The Light Is Coming...

By Lucy Harbron - 21:18

At the weekend I went to see Ariana Grande. In the weeks leading up to it so many times my excitement was met with laughs, asking why I would bother paying so much and travelling for her. But I knew it was something I had to do, something cyclic to round off an experience, and simply to say thank you to a highly influential artist in my life, if only through giving her the ticket price.

Until last year, I hadn’t really considered Ariana Grande that much. I liked a couple of her songs, I’d done a burlesque routine to greedy and could deeply appreciate the insane voice she has, but I wouldn’t really have called myself a ‘fan’. My interaction with her was too shallow for that. But after the Manchester attacks, after her One Love concert, after Mac Miller died, after everything she went through in such a short space of time and picked herself back up from over and over with patience and grace, there was something different in her music. I think she definitely took on a different place in culture. She could no longer be seen as this pristine pop queen, her trauma broke down the idea of pop stars being untouchable, forever happy and perfect, causing us all to re-evaluate our footing when it came to the genre and the princesses that rule over it. I think globally, she gained so much respect and love, we want her to be okay as we rally round her releases and concerts, but also there’s something uniting in her pain, in the loss of the bubble gum pop-shield as her lyrics touch a darker place allowing us to bring our pain too, to a genre that didn’t want it before. Regardless of the experience and the trauma, there’s solidarity to be found in her music as she creates this space that allows you to be affected while also giving room to joy and healing.

That was my experience with it at least. Sweetener came out when I needed it to. The album is all empowering. Each song, even the sad ones, point upward to healing and growth, never letting them wallow. I clung to it and her when I was at my lowest. Here I had this woman that had been through probably the worst experiences you possibly could and had come back still able to sing these songs with conviction, saying ‘I’m gonna be happy’. I listened to it every day, held up The Light is Coming as an affirmation or a promise that I’d get through it, used Breathin as an anxiety aid, treated God is a Woman as a hymn to worship myself. When things felt too hard to be worth it, I’d look to Ariana Grande. If she can thrive after all that, I can get through this.

Thank u, next was the same. Coming half a year later, I could sing along to the title track with conviction, actually starting to feel the recovery I’d longed for with Sweetener as the soundtrack. She says look what I got, look what you taught me as an instruction for me to pause, for everyone listening to take in how beautifully they’ve grown since. But it’s more than that, thank u next was a call to become self-aware, she takes no prisoners in songs confront reliance and projection and self-destructive habits, all the dirty secrets of recovery that I’d known too well. Somehow listening to someone else sing about negative habits you know you’ve developed too, acts as a kind of intervention. So, I started listening to it in the shower, every night before I journaled, because if she can hold herself accountable so can I. If Ariana can do it, so can I.

As Ghostin starts to play, there is a rare moment of sorrow. She still leaves a place for it, just as she makes room for conversations about the realities of PTSD and grief, she doesn’t deny any of the emotions. There’s a 4-minute window to lay it all down, cry it all out, feel every drop of the pain you’ve been working through. Despite her experience being so extreme and so intense, one that the majority of us (hopefully) cannot and will never truly relate to, her music still lets people in, she still lets you borrow part of her trauma to place your own into. She lets you sing Ghostin and cry for your own loss, and god I did, before she picks you right back up again, returning to upbeat informed pop.

It’s hard to summarise. When people ask me why I love her so much, it’s hard to explain. I love her because her voice is insane, unlike anyone else this generation. I love her because of the sheer effort and dedication she’s put into her career, giving the best at every show for every fan. I love her for her humour. I love her for her honesty. I love her for her strength. She could’ve just stopped. At this point, so much of her work must be so difficult and so painful, most other artists would have given in, retreated back. But she didn’t and doesn’t, standing up against terrorists, people who told her she killed Mac Miller, people who throughout her career have told her she’s too sexual or too dumb. These huge giant enemies and she’s still here twirling for us. And god if she can do that, I can get through a break-up, you can get through whatever you’re dealing with, just put 7 Rings on and borrow a little power.

The show was exactly as I expected; flawless. She’s a true professional, flowing from song to song to song, powering through her multitude of hits with full energy and full choreography each time. Her voice never falters, in fact, it is more powerful and dreamy in real life, full of old-soul character and richness. Despite being in a stadium so big its almost hard to fathom, Ariana still managed to make moments of tenderness and quiet. The crowd hushed as she began, the lights dimmed after the final bars of Mac Miller’s Dang, and she sang Raindrops almost uninterrupted as we stood transfixed, in awe of that! voice! The show was full of those moments, that beautiful kind of soft power as she allowed herself brief moments of vulnerability but mindful to snap back to lights and hair flips quickly, obviously denying herself permission to get upset as she has done before. I wouldn’t have minded, I think we all would’ve cried with her, found a sense of catharsis in such a human display from such a huge figure, her tiny 5ft frame towering over us on giant screens. We would’ve let her cry if she wanted, but she wanted to give us a show and she did that; immediately, throughout and with ease.

Honestly, she could’ve been awful and I would be here gushing. The show didn’t particularly matter to me, I just wanted to be there. A year on from the nights I spent cross-stitching the words ‘the light is coming’, clinging to her words like a life raft and letting them pull me along. They played a big role in getting me here, as cringy as that sounds. The assurance I found in her music, the joy it brought me in bad times, all the singalongs and shower boogies, all the therapeutic cries, all the power, all the softness. Everything. That’s all I can really say, it was everything to me this year and I’m so glad I got to see it live just to see her there, still going.

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  1. Can I just say that I love your blog? The way you write is so raw, honest, and genuine. That's rad that you were able to go see Ariana live. She has pipes like no other! Sweetner and thank u next are both albums I've had on rotation this year and been really impressed by. I think she is such a trooper for continuing to push forward through the hand she's been dealt. Loved reading your words!


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