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Ariana Grande conquered Coachella Sunday night not just with her epic set but also with her special guests. But then the sound and lighting failed and fans on Twitter started making memes. It was a spectacle to live stream all the same.
She reunited NSYNC, as well as P. Diddy and Mase, and performed with her frequent collaborator Nicki Minaj. She’s only the fourth woman to ever headline the annual music festival in Indio, California, after Bjork, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce, People notes.
Grande, a self-confessed NSYNC fan and ‘90s baby, sang a portion of her latest single “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” (which samples the group’s song “It Makes Me Ill”) with Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick. She paused to introduce them by saying “I’ve been waiting all my motherfucking life to say this: NSYNC,” before they all launched into the boy band’s 1997 hit, “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” complete with signature choreography. As expected, ’90s fans went wild, calling Grande “a relatable queen.”
Performing with *NSYNC is exactly what any ‘90s kid would do once they’ve made it. What a relatable queen #ARICHELLA— Laura Cohen (@lauragailcohen) April 15, 2019
Justin Timberlake was noticeably absent, but he wasn’t exactly missed. As @MsTaylorBanks quipped on Twitter, “An *NSYNC performance without Justin Timberlake? JC Chasez has been waiting YEARS for this.”
An *NSYNC performance without Justin Timberlake? JC Chasez has been waiting YEARS for this. #ARICHELLA— Taylor Banks (@MsTaylorBanks) April 15, 2019
Another ‘90s throwback surprise performance came later in the night when Grande got Diddy and Mase to join her in performing the classic “Mo Money Mo Problems.” Grande sang the Diana Ross-sampling hook. Fans approved the apparent tribute to Biggie, 2Pac, Mac Miller, Nipsey Hussle, and other fallen hip-hop stars. “Now THIS is how you do a setlist,” said @AltheyuhMoves.
Ariana Grande bringing us back to 1996 with Mase and Diddy??? Yasssss!!!! Now THIS is how you do a setlist. pic.twitter.com/DJKsDApSOS— Amber 🐠 (@AltheyuhMoves) April 15, 2019
@lucaswisenthal went all the way back to reference Diddy and Mase’s Rosie O’Donnell Show performance.
I've been thinking about Puff and Mase's Rosie O'Donnell Show performance for 21 and a half years. pic.twitter.com/jowQ5TOU8u— Lucas Wisenthal (@lucaswisenthal) April 14, 2019
Rounding up the reunions that night, Minaj joined Grande in performing two of their collabs, “Side to Side” and “Bang Bang.” But it wasn’t all surprise guests and happy tweets.
#Arichella technical issues
Fans loved Grande’s first of two Coachella headlining sets, which they dubbed #Arichella, in spite of being unfortunately plagued with technical difficulties: The lights seemed to fail most of the time, leaving several moments of the performance with inadequate lighting; the sound also failed during the performances of Minaj, Diddy, and Mase.
It almost eclipsed the momentous reunions, though it didn’t ruin them for fans.
Despite the technical difficulties, Ari gave us NSYNC with Tearing up my heart and Mase & Puffy with Mo Money Mo Problems in the same set. Which is rare nowadays. Celebrating both classic songs from an unforgettable era of music. #ARICHELLA pic.twitter.com/FaiXcMNJJq— UrbanNoizeRmx (@UrbanNoize2) April 15, 2019
The sound drama escalated when, in between rapping her part from “Bang Bang,” Grande said, “We can’t hear anything,” as she motioned to someone offstage about her earpiece. It did seem that Minaj’s mic kept getting cut, and at one point she even laughed awkwardly. Some fans accused Minaj of sabotaging Grande’s set, but the former’s fans came to her defense.
Because of the tech problems, it seemed to some people that Grande was rushing through her set.
How DARE they tell her to hurry up... the FUCKING NERVE it’s NOT HER FAULT SHE WAS DELAYED YOU RATS #ARICHELLA— buwyg,imneedy (@DanielGomezJr1) April 15, 2019
#Arichella conspiracy theories
Twitter had conspiracy theories about what happened. “So let’s get this straight: Production starting time was late so she had to rush through some of her songs. They didn’t have Diddy’s, Mase, or Nicki’s mic up, so they messed [up] their hip-hop tributes and Ariana and Nicki’s performances,” @ms_kynz pointed out.
So let’s get this straight. Production starting time was late so she had to rush through some of her songs. They didn’t have Diddy’s, Mase, or Nicki’s mic up. So they messed of their hip hop tributes and Ariana and Nicki’s performances. #AriCHELLA pic.twitter.com/QlFhXNxTg4— ms.kynz (@ms_kynz) April 15, 2019
Some fans even went so far as to claim the production problems reeked of being “anti-black” because of the artists they “disrespected.”
So they fucked up diddy & mase earpieces too 🌚 but this ain’t gone make the news. https://t.co/c7b0mdlPEH— la’flame.☄️ (@derrickrogersjr) April 15, 2019
The supposed “racist” sentiment seemed to stem from NSYNC’s mics and earpieces working just fine, but when the Black artists’ turn to perform came, they failed. “I’m on the way to this racist ass Coachella, anybody coming with me?” @iamtremain tweeted.
Them white men mics and ear piece was working just fine, but when Nicki Minaj and Diddy hop on stage shit wanna go left... I’m on the way to this racist ass Coachella anybody coming with me? #ARICHELLA pic.twitter.com/hOUhumyWpy— Tremain (@iamtremain) April 15, 2019
To be fair, the lights seemed to have failed even the NSYNC set, which had a lot of dark moments, based on the live stream, often with just Chasez and Bass only managing to share the spotlight with Grande.
Meanwhile, other fans joked on Twitter that Minaj’s rival Cardi B and Grande’s former Victorious co-star and “frienemy” Victoria Justice (who was supposedly coming to the festival to support her fellow Disney alum) were to blame for the sound fail. “I think we all know who jacked up those mics and ear pieces before leaving moments before the set,” @boyswiflet13 tweeted. Several others posted memes also implying that Justice and Cardi were behind it.
#Arichella Nicki Minaj memes
It wasn’t just the Cardi B and Justice conspiracy that produced a wealth of memes for #Arichella. Minaj’s mic troubles proved to be the ultimate source of memes, too.
@lostinjapantry tweeted that Minaj and Grande’s botched performance was like “my last 2 brain cells during a math test.”
For @RosesChaeyeon, Minaj and Grande attempting to sing were like “me and my bestfriend [sic] during our oral presentation that we forgot about.”
Or it could be similar to the feeling when you’re out of breath.
A lot of Twitter users had theories about how Minaj would react backstage after her set.
Some think Minaj didn’t come out to join Grande in performing their song “The Light Is Coming” because “she was beating the sound guy up.” Which is why Grande supposedly ended up doing Minaj’s part and her own like this:
It wasn’t just Grande’s set that suffered from sound issues. Performer Lizzo encountered sound trouble, too, earlier in the night, according to Variety. Let’s hope it gets fixed in time for next weekend.
Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a lifestyle editor and writer based in the Philippines. Previously, she helmed Cosmopolitan Philippines’ website, Cosmo.ph, as its founding editor. She later served as editor-in-chief of lifestyle and entertainment portals for Manila-based media company TV5. Her work has appeared in several print and online publications in her country, and she contributes to Speed Magazine, DG Traveler, and Connected Women, among others. Visit her website, trixiereyna.com.