‘Remember when i was like hey i have no tears left to cry and the universe was like HAAAAAAAAA bitch u thought,” Ariana Grande confided in her 59.4 million Twitter followers last month. It was the kind of darkly funny self-deprecation her fans have come to know and love – more like a text you’d send to your best friend than to a group as big as the population of Italy.
This has been the worst year of her life, as a visibly emotional Grande herself said when she accepted the woman of the year award at the Billboard Women in Music awards recently. Released in April, her single No Tears Left to Cry marked her return to music after the terror attack at her Manchester concert in May 2017. Earlier this year, she ended her two-year relationship with the rapper Mac Miller after his substance abuse became, in her words, “toxic” (he died of an accidental overdose in September). The following month, after a highly public whirlwind romance, Grande called off a short-lived engagement to the Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson
But it has also been her biggest year professionally. Her fourth album, Sweetener, was widely acclaimed and will be up for best pop vocal album at the 2019 Grammy awards. A new, non-album single, Thank U, Next, has broken streaming records; an album of the same name is promised imminently. In March, she will embark on a world tour, promising a special show for Manchester.
In the throes of personal upheaval and heartbreak – not to mention the workaday grind – Grande has not only found resilience but sought to spread it. Her One Love Manchester concert raised £17m for victims and their families. Three months later, while still experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, she performed at the Concert for Charlottesville benefit for victims of an attack at a far-right rally in Virginia. This March, she met survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting at the March for Our Lives in Washington DC.