Ariana Grande Brought Out *NSYNC, Nicki Minaj & More At Coachella

First, for all of you reading this, an apology: as I write this it’s 1am in California, and I am delirious after three days of partying journalism and mild dehydration. I can only hope what I’m about to publish is in the realm of what could be considered coherent. Here we go. The first weekend of Coachella came to a close on Sunday night, meaning that wannabe influencers from across the globe would soon have to return to those jobs. But for 90 glorious minutes, we could rest our tiny sunglasses on our heads and bid Coachella goodbye with Ariana Grande, who closed out the festival on the eponymous main stage.

Ariana had no less than four outfit changes, which she explained by saying “I couldn’t choose an outfit to Coachella so I just wore all of them.” Aka me when packing for any trip ever, but especially for Coachella.

 

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She came in hot with “break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored” and brought out *NSYNC to sing the bridge (her song samples *NSYNC’s “It Makes Me Ill”). Or, I should say, she brought out *NSYNC minus Justin Timberlake—still good enough for me. Then, they all joined forces for “Tearin Up My Heart”. I’m sure at least half the crowd was too young to know that song, but it brought my old ass a lot of joy.

A little later on, during “Side to Side”, Ariana brought Nicki Minaj to do her verse. Unfortunately it sounded like Nicki’s mic kept cutting out. Sound issues seemed to be an overarching problem throughout the weekend. For example, Lizzo’s Sunday evening set on a completely different stage, an otherwise electric performance, kept getting interrupted by sound issues as well. In any case, Ariana and Nicki continued the momentum from “Side to Side” into “Bang Bang” (sans Jessie J), where once again there were some issues with Nicki’s mic—or so it seemed to me, situated not at the back but definitely not up at the front either. Look, I was not about to camp out for half the day and miss most of Coachella. So I perceived some sound issues is all I’m saying. That said, Nicki looked flawless and the moment she came out immediately injected the crowd with energy.


After another outfit change, and a quick disclaimer about loving Coachella and wanting to cry (same), Ariana broke into “Breathing”. She had a band for the whole performance, but “Breathing” included live strings, which made it more emotional.

There was a brief segue into a few Big Sean songs—Ari covered his part, no appearance there—and I remarked to my friend that I didn’t know the pair had done so many songs together. (Neither of us knew.) I wasn’t the only one ignorant on the apparently vast Ariana Grande/Big Sean discography.

But probably the biggest shock of the night came when Ariana started to break into the chorus of “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, seemingly on a whim. Like you’d do if you were singing absentmindedly while cleaning. Only this wasn’t absentminded at all, because out came P F*CKING DIDDY and MASE themselves. Like, didn’t Mase quit rapping so he could become a pastor? Isn’t that his whole thing?? Did Ariana bring Mase out of retirement? I know I could easily Google it, but it’s 2am, like I said. And anyway, did a single one of us expect Mase to come to Coachella? No. I was shook. He and Diddy rapped the verses and Ari sang the chorus while a photo montage to Biggie Smalls projected on the screens surrounding them.


That concluded the special guest portion. Personally, I was rooting for (and had money on) a 2 Chainz appearance, given that he and Ariana just collabed on “Rule The World”, and that he was at Coachella anyway and dropped by Gucci Gang’s set. So now I owe my friend $5. Sad. Still, *NSYNC was a fun addition, Diddy and Mase were an unpredictable twist, and Nicki was a pleasant surprise that somehow seemed inevitable, but in a good way. Like, we were all hoping for it, and it actually happening made it that much better.

And in the end, we really came to see Ariana anyway—not her famous friends. She showed off her immense talent (she really can SING, hitting all the high notes and only taking brief breaks to change outfits) and did a pretty good mix of old hits and current tracks off Sweetener, the new album she’s currently on tour supporting. There wasn’t a single song of hers that I wished she’d done. Well, maybe “imagine”, but the girl’s already been through so much this year—I was not actively rooting to see her cry onstage, and that song is emotional af.


And of course she closed with “thank u next”, after a brief fakeout where she let us believe the show was over for a few agonizing minutes. She turned off the lights and pretended to walk away, so we all started chanting “thank u, next”, but come on. Of course she was going to do “thank u, next”. And do it she did, for her final song of the night and of Coachella weekend 1. It was no recreation of every beloved female empowerment movie, but it was still amazing to watch. Ari’s outfit was coordinated with the visuals on the screen. Her dance moves were choreographed and on point. And towards the end, a confetti cannon shot out confetti that matched her outfit and the stage’s visuals and ended the whole thing with a bang, literally, with fireworks.

Thank u, next weekend.

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