Fresh off of the Coachella stage as the youngest artist in history to headline the most coveted music festival in the nation, Ariana Grande is taking her Sweetener Tour to Tampa’s Amalie Arena on May 28 and Orlando’s Amway Center on May 29. With two chart-topping albums only months apart that have redefined the singer’s career, in both musicality as well as maturity, Grande has achieved a record-breaking paramount unimagined for a woman of her age.
While the painful events of the past few years have clearly charted the course of Grande’s most recent two albums, Sweetener and Thank U, Next, she has not let clouds of sorrow or thoughts of regret become the driving force behind her projects. Rather, Grande has taken an approach of hopeful vulnerability, openly addressing these moments—the attack on her Manchester concert, the death of her former boyfriend Mac Miller, and her split from ex-fiancé Pete Davidson—with an honesty that leaves room for a positive conversation with her audience about the joy reality offers when moving on becomes inevitable.
There are effortless notes of this joy on the hip-hop-tinted Thank U, Next, from the poppy self-assuredness of “NASA” and “Bloodline” to the romantic daydream of the opening track, “Imagine.” Yet this daydream seems unrealized, as Grande fantasizes about a love that was cut too short to be fulfilled. Perhaps the artist introduces her latest album with this choice of lyrical expression to imply that her happiness is now viewed from a seat of sadness.
And as wonderfully prolific as Grande is in the studio, she is even more successful at developing a connection with her fans through the live experience.
On her fifth studio album, Grande also takes a moment of melancholic reflection with “Ghostin,” her tribute to the late Miller, and simultaneously a possible love note, at the time, to Davidson, as Grande deals with the passing of the love echoed in “Imagine.”
While these deeper valleys of introspection fashion Thank U, Next into a remarkably real work of the eclectic nature of human emotion, it definitely marks an incomparable high point in Grande’s career, if not her personal life. The album’s lead single, “Thank U, Next,” became the singer’s first Billboard no. 1 and the song with the longest run at no. 1 by a female artist. This feat was followed closely by “7 Rings,” which broke Spotify’s 24-hour streaming record and stands as the largest YouTube music video debut of 2019. The combined singles garnered Grande multiple broken records, making her the youngest female artist to achieve two no. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as the woman with the fastest succession of these no. 1 songs.
And as wonderfully prolific as Grande is in the studio, she is even more successful at developing a connection with her fans through the live experience. With no shortage of high ponies and even higher notes belted out in arenas worldwide, The Sweetener Tour showcases a more sensitive side of Grande, with emotional on-stage renditions of Thank U, Next favorites—but these in no way replace the fierce conviction of hits like “Dangerous Woman” and “No Tears Left to Cry.” Grande’s softer sense of realism only strengthens the air of poise and grace under pressure the singer has always carried.