Songs of One Love Manchester do not embody spirit of tragedy it mourned

On June 4, Ariana Grande hosted a benefit concert in Manchester, England. 

On May 22, an Ariana Grande concert was attacked by a suicide bomber and 22 innocent people lost their lives. The victims ranged in age from eight years old to 51 years old. Shortly after the attack, ISIS claimed it as a work of the caliphate. The atrocity and brutality of the attack resonated worldwide.

Many have speculated that Ariana Grande was targeted specifically as her music has strong sexual undertones. Her licentious music videos and promiscuous costumes could have provoked ISIS and extremists who hate western culture and the sexuality that Grande promotes. Yet whether these speculations are true or not is beside the point. She can sing about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll; anybody should be allowed to sing about anything without fearing for their life. Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure when seeing live music for any artist and for any type of music.

Music is a balm for heartache and suffering is a way for us to cope with adversity. Using music in an attempt to mend the wounds of the attack, Grande hosted the One Love Manchester concert. Stars like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus took the stage to honor the lives lost during the bombing that happened there. Truly, the concert was a poignant display of unity and hope contrasting with the heartbreak and anguish Manchester has faced.

That being said, for me the concert displayed a huge disconnect between the songs themselves and the purpose of the concert. Pharrell Williams sang “Get Lucky,” Niall Horan sang “Slow Hands,” Ariana sang “Side to Side.” All three of those songs address one common theme: sex.

I understand that One Love Manchester was a benefit for the families affected by the attack, and I understand that potential donators tune in to hear the hits, but I still think that we as listeners, concert-goers and fans should demand more of the mainstream artists who performed. Grande and fans latched onto “One Last Time” as the anthem for the tragedy, but consider what the lyrics actually say:

“One more time / I promise after that, I'll let you go / Baby I don't care if you got her in your heart / All I really care is you wake up in my arms”

While the song can be used, very loosely, to mourn those lost in the attack, it is very clearly about (potentially illicit) sex. Lyrics are no longer profound; they’re barely up for interpretation. The pop industry thrives on cranking out catchy love songs about heartbreak and lust, and yes, it’s true those are experiences many people can relate to, but isn’t there more to the human experience than sex? Music gives us the opportunity to express and produce emotions, to say something important and yet far too often we let meaningless and simplistic songs become “hits.” The authenticity has disappeared.

Likewise, live music has become an elaborate performance. It is now expected to see background visuals and fancy airborne tricks; it’s easy for the music to get lost in the midst of all the showiness. There are so many charades at concerts—what happened to just good-ole-fashioned musicians going to town on their instruments? Do we need pyrotechnics and backup dancers and showy costumes to feel something from the music? We shouldn’t.

The One Love Manchester concert was a beautiful response to the tragic loss of life that occurred this past May. The world joined together to prove that love, hope and peace can overcome hatred and violence. Hearing music used in such a purposeful and genuine way was both uplifting and encouraging, yet too often songs in the pop industry are just earworms with phony lyrics and no message. I think it’s high time we insist on music that says more.

Tatiana is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. What did you think of the One Love Manchester concert? Do pop stars need to be more conscious about the lyrics of their songs? Please send all comments to

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