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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Singapore F1: Ariana Grande vocal strengths let down by weak production

The diminutive pop-star headlined the second day of the grand prix after race concerts in Singapore

Fans arrive at The Padang to see pop-star Ariana Grande perform as part of the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Brendon Thorne / Singapore GP via Getty Images
Fans arrive at The Padang to see pop-star Ariana Grande perform as part of the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Brendon Thorne / Singapore GP via Getty Images

A pop concert is a tough act to balance.

On one hand you need to deliver the spectacle fans crave for while maintaining a sense of artistic integrity.

Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour shows how challenging it can be to be get it right.

When the 24-year-old diminutive pop star cancelled her Du Arena show in 2015, the region’s “arianators” and music lovers were understandably disappointed at missing out on one of the world biggest music tours.

However, after having witnessed her concert as part of the Singapore Formula 1 festivities on Saturday, I can report that only the hard core fans would have felt short changed.

Grande is the tiny woman with a huge voice.

When performing with her a tight five-piece band at the The Padang (a large open field in the downtown district), you could have mistaken the musicians for security guards as opposed to the hired musical help.

Fans arrive at The Padang to see pop-star Ariana Grande perform as part of the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Brendon Thorne / Singapore GP via Getty Images
Fans arrive at The Padang to see pop-star Ariana Grande perform as part of the 2017 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. Brendon Thorne / Singapore GP via Getty Images

But once Grande lets’ that crystalline voice rip — and she is fortunately generous on that score — it really is an instrument to behold.

Unlike her peers, Grande doesn’t sacrifice vocal performance for inane dance choreography. While she does get involved in a few numbers, she largely leaves all that acrobatic business to her multicultural troupe of buff male dancers.

Instead, Grande freely roams the stage during her fast moving hour long set and delivers pitch perfect renditions of hits such as the stuttering pop gem Every Day and the care-free Bad Decisions.

The highlight was Side to Side; it is brilliant slice of reggae inflected pop that had Grande delivering those hooks flawlessly while cycling on a treadmill.

That’s if you can see her at all — which brings us back to that spectacle part. While Grande proves she is a vocal powerhouse, she is woefully underserved by her production.

There was something cheap and cookie cutter about it. The only discernible feature about the set up was the stair case allowing her to descend to the stage.

There was no art work or iconography complimenting the Dangerous Woman album which she is supposedly promoting on this jaunt. Even more explicable, the lighting was drab and dimly lit at all times. If that was meant to denote some sense of nourish mischief, then it was ill judged.

This is a pity as Grande is an artist that deserves better.

In tracks such as the euphoric Love Me Harder and the celebratory closer Dangerous Woman, she displays a stoicism verging on the inspirational.

When this tour landed in UK in May, her Manchester show was the subject to a deadly terrorist attack. That alone would have been enough to let any artist hang up the microphone for good. Each of Grande’s subsequent shows has been a tale of perseverance over that trauma — if only she was supported with a show to reflect such a powerful sentiment.

Grande wasn’t the only pop star performing on Saturday.

Raye was the special guest of the exclusive Amber Lounge F1 parties, held at the purpose built venue near the track.

Raye performs as part of the Amber Lounge, an exclusive after party held as part of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix.
Raye performs as part of the Amber Lounge, an exclusive after party held as part of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix.

The up and coming RnB singer performed a selection of her favourites including Sober and You Don’t Know Me — the latter a chart topping collaboration with fellow English producer Jack Jones.

The Singapore Formula 1 concert series continues tonight on race with a triple header of performances. Taking the stage at sunset for the pre-race concerts are vintage UK pop acts Duran Duran and Seal, followed by the final post-race show by Scottish DJ- and future Abu Dhabi F1 headliner — Calvin Harris.

Stay tuned to Arts and Culture for all the latest music action from the Singapore F1.

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