There was a time when music artists led the charge for social awareness, eschewing commercialism in favor of some greater public good. “Selling out,” was about the worst thing you could do during those days, and a quick way to become ostracized not only from fellow musicians, but a large portion of the music consuming public as well. As an example, there were years of public acrimony between The Doors because of Jim Morrison refusal to allow their huge hit “Light My Fire” to be used in a Buick commercial. Of course, Sir Bob Geldof’s efforts to raise awareness about the poverty in Africa through his Live Aid and Live 8 concerts stand as an uplifting landmark of selflessness for musicians everywhere. Unfortunately that spirit seemed to die with the rise of the CD and MTV, as more and more artists since then have stood more for branding and greed than helping their fellow man. That’s why Arianna Grande’s decision to organize the One Love Manchester benefit concert at the site of the horrific terrorist bombing at her concert just two weeks earlier is not only the right thing to do, but a shining example of how an artist should be willing to give back to the fans that made her a star.
When Grande cancelled the rest of her tour after the bombing, it was easy to interpret the move as more or less a selfish act, as in “I’m traumatized, so I’m not going to perform until I feel better.” No one could argue with that outlook, but that thinking would be an example of an artist looking inward instead of outward to not only her fans, but the public in general. That type of stance is pretty typical these days, I’m sorry to say. Grande’s decision to come back to Manchester so soon (kudos to her management and promoters for pulling it off in such a timely fashion), joined with a host of major artists (Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Usher, Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams among others), shows that there are still artists today that think beyond the almighty pocketbook.
Visiting her fans in the hospital was another grand (no pun intended) gesture. Although it could be interpreted as just a photo op, a quick look at the pictures tell another story, with Arianna looking genuinely concerned and pleased to be able to offer some comfort to the fans that suffered so much. She’s an experienced actress, so it could have all been staged, of course. Doesn’t matter – the delight on the patient’s faces say it all. Again, a hospital trip might have been easy to skip, but regardless of how real the feelings behind it were, it was the right thing to do.
Just for the record, I’m not a fan of Ms. Grande’s music, although I do greatly admire her talent. The girl has serious vocal chops, something that so many of her contemporaries can’t claim. But talent isn’t the issue here – social responsibility is. Artists are too often just in it for the money these days, and while that’s a nice reward, there’s much more than creating music and putting on a show that fall on an artist’s shoulders. For a woman so small in stature, Arianna Grande’s shoulders came up far wider than anyone could have imagined, and the world is a better place for it.