"k bye for now" Feels Like a Victory for Ariana Grande

The pop star's surprise live albums proves she's better than ever, even in the aftermath of tragedy.

Time and time again, Ariana Grande has proven herself to be one of today's most exciting and talented live performers—despite her career being shaken by an unimaginable tragedy.

About two years after a fatal attack at one of her concerts in Manchester, England, Grande embarked on the Sweetener World Tour, named after her comeback album that showed she was stronger than ever. But that wasn't enough: Just six months after that LP dropped, she released thank u, next, rendering her virtually unstoppable.

Grande's new live album, k bye for now, feels like a victory lap for the pop star, who in the aftermath of the attack, the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, and her broken-off engagement with Pete Davidson, has had a personally difficult past couple of years despite her professional success. In spite of it all, she came back with some of the best music of her career (including her first No. 1 hit). k bye for now puts it all on display, highlighting Grande's immense versatility, stamina, and charisma along the way.

The live album laces together almost every song from both Sweetener and thank u, next, as well as additional career-spanning highlights like "Side to Side" and "Dangerous Woman." It's clear in their studio iterations that each track is tailor-made for the massive arenas in which Grande performed; in their live versions, each song somehow manages to feel even more gargantuan. But at the same time, with Grande's mid-lyric giggles and the enthusiastic participation of the audience, there's an undeniable air of camaraderie between the singer and her fans. These are the people who helped build her back up when she was down. This tour, and by proxy, this album, seems to serve as a celebration of her fans.

k bye for now (swt live)

With the acapella intro of "raindrops (an angel cried)" that crashes straight into "god is a woman," Grande flexes her chops from the get-go, hitting her whistle-register high notes with astonishing ease. The setlist is built for a relentless energy, delivering a constant stream of bangers; there's hardly a slow song until the thirteenth track, "needy." Grande's flexibility is also exemplified with the setlist, showing us her hip-hop-pop side with "7 rings" and "the light is coming" as much as she reveals her affinity for old-Hollywood glam, covering Cole Porter and Mary Martin's "my heart belongs to daddy" before a seamless transition into "dangerous woman." Grande's just as comfortable with 1938 soundtrack numbers as she is with her modern radio hits. But throughout the hour-and-a-half spectacle, Grande shows no sign of wearing down. She belts the chorus of the penultimate song "no tears left to cry" with a triumphant tenacity, as the closer "thank u, next" feels like an appropriate foreword for the era to come.

k bye for now would likely be the best live album of the year, if it weren't for Beyonce's Homecoming. It's hard for live records to sound like anything other than a greatest hits compilation, but a medley of deep-cut fan favorites or mashups with friends like Nicki Minaj would make for a record more notable in Grande's discography. k bye for now solidifies what we already knew about her: She's one of the best performers and pop auteurs of our time. Her live persona will always live in the shadows of devastating tragedy, but this album feels like a rebirth and evidence of moving on.

Music Features

On This Day: Shakira Liberated Everyone's “She Wolf”

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

By Fabio Alexx

11 years ago, on July 10th, 2009, Colombian singer Shakira released the first single off her third studio album.

"She Wolf" is a synth-pop banger built on a B minor progression. It was, in many ways, an insane song, born out of the singer's own frustration and ennui.

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

Though the music was composed by John Hill and Sam Endicott, lead singer of post-punk band The Bravery, the lyrics were all Shakira's own. "[Shakira] contacted him (Hill), asking if he had any stuff," said Endicott. "We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."

Shakira - She Wolf

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Despite falling neatly in the middle of the millennial generation, I was raised on Johnny Cash, Bobby Darin, and the Everly Brothers–which is to say, I understand nothing. Why is Billie EIlish so sad? What does Lizzo dream about? Who said Ed Sheeran was allowed to have a career? What's "DaBaby?" And then there's Harry Styles. Oh, Harry Styles: a beacon of (maybe) bisexual boy band energy and tutu-wearing masculinity. I can dig it. But then he released "Watermelon Sugar." Rolling Stone greeted its arrival by saying "Harry Styles Yearns for Taste of 'Watermelon Sugar.'" They wrote that the "track has the singer nostalgic for 'that summer feeling,' yearning for berries and the taste of watermelon sugar." Aw, so wholesome, so sweet.

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