2020 has been filled with virtual concerts of all shapes and sizes. Over the past nine months musicians have put on everything from acoustic Instagram live shows to production heavy live streams in order to keep us entertained. And while they’ve been mostly good – some even brilliant – there’s always been an unsettling sense that something has been missing: an audience screaming back every word.
But with two weeks until the end of the year, Ariana Grande has provided the goods, with her new film Netflix film Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You. It’s largely a concert movie, using footage shot during Grande’s last night of five at London’s O2 Arena during the Sweetener World tour (the tour in support of ‘Sweetener’ and ‘Thank U, Next’), her final show in Europe and day 81 of 101 days on tour.
The effervescent performances are intercut with backstage footage – vignettes showing rehearsals, pre-show antics and Grande talking about the time she was FaceTiming Kristin Chenoweth while picking up dog poo. Yes, really.
These brief documentary moments will no doubt delight fans, and some show revealing reactionary footage of Grande – excitement at the prospect of Trump’s impeachment and talking about her hero Mariah Carey in particular; but at other moments they feel crow-barred in to prove that Grande is oh-so-relatable. Plus, there’s an early-on appearance from manager Scooter Braun, a figure whose presence feels slightly uncomfortable amid the controversy surrounding Braun.
Most of the 90 minute film, though, is made up of Grande onstage, putting on the sort of spectacular, escapism-fuelled show that, after nine months of no live music, we’re all yearning for. It’s pure pop excellence.
Ariana Grande is an electric performer. Her elastic vocal gymnastics are spectacular, her signature whistle-tone ecstasy, and the slick dance routines are spellbinding. The show, chockablock with hits, is consistently stylised – vivid lighting encases the stage in woozy red and purple hues, adding a sense of theatrical drama. Heavily choreographed moments look astounding – particularly ‘God Is a Woman’, in which Grande and 12 dancers recreate Da Vinci’s Last Supper, and ‘R.E.M.’ where waterfall visuals flow over the entire stage set-up.
Behind the spectacular bells and whistles, though, is a whole lot of heart. Grande and her dancers are less like on-stage colleagues, more a gaggle of mates (could win any dance-off the entered). During ‘NASA’ they sit together on the edge of the stage singing along, and on ‘Thank U, Next’ Grande appears flanked by four dancers as if they were a band, before sashaying around the stage with rainbow flags. She shows moments of vulnerability too, addressing the crowd before the pre-encore finale of ‘No Tears Left to Cry’, she reveals “I didn’t think I was going to be able to do one show, and now we’ve done 80-something”, before thanking the fans, her band, and everyone involved in the tour.
Excuse Me, I Love You may not be the most revelatory musical film we’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t need to be. Instead, it’s 90 minutes of euphoric pure pop, and at the end of 2020, it’s the sort of wholesome viewing we could all do with.
- Director: Paul Dugdale
- Starring: Ariana Grande
- Release date: December 21 (Netflix)