If you’ve been keeping up with news over the past two years, you’ve seen Ariana Grande at the forefront more than once. Her last stadium tour for Dangerous Woman in 2017 resulted in the deadliest terror attack the U.K. has experienced during her Manchester Arena show. Not three weeks after her fourth studio album Sweetener was released in August of 2018, her long-term ex-boyfriend Mac Miller died from an accidental overdose. And shortly after, her engagement to Pete Davidson ended.
After this onslaught of trauma, a break from music would make sense. But the Sweetener World Tour has become an emblem of her strength to show up despite it. The tour covers the scope of her last two studio albums, Sweetener and thank u, next, which were released within a mere five months of each other.
Since Sweetener, she has crossed musical boundaries, releasing content when it’s ready and feels right, rather than sticking to the typical standards of production that call for advanced promotion and months—or years—in the studio. She responded to a fan’s tweet in March complimenting this new approach saying, “It feels so much healthier and so much more authentic and rewarding. Regardless of the outcome, I prefer this because it’s real and feels happy. These past few months made me fall in love with this job all over again.”
While putting together the Sweetener tour, she communicated with fans throughout the entire process over Twitter, telling them how excited she was and what it’s been like for her. After the tour started in March, she has admitted that performing the music can be emotional hell and like reliving her experiences over again. But she’s honest about that. She still loves singing to the fans so much. She’s said she looks forward to seeing the reactions on their faces.
Her Dallas stop on Tuesday at the American Airlines Center only proved to be more evidence of her success. The show sold out months in advance, and resales were going beyond anything affordable. It made sense, though. The reckoning of Ariana’s voice piercing through a pitch-black stadium, belting out her incandescent opener to Sweetener, “raindrops (an angel cried)” justified a sold-out show long before she appeared on stage. And when she did, she ascended.
Darkness was exchanged for red spotlights that cued “God is a woman,” and her crew arrived paralyzed, in a scene that was meant to imitate “The Last Supper.” Only Ariana could conjure the wave of emotional intensity from the audience that followed. They made their first movements on the stage like waking from the dead. They poured their energy onto the audience and it overflowed. And for the next two hours the five-foot pop princess towered like a queen.
In a world with a mental health stigma that rewards outward presentation first, the level of vulnerability Ariana has committed to is beyond impressive–it’s part of her identity as an artist. As one of the most famous females in the world, she has chosen the admirable act of processing her pain in public, and she’s collected a loyal fan base that might be bigger than Taylor Swift’s because of it.