Ariana Grande is beginning to come to terms with the deadly bombing in Manchester that happened outside her concert in May of last year.
“There are so many people who have suffered such loss and pain. The processing part is going to take forever,” the 24-year-old singer says in the Next Generation Leaders issue of Time. “It’s the absolute worst of humanity. That’s why I did my best to react the way I did. The last thing I would ever want is for my fans to see something like that happen and think it won.”
She continues: “Music is supposed to be the safest thing in the world. I think that’s why it’s still so heavy on my heart every single day. I wish there was more that I could fix. You think with time it’ll become easier to talk about. Or you’ll make peace with it. But every day I wait for that peace to come and it’s still very painful.”
In the days following the Manchester attack, Grande told her manager, Scooter Braun, “I can never sing these songs again. I can’t put on these outfits. Don’t put me in this position.”
Two days later, Grande decided that she had to do something, so, along with Braun, she organized the One Love Manchester concert. The event featured such stars as Justin Bieber, Coldplay and Katy Perry.
“We put a lot on her shoulders,” Braun says. “And she took over. You know, for the rest of her life, she can say that she is exactly who she claims to be.”
@arianagrande is happy, and it’s important to her that people know that. At 24, Grande is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, and she’s coming out with new music two years after her last album, the blockbuster Dangerous Woman. Her latest single is called “No Tears Left to Cry,” a triumphant, ’90s-house-inflected pop confection, part breathy vocals and part spunky, spoken-word playfulness. She chose it carefully: “The intro is slow, and then it picks up,” she says. “And it’s about picking things up.” Grande made a song about resilience because she has had to be resilient, in ways that are difficult to imagine, after a terrorist detonated a bomb outside her May 22, 2017, concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 people and leaving more than 500 injured. What happened is part of the song, but the song is not about what happened. Instead of being elegiac, it’s joyful and lush, and Grande is proud of it, and of herself. “When I started to take care of myself more, then came balance, and freedom, and joy,” she says. “It poured out into the music.” In the video for the song, she’s upside-down, the way life used to feel. “We’ve messed with the idea of not being able to find the ground again,” she says, “because I feel like I’m finally landing back on my feet now.” #ArianaGrande is one of three International covers showcasing the Next Generation Leaders. Read more about the rising activists, artists and athletes who are reshaping music, sports, fashion, politics and more on TIME.com. Photograph by @jimmymarble for TIME
When it came time for Grande to make new music, she wanted to address her feelings from the bombing, but avoid being exploitative about them.
“I felt more inclined to tap into my feelings because I was spending more time with them. I was talking about them more. I was in therapy more,” she says. “… When I started to take care of myself more, then came balance, and freedom, and joy. It poured out into the music.”
Grande decided to title her new album Sweetener because, “When you’re handed a challenge instead of sitting there and complaining about it, why not try to make something beautiful?”
At the Met Gala earlier this month — Grande’s first red carpet since the attack — the “No Tears Left to Cry” singer exclusively told ET’s Keltie Knight that she’s “grateful to be back.” Check out more of what she had to say below:
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