Ariana Grande has the Voice and the Moves, but Where's the Personality?

G1: We’re less than five minutes in to the show and already there are fireworks going off.

A1: I wish Ariana Grande were more interesting. I wish she were more like Miley Cyrus.

G2: At least the fireworks were thematically appropriate, given that The Honeymoon Tour kicks off with “Bang Bang.” They were just a little unexpected. Usually you do something like that either as a teaser for bigger things to come or you save it for some late show excitement. Here it’s just the first of few big set pieces in the show.

A2: Which is not to say that I want Ariana Grande to be weird for the sake of weird or tell us about how much she loves drugs, I just wish she had a little more personality. The most she’s ever shown really was when she licked that donut and said what she said about America. Not to dwell on that, but it’s the most interesting thing she’s ever done.

G3: There are two moments in the show where she floats on something. The first is on a cloud within the first five songs of the set and the second is when she makes her appearance at the start of Act 2. (You know it’s a new act because she’s changed outfits and there was a video to set up the scene.) Flying is usually something you build up to for your end of the second act stunner or to get you to the small stage in the middle of the arena. Shockingly, there is no small stage here.

A3: Hate her for whatever you think is worse — vocalizing that thing many people think but don’t get caught saying or just spreading germs with no regard for donut lovers — but at least she showed there was a human underneath those cat ears. How would you really describe Ariana Grande? Girl Who Makes Music With The Weeknd For Kids Who Shouldn’t Know The Weeknd Exists?

G4: It’s a weird question to ask, but has Ariana Grande earned a show this big? It’s not a question of ticket sales, it’s a question or production size. The Honeymoon Tour is a top-tier production with one of the physically largest stages you’ll see. The amount of money put in to this production is staggering. And this for an artist who is incredibly talented but only has a handful of very popular singles, none of them without a collaborator to help out. She’s still missing that one truly transcendent solo song, like a “Bad Romance” or a “Fireworks” to really tie everything together. She’s missing a “Party In the USA.”

A4: This lack of personality really stands out when you see her live. No show this big, with this many bells and whistles, should have a hype person to talk to the crowd for the artist. Not that I particularly enjoy them, but this is the type of show that exists for artists popular enough that they can stop things for five minutes to give Yet Another Empowering Pop Music Speech because their fans will hang on their every word. Here, well, there was that one time where Grande said, “I love you” 27 times in less than two minutes without really saying anything else. How do you get to be so talented – her voice is a dream and she’s got the moves to go along with it – and look so confident on stage without knowing how to talk to your fans?

C1: When Ariana Grande performed at the Rodeo earlier this year, I talked a lot about how I thought the performance was weird. To her credit, a lot of the things that seemed off about that show were way better here. Her singing was on point all night, and was often stunning. There were actual costume changes, even if there were also times where she’d disappear from the stage for the sake of disappearing. Her hype man had slightly more personality than a pizza box, showing off his skills scratching and displaying some solid tap-dancing chops.

This was, at the very least, a better show.

Which is not to say that I’m entirely convinced that it’s a good show. In a vacuum, maybe, it’s a great show. If you sat down someone from another world and told them, “watch this for an example of human culture” I figure they’d at least never get bored.

When it comes to Ariana Grande, maybe trying to fit her performances into binary options of good and bad is a fool’s errand. Sure, she wasn’t shipping a ton of those blinking cat ears available at the merch booth and the crowd really didn’t seem quite as excited as you’d think they’d be at the climax of the show, but when so many of your fans have trouble not wearing themselves out during the show because they’re up past their bedtime, good and bad is probably irrelevant.

It’s still weird, though.

Personal Bias: There was a bit in the show wear Grande wore these gloves that would modulate her voice to do different things depending on how she moved her hands. It might actually be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a major pop show that doesn’t involve fighting a giant angler fish.

The Crowd: Something I learned this weekend is that kids under the age of 4 have no problem doing the Whip and Nae Nae.

Overheard In the Crowd: “Who really needed to get high at the Ariana Grande show?” asked my roommate, after noticing the smell of pot in the air. Not to be everything I hate, but come on, folks: think of the children.

Random Notebook Dump: Shout-out to Chuck Klosterman.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia