Ariana Grande's One Love Manchester concert on Sunday was absolutely beautiful.
It was part celebration of Manchester, with Oasis and Take That, and a lot celebration of teenage girls and pop music, with Ariana Grande herself, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Little Mix... not acts that are exclusively liked by teen girls, but definitely ones associated with them, and maybe dismissed because of it. And they ultimately decided not to play a heartbreaking tribute playlist, but to play the hits. The party songs, the ones the fans are absolutely hyped to hear. To get people singing and dancing, even through their tears.
It was all a huge fuck you to terrorism. You're going to bomb a concert aimed at teen girls? Well, we're going to have an even BIGGER concert, with even MORE of this sort of music.
And, of course, there was the amazing strength of Ariana Grande herself. After the attack, I wondered how she'd ever perform again. The trauma and misplaced guilt must be enormous. But she led this concert less than two weeks after the attack. She was clearly heartbroken and overwhelmed, but she sang her heart out. I can't imagine a braver or more admirable role model for all the girls affected by the attack. For all of her fans. She wasn't unaffected. She was clearly putting on a brave face for her fans. She cried while she sang, and sometimes was too choked up for that. But her message was to keep fighting anyway. That her fans needed her, and she needed them, and they would all get through this together. And never was that more clear than when she sang Over the Rainbow, and had to pause near the end, because she was too emotional to continue. But the crowd chanted her name, encouraging her, pushing her on with so much togetherness. She regained her composure. She finished the song. Everyone was crying. But it was the embodiment of so much resilience and hope as well.
People critique the frivolity of pop music, of music that's just meant to be joyful, music that's mainly loved by teen girls. And it's not a coincidence that this concert was targeted, that so many victims are girls under 18, heading out to their first concert with their friends alone, or the parents, coming by to collect them from their adventure. Girls leaving the arena, feeling so confident, so excited, so full of life and giddiness for the present and for the future. I know, because I've been in that moment, at that arena, seeing Justin Timberlake with my best friend age 14.
Ariana Grande fought what must have been great fear and trauma to put on another concert, to reawaken those feelings of power in her young fans, to say that nothing will stop them from loving and living. Ariana's fans from the Manchester show also fought fear and pain to show up at this second concert, to be together and be comforted and inspired again. There was so much strength on display here, and so much defiance. So much love and heartbreak and resilience. Even in the face of another attack in London the night before. In the face of more deaths, more evil, more fear.
You can get merchandise to support the Red Cross We Love Manchester Emergency Fund here.