On Monday night, Ariana Grande fans â AKA “Arianators” â excitedly gathered for a shared purpose; to watch her perform the songs they love. But, the awful events which transpired that night meant that some of those fans didn’t make it home.Â
Grande fans are now mourning the loss to their fanbase; a community whose shared love of her music spans several generations. And, that curious ability to transcend generations stems from her own evolution from an innocent teenage Nickelodeon star to a grown-up pop star who appeals to adults and children alike.Â
Grande found fame as Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon television serious Victorious, and later in the show’s spinoff Sam & Cat. As she evolved into a pop star singing songs with distinctly adult themes, Grande struck a fine balance that so many teen stars have struggled to achieve. She managed to hold on to young fans who grew up watching her on TV.Â
I didn’t grow up watching Victorious, but rather grew to love Grande’s songs about sex and relationships. Her most recent album Dangerous Woman was my anthem as I sat teary-eyed on the London Underground in the aftermath of a breakup. But, her songs are more than just songs about sex and love. As I strut along to the beat of “Be Alright” and “Everyday“, I feel strong and empowered. And, yes, pop songs really do make you feel those things.
Grande’s fans are keen for her to not be dismissed as yet another sexy pop star singing about her bedroom antics. 26-year-old super-fan Elisabeth Joffe says that the reason people underestimate Grande is because “people undermine women who look like young girls” and she says people think that Grande “plays up the sexy baby thing”. But, though she be little â 5 foot 3 inches, to be precise â she is fiercely inclusive, says Joffe.
“Just look at her video for “Everyday.” Sure, it’s a song about sex, but she represents communities that aren’t typically given the sexy spotlight: a plus-sized couple, interracial couple, queer couple, and elderly couple,” says Joffe.
“That’s what her music comes down to for me. It’s inclusion,” Joffe continued. “Catch me blasting her songs in my earbuds on my way to and from work for many years to come. I feel connected to her in a way I don’t with other pop stars because of her inclusive nature.”
For 19-year-old Ellen McArthur and her 11-year-old sister Freya, Grande’s music resonates for different reasons. “For Freya, being a fan of hers makes her feel cooler and it’s something she can talk to other people at school with,” says Ellen. And while the sexy undertones of Grande’s songs are very obvious to Ellen, they go straight over her younger sister’s head.Â
“It’s because her lyrics are totally open to interpretation. The songs are meaningful to adults, but to younger children they’re cute pop songs you can dance along to,” says Ellen.
For other super-fans, Grande represents strength. “Ariana’s music is more than just someone singing over a musical beat. Ariana’s music is strength, love, empowerment,” says 17-year-old fan Stephanie. “She has songs like “One last time” and “Thinking of you” which now hold such a strong meaning to our fanbase since the Manchester tragedy.”
Grande’s music is meaningful because of its ability to include, empower and entertain fans of all ages. Sadly some of those songs have taken on a tragic dimension this week. Â
But, the response by ‘Arianators’ shows the community spirit is strong. And, that spirit will likely grow even stronger in years to come.Â