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Ariana Grande closed weekend one of Southern California’s Coachella festival in epic style with a mini-‘NSync reunion, after teasing a possible Coachella appearance by the beloved boy band last week on social media. “I’ve been rehearsing my entire mother***ing life for this moment,” she declared Sunday, apparently too excited to wait until the end of her set. So, she brought out JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey “The Rabbit” Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick during her third song, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” which samples ‘NSync’s 2000 track “It Makes Me Ill.”
Yes, that’s right — Justin Timberlake may be a Man of the Woods, but he’s apparently not a Man of the Desert, since he was a no-show in Indio. Fans didn’t seem to mind, however, since that aforementioned lifetime of rehearsing meant that Grande was perfectly in step with the boys’ choreography during their own “Tearin Up My Heart,” and she could take on Timberlake’s parts with ease. Plus, she shared palpable onstage chemistry with Chasez — the boy band’s true secret weapon, and undoubtedly the group’s vocal star of the evening.
“Coachella, this has been a dream of ours,” Chasez told the screaming crowd, while fans on Twitter watching the live stream clamored for a more permanent four-man ‘NSync reunion and/or for another Chasez solo album. “I can die now,” giggled Grande.
‘NSync was a hit, but unfortunately, out-of-sync audio issues during a cameo by Nicki Minaj were tearin’ up fans’ hearts, and similar snafus created mo problems when Grande later brought out Puff Daddy and Mase. When Minaj showed up to perform two of her smash collaborations with Grande, “Side to Side” and “Bang Bang,” the superstar rapper’s earpiece appeared to be malfunctioning, and this threw the whole performance off. “We can’t hear anything!” Grande shouted at one point, though she kept smiling and encouraging the flustered Minaj to solider on.
The sound was also problematic during a surprise performance of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” with guests Puffy and Mase, but the love between the three artists on the stage more than made up for that. Puff Daddy called Grande his “sister” and told the roaring, supportive audience, “She’s been through a whole lot, and she’s still standing” — referring to the terrorist attack at the pop star’s Manchester concert in 2017, the recent death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, and her whirlwind relationship and broken engagement with SNL comedian Peter Davidson.
Despite any technical difficulties, Grande’s elaborately choreographed Coachella set was, overall, a Fosse-like triumph, with its high point being a beautiful “Love Me Harder”/”Breathin” with orchestral accompaniment. And during a woman-centric Coachella weekend when the other standout performers included Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, Christine and the Queens, H.E.R., and K-pop girl group BLACKPINK, the “God Is a Woman” diva was a fitting final headliner.
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