hue closer to the Pink Ladies. She and her dancers donned matching cropped jackets. This is the moment in the night where her dialogue got more playful. “What does this one say?” She teases the crowd, slowly reading the back of her dancer’s costumes. “I want it, I got it.” She gives a cool, mischievous laugh. “I like the idea of it, you know, manifestation.” The arena was lit up with plastic pink rings. Our ponytail queen was at her fiercest and most playful. At the end, she’s lying on her belly, face in her hands, and legs kicking in air without a care.
“raindrops (an angel cried)”
”God is a woman”
”break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored”
”sweetener” / “successful”
“Side to Side”
“Love Me Harder” / “breathin”
“Right There” / “You’ll Never Know” / “Break Your Heart Right Back”
“get well soon”
”the light is coming”
”no tears left to cry”
“thank u, next”