Ariana Grande released her new song, "No Tears Left to Cry," and a psychedelic new music video on Thursday, but the new track isn't quite as maudlin as the title would imply.
The visually discordant music video is actually a pretty perfect match for Grande's tonally conflicting track, which starts off sounding like an emotional ballad about the pain of life before suddenly switching gears and quickly becoming an upbeat soft-synth pop single with hints of R&B, then switching back again as quickly.
As soon as you've mentally readjusted to the unexpected sonic left turn, and you begin falling back into the rhythm of Grande's light, effortless vocals, the song drops back into the more melodic tune, brimming with hidden emotion. But soon after, we're back into dance-track territory.
Although, it seems that contradiction, confusion, and cacophony might be the entire point of the track, which is notably the first new music the 24-year-old singer has released since the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017, where terrorists attacked the venue where Grande had been performing, killing 23 people and injuring over 500 others.
While the song does not directly refer to the incident, or the city Manchester itself, the lyrics seem to describe Grande's emotional journey and recovery after the attack when she sings, "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, I'm pickin' up."
The trippy, dream-logic music video, directed by Dave Meyers, features an unsettling mix of Inception-inspired twisted skylines, gravity-distorting dance numbers, gothic hallways and a few brief shots that feel like they came directly out of the title credits from a season of American Horror Story.
One minute we're watching Grande walking on the ceiling, then falling into a corridor made of Christmas lights, and then we're dancing sideways on a building with a cyber-punk mega-city sprawling off into the distance behind her, as a group of suit-wearing, umbrella-wielding men dance in front of her from her. It quickly becomes hard to gauge what emotions the video or the song are trying to communicate.
Once we get into the kaleidoscopic shots of Grande's mouth, followed by a legitimately disturbing yet beautifully composed scene showing Grande removing her own face like a mask, and setting it next to some identical face masks on the floor -- all of which are singing -- the narrative message of the video wells obscured by several layers of contradicting imagery.
However, it's hard to not to connect the dark, contrasting visuals to a potential inner turmoil hidden within the artist, and her art alike.
This is the singer's first new music since the release of her Dangerous Woman album, which came out in May 2016.
For more on Grande's real-life emotional journey following the Manchester attack -- including her benefit concerts and philanthropic efforts -- check out the video below.
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