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In surprise appearance, Justin Bieber joins Ariana Grande for Coachella duet

Justin Bieber performing at the United Center in Chicago on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. | Chandler West ~ For Sun-Times Media

It was a successful second attempt for Ariana Grande, whose Weekend 1 Coachella set was dogged by technical issues — particularly with her special guests Nicki Minaj and Diddy and Mase — that made the whole thing seem a little disjointed.

Weekend 2, which did not include a second helping of ‘NSYNC or Minaj, or any other guest featured prominently in the Weekend 1 show, went off more smoothly despite their absence and showcased Grande more. And it contained a surprise.

Here are the four main takeaways from her second weekend performance Sunday night to close out Coachella 2019:

Grande told the crowd she didn’t intend to have any special guests this week, but she cooked something up with a friend at the last second.

As the crowd murmured she said “My friend Justin Bieber is here.”

The crowd went crazy. They teamed up to sing his song “Sorry” and afterward he reiterated that when the day started he had no idea he was going to be on stage.

“This is my first time performing here in two years, and I had to get my groove back, get my swag back, you know what I’m saying,” he said. “Thank you Coachella. Thank you Ariana Grande. And by the way, the album will be out soon.”

Sensing the Sunday night Weekend 2 crowd wasn’t giving Grande her proper credit, Bieber extolled the crowd: “She’s amazing, give her more energy!”

Hammering home the idea that Bieber’s appearance was a last-second decision, was a tweet Grande herself sent out yesterday.

She was asked by a fan if she was going to bring Nicki Minaj out again, and her reply was “tomorrow you’re stuck with just me.”

Sorry ‘NSYNC fans, there was no replay of the reunion of four-fifths of the band at this weekend’s Grande set. She played the song that tied them together “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” which borrows a riff from an old ‘NSYNC song. When it was over, though, she didn’t bring out the Timberlakeless group. Instead she just soldiered on. None of the Weekend 1 guests would return.

With a (mostly) empty slate of special guests, the door was open for Grande to showcase, well, herself and she did that with her mid-set showstopper “Breathin’.”

She started the song with no musical backing, just her voicing piercing the windy night, from a smaller stage out among the crowd. Then when the music kicked in it was with an all-woman string section accompanying her. That also happened Weekend 1 but it felt more special Weekend 2.

Grande also got the crowd involved during the song, letting them finish the lyrics. And they obliged, loudly and enthusiastically.

The song ended with more vocal fireworks from Grande and ended with literal fireworks. It was a stirring example of how this “Just Ariana” set was better than the guest-filled first-week try.

It’s clear now that Grande, the youngest performer ever to headline Coachella at age 25, didn’t need the security blanket of special guests or gimmicks. Instead her voice starred. She also cranked up the sultriness for Week 2. She had the same steamy dance troupe, but this week Grande seemed to spend more time with them, punctuating several songs coiled among the dancers.

Shad Powers, USA Today Network

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