You know, I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed to admit just how passionate I am about pop music. It’s usually shrugged off as frivolous in the grand scheme of things, especially when compared to things like politics or finance… you know, things that ‘actually’ matter. Despite that, my bedroom is plastered in posters of teen idols. There’s even a low-key shrine to Ariana Grande in there. “Aren’t you… you know… getting a bit old for this now?” my beloved mother will ask, as I become profusely excited about Ariana’s limited edition perfume being bundled with a super chic toiletry bag. But as last night’s One Love Manchester concert proved to me, there’s nothing shameful about being a pop music fan – and especially not an Ariana Grande one.
The One Love Manchester concert was a beautiful, heartfelt and sincere tribute, which saw musicians using their platform to spread love. For just £40, 50,000 music heads were treated to sets by pop heavyweights such as Take That, Pharrell, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Coldplay and Justin Bieber – all of whom helped the benefit show to raise over £2 million for the We Love Manchester fund. And at the heart of all of this was Ariana Grande.
At just 23 years old, the grande-sized pop star with the venti voice has handled the unexpected terror attack at her May 22nd Manchester show with maturity and strength beyond her years. A loud and proud feminist, Ariana’s Dangerous Woman era had been her largest to date; the record was nominated for a few Grammy awards while spawning her most recognizable hits to date. But the fateful Manchester date of her second world tour made this an unforgettable album for a more heart-breaking reason. “Broken,” she tweeted after the terror attack targeting her fan base of primarily young girls. However, that broken-spirited Ariana was a far cry from the beams of passion and pure fearlessness she radiated with during the extravaganza. What Ariana now represents to her millions of impressionable fans, and the world, is the power to fight back against evil and to remain bravely resilient in even the scariest situations. Ariana Grande is not just some fluffy pop star anymore; she’s a freedom fighter. What’s wrong with idolizing somebody like her?
“Olivia [Campbell] would have wanted to hear the hits,” Ariana revealed before bursting into her biggest one yet, “Side to Side”. That comment was a poignant reflection as to who and what exactly One Love Manchester was commemorating. The twenty-two lights which had been installed at the top of the stage in memoriam of the twenty-two victims on the night of Ariana’s fateful concert was a touching gesture to show that the lights of the victims will always shine brightly.
Truth be told, there isn’t usually anything majorly radical about the content of pop music. We know it’s formulated to stick in our brains, so that our coins stick in the purses of music multinationals. But that simplicity is what helps the music transcend boundaries. Cultures. Languages. Lyrics from the night, like “I’ll be your lifeline tonight” and “throw your bombs and your blows, but you’re not gonna break my soul”, eerily resonate with the tragedies the world has experienced within the last few weeks in particular. Also, while I don’t feel that a pop ballad featuring the lyric “I know that this is my fault, I should have been more careful” (which Ariana noticeably skipped during her performance of the song last night) is the most fitting theme for this tragedy, “One Last Time” and the other pop hits performed during One Love Manchester highlights how a song can be interpreted and used as comfort in diverse ways. That’s because music is powerful. Music unites. Music heals.
The police officers twirling with children to Justin Bieber and security personnel bopping with audience members verified that pop music will never be lowbrow; it is what keeps us sane, cheerful and united during all of the madness. Music is our most influential tool, and we utilized it with One Love Manchester to bring together humans from all different walks of life and parts of the globe so that we could celebrate harmony and triumph over evil. The pop musicians of One Love Manchester reassured us in a dire time of need to feel safe when, in reality, the world isn’t right now. For that reason, I declare that it’s time to stop shitting on pop music once and for all – sometimes, it really can heal the world.