Is Ariana Grande in a Donut in Her New Music Video?

No, not physically, per se. But in the abstract? Well, that’s up to us to decide, isn’t it. Her new video for “Focus” (off her upcoming album, Moonlight) is her first following one of the funniest and most blown-out-of-proportion PR fiascos in recent memory, in which conservatives tried to vilify the pop star after she, in a moment of very minor adolescent randomness, licked a donut that she hadn’t purchased and declared, “I hate America.” This led her to have to apologize to the public, twice, first making a stretch of a comment about obesity in America and then giving in entirely to what the zealots wanted to hear and declaring that she never felt prouder to be an American.

Some might say that, in “Focus,” Grande was merely employing neon, often donut-ish confined spaces (not too dissimilarly to “Hotline Bling,” which was not too dissimilar to the work of James Turrell) to frame her attractiveness, and isolate her dance moves. But while this video may never directly declare that it’s about donuts, the Cultural Conversation is so immersive, so coercive, as to lead you (or at least, me) to see donuts where there may be no donuts. There’s also the issue of the video not being particularly interesting otherwise.

Thus: Grande appears silhouetted within a set of lit circles at the beginning. (Symbolism for the donut-shaped cage the scandal put her in?) Then, in the second part of the video she’s out in the open, free to dance with others, which could, by the same logic, represent her transcendence of collective perceptions re: donut. Towards the end, there’s a flash of her back in the circle — perhaps suggesting, with a nod to It Follows, that while the donut can be escaped physically, one can never rid themselves of its psychological traumas.

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