Ariana Grande is the right person to lead Manchester’s Pride party | Rebecca Nicholson

Her gainsayers should never forget her affinity to the city

Ariana Grande headlining this year’s Manchester Pride seems, on the surface, as if it should be a perfect fit. After the horrendous tragedy of the Arena bombing in 2017, the singer has a unique and close connection to the city. She is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, if not the biggest; there are so many numbers on her Spotify or YouTube that they look like the answer to a final-grade University Challenge maths question. She has a back catalogue bursting with irresistible pop hits.

Yet this is 2019 and the idea of any kind of announcement occurring without any kind of backlash immediately following it is as old fashioned as me wondering why Grande can’t use capital letters on her album tracklistings. In this case, the controversy came in two parts. Manchester Pride almost doubled the cost of tickets this year (organisers claim that it’s a new event and can’t be compared with last year’s pricing). When this was first revealed, at the end of January, many objected to one more indication that another Pride was being further commodified and made more exclusive. Pride was a protest, so the history teaches us. It wasn’t about booze brands issuing limited edition rainbow bottles and VIP wristbands – it was about fighting for one’s right to exist. You can see why charging people £60 to celebrate that history might stick in the teeth.

But what Pride is and should be in this day and age is a huge, important and complex question. It was another point tucked into this larger debate that made me do a double take. Grande felt compelled to respond to the idea that because she is not gay, as far as her fans know (on which topic, her statement said, carefully, “regardless of my identity or how people label me”), she should not be headlining Pride. “I’m not claiming to be a hero of the community or the face of the LGBTQ rights movement – I just wanna put on a show that makes my LGBTQ fans feel special and celebrated and supported,” she wrote.

Of course, gay artists should be given the chance to play at Prides, but pop history has always been a melting pot and, as we know, plenty of gay icons aren’t even all that gay themselves. Grande hasn’t been invited to advocate for policy reform – she is there to lead the party.

As a gay person, I resist the idea that my cultural interests should be so prescribed. I have put in a lot of time dancing to her unequivocally best single Into You in gay clubs and it would be a shame to have to stop now.

David Hockney’s art still gives us all a lift

David Hockney
David Hockney giving a press conference in Amsterdam for his new exhibition. Photograph: Robin Utrecht/EPA

I have never been to an art exhibition as packed as the David Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain last year. It was a blockbuster and a sell-out; few artists can command such love and respect.

We saw a similar outpouring of admiration when a photograph of Hockney holding hands with Joni Mitchell, at a gallery in Los Angeles where a solo exhibition of his was on view, blew up the internet in the way that usually only Kardashians or scare-story hoaxes do.

The photo, bright and lovely, popped up on my Instagram feed for days, with the kind of regularity usually reserved for targeted ads of items I’d only just mentioned to someone in the same room as me.

And we saw it again last week, when Hockney was doing press for another new exhibition, The Joy of Nature, exploring the parallels between Hockney and Van Gogh, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

After a press conference, Hockney tried to go for a cigarette, via the lift, which also contained several British journalists. It got stuck and it took 30 minutes for them to be freed. Naturally, the firefighters asked for a picture with him.

Rebel Wilson and the life-changing power of romcoms

Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth
One cool film: Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth in Isn’t It Romantic. Photograph: Michael Parmelee/AP

There are few things I appreciate more than a night in by myself. There’s nothing so luxurious as an evening with no plans and no obligations. My old flatmate’s idea of self-care was to play video games wearing only his pants; these days, my equivalent seems to be watching terrible romcoms, alone.

So last week, I fired up the new Rebel Wilson film, Isn’t It Romantic, and settled in for the evening. Wilson plays Natalie, a romcom fan (hold on) who has been turned into a cynic by the grind of life. When Natalie is mugged on the subway, she wakes up in a world inhabited solely by romcom staples such as clean, bright city streets, out-of-the-blue musical montages and sassy gay best friends with no jobs. Isn’t It Romantic sends up those cliches; it’s a cool film, not a regular film.

It is also yet another movie in which the protagonist has a bump to the head and wakes up in an alternate universe. I Feel Pretty took a similar approach in its attempts to send up women’s perceptions of themselves when Amy Schumer knocked herself out during a particularly potent spin class and woke up feeling gorgeous. Even Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis are getting in on the act with their next film, Yesterday, in which a struggling singer-songwriter is knocked off his bike and wakes up in a world where no one has ever heard of the Beatles. (He puts their catalogue to good use.)

It is hard to imagine why audiences are hungry for stories in which a single knock to the head and a brief moment of unconsciousness are enough to erase a horrible present and replace it with a shiny, new and unfamiliar world in which anything is possible. Nope. Nothing is coming to me at all.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist


Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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