Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left to Cry’ Concept Came From a Video Game

As one of the biggest musical stars in the world, it’s no surprise that Ariana Grande’s inspirations are vast and varied. She’s pulled from a number of sources to keep her songs feeling fresh. For one of her hits, “No Tears Left to Cry” from the album Sweetener, the The Voice coach actually ended up inspired by something many might not have expected – video games.

Ariana Grande’s song was inspired by two types of art

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Grande talked with Allure about the inspiration behind some of her most popular hits. When she got to “No Tears Left to Cry”, she spoke about the different camera tricks they used to pull off the reality-bending shots of the video, most notably a Nightmare on Elm Street-style rotating set.

In the video, she details how a game she was playing on her phone, Monument Valley, gave her the ideas for the trippy visuals seen in the music video. In the game, players need to navigate surreal environments inspired by things like M. C. Escher’s art, To do this, they rotate, move, and otherwise tamper with the landscape to allow their character to walk from one end of a level to the next, echoes of this being clearly visible in Grande’s song.

Speaking of Escher, his artwork was also a major source of inspiration for the song’s feeling and video’s set pieces. Specifically, she mentions the House of Stairs print as a major influence on the visuals.

‘No Tears Left to Cry’ was the focal point of the album because of the emotions put into it

Grande described “No Tears Left to Cry” as the centerpiece of Sweetener, the album on which it was released. She attributes this to the emotions behind the song and a distinct feeling of being upside down. The song and its accompanying music video helped make this metaphorical idea literal with its mind-bending effects and impossible architecture.

She went on to say that her own personal feelings had a lot to do with how the song turned out. “I was sort of upside down,” she said, describing her emotional state at the time of making the song. She described the song as a struggle between knowing right from wrong, reflected in how the visuals continue to flip around and back and forth, as if the landscape and reality itself are in conflict with her throughout the video. She even said, specifically, during the interview that a major emotion that went into the making of the song was “not knowing where the ground was,” something that’s clear to see while watching the short film play out.

‘Sweetener’ was reflective of the state of Grande’s life at the time it was made

While she doesn’t specifically say it in the interview, Grande’s “upside down” feelings during this point in her life had a lot to do with the horrific bombing that took place during one of her concerts in 2017. She’s spoken before about how the event still haunts her, saying in an interview with Time that, “You think with time it’ll become easier to talk about. Or you’ll make peace with it. But every day I wait for that peace to come and it’s still very painful.”

Furthermore, in Vulture’s interview with Savan Kotecha (the man who wrote the song), he mentions how Grande wanted “No Tears Left to Cry” to “touch on” the incident without getting too specific, the song’s title being a reference to how she had “no tears left to cry” after so long. Theming the entire Sweetener album around these emotions seemed like a cathartic experience for the artist, letting her work through some of her own personal grief from the incident. In the end, at least something good came out of such an awful time in her life.

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