My final article on the songs I’ve enjoyed the most in 2018 is about “No Tears Left To Cry” by Ariana Grande. If you’re a serious music fan you might think this is a slightly surprising choice as one of my top three records of the year, but bear with me…
If I’m honest, until about 18 months ago I’d be hard-pushed to tell you who Ariana Grande was. She had one of those names you’d recognise for being in the newspaper, even if you couldn’t quite remember why. I had a vague awareness that she’d come to fame through being on a kids TV show and then branching out with her own singing career.
And I really enjoyed her song “Problem”, featuring Iggy Azalea, which was one of my songs of the year for 2014.
But, those things apart, I knew very little about Ariana Grande and didn’t particularly follow her music.
That was until the terrible events after her May 2017 in Manchester where, in a despicable cowardly act, a maniac ended the lives of 23 young concert-goers, and injured over 500 others, as they made their way home, dancing and happy, after an Ariana Grande concert in the city.
The daughter of a great friend of mine was at that concert, and was mercifully unharmed, but to think she could have been one of those statistics, and the impact that would have had on my friend, doesn’t bear thinking about.
What happened next, from a young woman then in her early 20s, was what inspired me about Ariana Grande.
It would be easy for her to hide away in a Hollywood mansion surrounded by security guards and never come out again. I don’t suppose any of us would have blamed her if she did.
Having all those young lives on your conscience…even though she did nothing to cause the tragedy except agree to sing for them…would deeply affect people with 10 times the life experience that Ariana Grande had up till that point in time.
But she didn’t do that.
Within a couple of weeks she was back in Manchester. Defiant. Determined not to let a handful of lunatics win. She took a message of hope and positivity to a hastily-arranged charity concert for the victims of the tragedy at the Old Trafford cricket ground.
To give them credit, many top music acts came along to lend a hand and show their support. But this concert was all about Ariana Grande’s personal commitment to making sure the bad guys didn’t win, and giving of herself to the city of Manchester and the young people who had been so terribly affected by the events of just a couple of weeks earlier.
One of the highlights of the concert was her duet with Coldplay’s Chris Martin of the very appropriately-titled Oasis song “Don’t Look Back In Anger” which I wrote about exactly a year ago today.
I admired Ariana Grande from the moment she announced she was coming back to Manchester and was bringing love, not hate, to the people there and further afield, like my friend’s daughter, who were affected by the terrible events of that May evening.
While all this was going on, Ariana Grande had some well-publicised relationship issues to deal with, and more than her fair share of tragedy there too. Throughout all this, bear in mind we’re talking about a woman not yet 25 years old. Any one of these would have felled people twice her age…all of them together, and it’s a miracle she kept going. I’m not sure I would have been able to do so under similar circumstances.
But if you’ve been through any sort of personal tragedy, even one several orders of magnitude less than Ariana Grande has had to contend with, you’ll know there comes a time when you’re all cried out. Your body has given up every ounce of emotion, hurt and pain it’s capable of giving up…you’ve literally got “No Tears Left To Cry”.
While the hurt never goes away entirely, there comes a time when your relationship to the tragedy changes. And that’s what “No Tears Left To Cry” is all about…
Right now, I’m in a state of mind
I wanna be in, like, all the time
Ain’t got no tears left to cry
So I’m pickin’ it up, pickin’ it up
I’m lovin’, I’m livin’, I’m pickin’ it up
After you get through the tears and the sorrow, you end up somewhere on the other side. It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped caring about the tragedy, it just means God, The Universe, karma, or whatever you believe in, has given you the tools and the strength to carry on, so you can do whatever you were meant to do with your life.
In Ariana Grande’s case, that was to sing. So that’s what she does…
They point out the colours in you, I see ’em too
And, boy, I like ’em, I like ’em, I like ’em
We’re way to fly to partake in all this hate
We out here vibin’, we vibin’, we vibin’
Even without the back story, “No Tears Left To Cry” is a great song. Written by Ariana Grande, Savan Kotchea, Max Martin and Ilya it skips very lightly through what could be quite a downbeat topic and brings out the hope and love that represents the other side of the coin from tears and despair.
In the hands of such a skilled songwriting team, who were also all involved in “Problem” back in 2004, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that “No Tears Left To Cry” could take a serious subject and turn it into a light summer anthem.
That’s not to trivialise the grief, but it’s a great metaphor for moving on and letting love and hope back into our lives again.
It’s also very much a “coming of age” song for Ariana Grande as it requires some serious vocal skills. People are sometimes dismissive of “pop princesses” and their vocal skills…occasionally that’s justified, but in Ariana Grande’s case, “No Tears Left To Cry” demonstrates she’s no mean singer.
To showcase her vocal talent the video below is of her live performance for BBC Radio 1, the UK’s premier pop music radio station. When you’re doing this sort of thing live for a radio audience of millions, the pressure is definitely on. And Ariana Grande delivers on every ounce of her vocal performance (the live drums and the smooth bass are particular delights from this performance too…there’s real talent in the room here…).
If you’d like to see the official video, that’s here. In a particularly touching tribute, Ariana Grande uses the visual of a bee, the symbol of the city of Manchester, at the end of the video to show her deep-seated connection with, and affection for, that city and the part it continues to play in her life.
A gesture like that shows just what a decent human being Ariana Grande is. She wants the city to know she’s never forgotten it, and that she’ll carry it in her heart forever.
We don’t give out awards for “person of the year” around here, but if we did, Ariana Grande would be my pick, for both this year and last year, based on her response to the events after her Manchester concert in 2017.
But we do give out awards for record of the year around here. And for me, with the poignant back story, top-notch vocal performance and infectious summery vibe, my record of the year for 2018 is Ariana Grande with “No Tears Left To Cry”…
And if you take one line from her song to guide you through 2019, let it be this one…
We’re way to fly to partake in all this hate
Leave hate behind. Bring some love with you into 2019. The world needs a lot more love than we’ve seen lately…let’s hope 2019 is the year love and hope win over hate and despair. I certainly do.
The video is below, but if you prefer you can listen to the track on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/2qT1uLXPVPzGgFOx4jtEuo
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