Ariana Grande is—it’s hard to argue otherwise—a pop star at the height of her powers. She’s put out two hugely successful albums in the past year that spawned two No. 1 singles, and in doing so has pulled off a harder-to-quantify cultural leap, going from someone people were generally familiar with to someone everyone knows. Her romantic relationships and street style are monitored obsessively on a day-to-day basis, but her music remains the central element of her celebrity and appeal, as Grande has let her lyrics (see: “Thank U, Next”) and videos do the speaking on her behalf. And in releasing music as she feels like it as of late—not adhering to the typical pop-star release and promotional schedule—Grande is one of the central figures redefining pop stardom for this next generation.
Taking the stage at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, the first of two shows at the venue on her Sweetener world tour, Grande was acting nonchalant about all of this, though. Save for a brief reel of some tabloid headlines at the very end of the show, leading into “Thank U, Next,” there was little acknowledgement at all of her being Ariana Grande.