Here’s Ariana Grande at the BBC, in Better Times
Ariana Grande at the BBC, an hourlong television special with a self-evident title, aired in the U.K. last night. The full program is not officially available to watch outside the country, though you probably won’t have trouble finding it. It features Grande in concert, performing “Dangerous Woman,” “One Last Time,” and multiple songs from this summer’s album Sweetener backed by an all-woman orchestra. The music is lovely—Grande’s voice sparkles, her consonants melt, and “God Is a Woman” sounds wonderful with strings.
Between songs, presenter Davina McCall enacts the model of the sympathetic young diva interview. Grande wears a black evening gown with a massive tulle skirt that stacks up around her like piped frosting. She speaks candidly about dealing with anxiety from a position of privilege: “I feel like the luckiest, most blessed girl in the world, so I almost feel guilty that I have it. It’s just in your head, and it’s just so crazy how powerful it is. No matter how good things are, it can totally change everything. It takes hard work and therapy and self-care and so much love.” We learn that she has seven pet dogs who enjoy their own bedroom, where one particular animal has burrowed “through the mattress, and the feathertop… to the center of the Earth,” and that this does not perturb her in the slightest because, to Ariana Grande, the very tectonic plates are made of feathertop mattresses and cloud emojis.
At least that’s the impression one gets watching Ariana Grande at the BBC, and like a lot of Grande’s recent career, in retrospect it feels too pure to last in this world. McCall touches delicately on the 2017 Manchester concert bombing, sparing Grande from the obligation to speak by substituting pre-taped testimonials from grateful Mancunians and a personal thanks. The interview doesn’t address anything that’s happened since, with at least one good reason: According to the BBC, the special was filmed September 7, the same day Grande’s former boyfriend Mac Miller was found dead at home in Los Angeles. The story broke in L.A. that afternoon, well into the evening U.K. local time. Miller isn’t mentioned during the BBC special; the fact that the program was taped at all suggests the news hadn’t yet reached Grande, who subsequently canceled some of her public appearances.
So there’s a softly tragic irony in (furtively, illegally) enjoying this broadcast now, when present-day Ariana Grande is watching ex-fiancé Pete Davidson play off his humiliation for cringey SNL laughs and tweeting through it. Did everything really feel less dire two months ago? Watch an official clip of Grande performing “God Is a Woman” with an orchestra from the Ariana Grande at the BBC special below.