In Ariana Grande’s first musical contact with the world since the tragedy that took place at her tour stop in Manchester last year, she refuses to idolize or dwell on the despair the event placed in all of us. Instead the singer serves a message of hope by choosing to put her life back together and move on with her fans in “No Tears Left to Cry.” The song is decidedly ambiguous and applicable to more than just Grande’s own situation, but it certainly does address the specific issue gracefully and leaves listeners encouraged to also find peace in being able to move on from the trauma.
The song was written by Grande herself with help from Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, and Ilya, all of which are longtime collaborators with Grande as writers and producers on her previous records. Max Martin and Ilya produced the song.
It would be sensible and understandable to expect for Grande’s return to music to be a slow, tearful ballad that emotionally addresses Manchester directly. The singer even seemed to be suggesting something far less upbeat and danceable than what came to be “No Tears Left to Cry” when she posted a snippet of heavenly-sounding harmonies on her Instagram account in lead-up to the song’s release.
Instead, Grande delivers an uplifting and catchy bop on “No Tears Left to Cry.” While the song begins with a slow tempo and gospel-esque singing, the track soon speeds up as the songstress reveals that she has reached a point where she can’t grieve any longer and is picking up the pieces of her world that were scattered around her. The shuffling beat and disco-inspired synths throughout the song contribute to the infectious nature of the song. Rather than having the song bring fans back to a dark place in the past, Grande opts to find some strange but important solace in realizing that she has already reached her absolute lowest point.
In addition to the admission that Grande has cried every tear in her body and is ready to move forward, the song references the singer’s past in a few other ways. When she talks about, “coming out, even when it’s raining down,” it is an acceptance that there will always be pain in her heart and hate in the world around her, but that cannot stop her from experiencing the positivity in life.
The music video for “No Tears Left to Cry” furthers the link to Manchester. The video features Inception-like perspective changes that has Grande sitting on ceilings, dancing on the side of buildings, and dangling from stairs as her world is literally turned upside down. This is a not so subtle but beautiful way to show how the singer’s world was changed after having to face her fans being killed by attending her concert. Also, at the end of the video, a bee flies in front of the camera for just a second. The worker bee is a symbol of Manchester adopted during the Industrial Revolution to signify the city’s hard work and contribution during the era. The symbol was strengthened following the attack as a symbol of unity against terrorism, so featuring the worker bee certainly serves as a tactful way to acknowledge Manchester’s ability to bounce back together.
Ariana Grande’s upcoming fourth album will almost surely feature a somber ballad that is certain to evoke emotion from listeners. “No Tears Left to Cry” definitely is not that song, however. The singer’s return to music is decidedly not a celebration or a triumph, but rather an acknowledgement and acceptance of the her lowest point, with nowhere to go but up from here.
Listen to No Tears Left to Cry on Spotify below: