Can Ariana Grande's 'Dangerous Woman Diaries' Save YouTube Premium?
On Thursday, November 29th, international pop star Ariana Grande released season one of a docu-series entitled Dangerous Woman Diaries on YouTube Premium. Dangerous Woman is Grande’s third studio album. A tour and three singles later, Dangerous Woman cemented Grande as a serious player in the music world.
Dangerous Woman Diaries Part One
The first episode, The Light is Coming, begins with a time stamp. ‘Eighteen months earlier’, it reads. Home video shows Grande chilling with friends. She introduces them to her latest album, Sweetener. Then, speaking directly to the camera, she promises fans behind the scenes looks of her with Pharrell Williams in the studio, chilling with then-boyfriend Pete Davidson, and an in-depth look at the VMA performance of “God is a Woman.”
“Working with Pharrell is really dope because he pushes you to go places you wouldn’t normally go,” Grande tells two friends in bed. There are two camera angles, one staring straight ahead at the thruple. The other camera sits at the side of the bed. It gives the video a kind of Real World confessional vibe but filmed in black and white. The overall effect is a reality-noir dream.
“Rainbow cloud song. You take a tincture under the tongue and anyone is guaranteed to taste, and see, and feel rainbow clouds. I’m just saying, I’m excited,” Williams tells Grande. Reverb is plastered over their voices, making them echo across the small space. Grande agrees with Williams’s assessment of the album. “REM” and “Sweetener” gave her the most rainbow cloud feeling. The artists appear alone in the space, speaking their own language as they try to bring out the best parts of the music.
Grande invited a group of fans to a Sweetener Slumber Party to hear the album before she played it for the record label. A small dance party breaks out as fans scream to the music. Later, they tell Grande how uplifted the music made them feel. “People seem to really understand it,” Grande said of the album. Williams was also at the party and spoke about their relationship. “I just feel so blessed that this record is actually happening,” Williams said.
Someone films the monitor as Grande’s trademark high ponytail bounces over a red silhouetted background. Director Dave Meyers said he wanted the video to have an abstract relationship with light. “Metaphorically, we’re trying to find your way through the forest of life and the light is what guides you,” Meyers says in an interview on set. Grande has a different vision. “The concept of this video is, this is my forest. Get out.” She walks it back, saying that she thought the video was something else, but that she trusted her director.
Next, viewers are whisked to the “God is a Woman” music video set. Meyers is back as director. Grande cries on set hearing one of seven takes Madonna sent to her. Meyers said it symbolized the baton passing from one great performer to the next. “I give this to you, Ari, and to the fans. And to every woman who’s had to put up with a stupid-ass dude,” Meyers tells the camera.
VMA rehearsals are next. “I was running on the treadmill when I thought of the idea for the VMA performance. So I called Brian (Nicholson), Scott (Nicholson), Roy (Hamilton), Richard (Göransson) and was like we have to recreate the Last Supper,” Grande said. Forty-seven women practice for three weeks. At this point, it becomes impossible not to notice the lack of women in Grande’s immediate creative circle.
In costume, Grande practices with a recording of “God is a Woman”, as her hair is finished. Grande greets all of her dancers. They jump up and down as they see all of their final makeup and wardrobe pieces. On the stage, during rehearsals, the women chant, “I am the light, we are the light, we are the light” and release their woman warrior yell. Nona, mommy, and Loni, Grande’s cousin, are invited to come on stage. Grande does an adorable impression of her grandmother telling her she’d been waiting for her call.
Praise and admiration greet Grande after the performance. A producer, Scooter Braun, tells the camera that the more Grande works, the more she wants to be close to her fans. “That’s why the album is going to be number one,” he smiles. “She doesn’t know that, yet,” he laughs as he walks away. Cut to the announcement that Sweetener is number one.
“This has been a Sweetener Diary if you will,” Grande says sleepily, lounging on her couch. “I’m so excited to bring you into the world of the Dangerous Woman Diary. I can’t wait for you to see what we’ve been holding onto for so long.”
The next episode is titled “The Gag.” A preview begins with Grande dancing in the mirror before the first show of her Dangerous Woman Tour. “The pre-show that they play for the audience is exquisite,” Grande says to the camera through the mirror.
The Dangerous Woman tour was attacked by a suicide bomber in Manchester in 2017. Five hundred people were injured and 22 people lost their lives. Grande began to suffer from worsening anxiety for months after the attack. In response, Grande threw a benefit concert, wrote the song “Get Well Soon,” and supported the Parkland Survivors and their march against gun violence. Grande has mentioned several times that she doesn’t like talking about the attack, but it’s hard to imagine the series will touch on the tour and not delve into the aftermath.
To join Grande on this journey, fans will either have to purchase a subscription to YouTube Premium or wait a week until the video is unlocked on Grande’s site. YouTube’s premium service has famously suffered. Fans of the platform are generally unwilling to pay for something that’s always been free. Grande’s celebrity is so large, it wouldn’t be surprising if a spike rose in membership. How large the impact and duration for which it can last will have to be determined at a later date. In its third iteration, first Music Key and then YouTube Red, Premium needs all the help it can get.
As a fan of Grande, I will not be purchasing the subscription. As fun as the first episode was, Dangerous Woman Diaries is not nearly as compelling as Beyoncé’s Lemonade. I certainly don’t see a reason for an entire series at this point. Knowing the following episode will be available in a week doesn’t give much incentive to invest in a platform that doesn’t provide anything Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBOGo can’t already offer.
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