Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” is a sensation of such magnitude that it’s easy to feel like Ariana has always been this cultural behemoth. Yet “thank u, next” is Ariana’s first Billboard number one hit. It’s easily her best performing single. What puts this song and its music video apart is Grande’s masterful execution and understanding of the social media hype machine. Both the single and music video have managed to drum intense fervor through references to pop culture without seeming insincere.
When we walked into the recently opened Church of Scientology in Detroit, located downtown at 1 Griswold Blvd., a man in an ill-fitting black suit jumped up from behind the front desk and immediately told us to fill out a “survey,” asking for our full names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and reason for the visit: “Do you want to be more successful?” “Do you have deep insecurities from your past that are holding you back?”
“When you’re finished, you can go to the room on the left, and Tony will meet you,” he said.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel apparently lives in a beautiful white house on South University Avenue and I was going to see it. I was going to see it because I emailed a professor that I needed a building to write about, and of the hundreds in Ann Arbor, not a single one felt curious enough for a story.
In late April, I walked up the stairs to the Michigan Union, as I’d done many times before. It was a warm day — warmer still with the winter semester finally over and the summer near. I’d walked up those stairs in every possible state: wet, hot, cold, disheveled, elated, disappointed, happy, tired, content, angry, heartbroken. Most of the time, though, I was just hungry. And on this late April day, I was hungry for an Au Bon Pain sandwich.
It was a hot Memorial Day weekend for Detroit and its techno Movement festival, the city’s ever-growing annual event. The festival sprawled over Hart Plaza, and the sunny heat turned into a warm fog when evening closed in, the sun leaving behind a wet air as festival goers filled the grounds. They came in cut shorts, black shirts, shaggy hairstyles, happy jitters, hollow eyes and colorful bracelets. More than one man wore a graphic t-shirt that read “I wish Movement was a city and we all lived in it together.” Another read “Sex, Drugs and Techno.” The hip ones carried PBR beer cans.
The presenting theme of the arts in 2018 is by and large inclusion. We saw it in the recent 90th Academy Awards when a jittery Frances McDormand fierily advocated inclusion riders to a crowd of hesitant yet emphatic cheers. The Grammys, in typically uncanny fashion, had a few cutesy symbolic gestures of their own and brought out rapper Logic to preach mental health awareness.