Last Friday, on August 17th, Ariana Grande released her fourth studio album titled ‘Sweetener’. She explained, on the Tonight show, what the 15 tracks are about:
“bringing light to a situation or to someone’s life, somebody else who brings life into your life, or sweetening the situation.”
raindrops (an angel cried)
This first track, which only lasts 38 seconds, is an acapella cover to The Four Season’s “An Angel Cried”, more specifically, its last verse. Ariana starts her album by showing off the amazing vocals she surely has, but also paying tribute to those affected by the attack in Manchester, at the end of her show.
blazed (feat. Pharrell Williams)
The first actual song of Sweetener shows greatly the album vibe and genre. “Blazed”, which features Pharrell Williams, has a catchy R&B vibe and a love connection message that is likely to be directed to Ariana’s fiancé, Pete Davidson. Although the lyrics are quite repetitive, the song remains sophisticated thanks to the harmonies and back vocals and Pharrell’s deep voice makes it even more interesting, especially in the bridge, where their voices alternate.
the light is coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)
The second featuring on the album, with Nicki Minaj, is Sweetener’s second single, released on June 21st along with its music video. Unlike the other songs Ariana and the rapper shared, Nicki’s solo opens the song, an interesting choice that sets the tone of the track. Grande’s singing is also different than it used to be: pretty fast and sometimes close to talking. Throughout the song, the beat is prominent and barely any instruments are used, but the change of Ariana’s voice pitch catches our attention and makes the song pleasing. Ariana explained, in a tweet, why a voice repeated “You wouldn’t let anybody speak and instead”:
“the light is coming” is a message of hope: things will get better; and might be about her previous boyfriend, Mac Miller.
The rapid beat that starts right at the beginning of the song announces Ariana’s fast singing during the pre-chorus. Just like “blazed”’s chorus, this one is repetitive but made special by harmonies. The singer’s voice, here softer than in the previous tracks, tells us all about the beginning of her relationship, supposedly with her current companion. In fact, R.E.M is the phase of sleep when you’re dreaming and Ariana shared her thoughts on it:
God is a woman
God is a woman, the last single released, is the first song off the album that has a real musical background, while keeping an entertaining beat and a fast singing, almost talking, during the pre-chorus. Ariana’s vocals amaze us as usual, especially in the chorus, where high and belt notes are hit perfectly. To me, the bridge is, nevertheless, the most interesting part, with repetitive harmonies on the phrase “God is a woman”. This controversial song has risen discussion as many see it religiously incorrect. However, I believe that God’s reference is a way to show how the person worships the woman because she brings them guidance and joy.
Beginning with barely any beat and a beautiful melody, this song continues with the appearance of voices and sounds that continue throughout and can be annoying to some people. The song is pretty similar to the rest of the album, bringing another repetition during the post-chorus. “sweetener” is about being positive but also bears a message for Ariana’s lover, with sexual references that are common in Grande’s fourth album. The singer revealed, in a tweet, that this song was the first one written for the album.
This track has got, at the beginning, a sort of jazz vibe with a catchy rythm and great vocals. Harmonies and an alternation of voice pitches give the song about Ariana’s career and success, a very interesting sound. Indeed, she confirmed the meaning of “successful” on twitter:
The dreamy melody of the intro turns into a nice beat as the verse starts, and the close-to-talking singing comes to an end during the pre-chorus. This song is a perfect mix between Ariana’s old style and her new one, with a repetitive post-chorus that insists on the recurrence of her getting back with her boyfriend even though he hurt her every time. This song is probably about Mac Miller; indeed, Ariana explained, in a tweet, how toxic their relationship was.
“breathin” is the song that’s closest to Ariana’s old style of music and shows the singer’s talent with harmonies, and sometimes acapella vocals. This pop song is about Grande’s anxiety and, in general, her mental health that was shaken after the events that occurred in Manchester in May: she confirmed it on twitter.
no tears left to cry
“no tears left to cry”’s intro is the chorus, offering high vocals from Ariana, who then goes into talking before singing the verse. Through this catchy pop song, Ariana is telling everybody she recovered from the tragedy of May and got through her anxiety:
“Right now I’m in a state of mind, I wanna be in like all the time”
Thanks to Sweetener’s first single, Grande became the first artist to have the lead singles from four albums on the top ten in Billboard.
borderline (feat. Missy Elliott)
This song, that got, as most of the tracks from Sweetener, an R&B vibe, is pretty monotone although Missy Elliot’s intervention gives a good balance. However, the song is kept interesting thanks to the harmonies and echo, and the fast beat catches our attention. “borderline” is about someone Ariana’s into: she’s trying to convince them to be with her.
The dreamy background is accompanied by a slow melody that could be present in Ariana’s previous album, Dangerous Woman. It, therefore, distincts itself from the rest of the tracks, even though the artist’s singing gets faster towards the end and harmonies are, as always, present. In “better off”, Ariana recognises her previous relationship was toxic, and that she’s happier without her ex-boyfriend, most likely Mac Miller.
goodnight n go
This song has a pop beat and catchy melody which makes it a bit different from the rest of Sweetener. As most of the songs off the album, the back vocals make a difference, but so does the bridge with Ariana’s voice almost acapella. “goodnight n go” is a cover of Imogen Heap’s song about a rising relationship, with some modifications as she explained to a fan on Twitter.
This track is a short interlude, just like “raindrops”, in which Ariana shares the love she has for her fiancé, as well as the love he gives her. It’s got the same type of vibe and harmonies as the rest of the album.
get well soon
The last song of Ariana’s fourth studio album has a vibe similar to “successful”‘s. The beat is accompanied by piano and snapping, with Ariana’s voice pretty high throughout. In “get well soon”, she shows the mental consequences of the attack of Manchester and, more generally, opens up about the subject on mental health, which is still not talked about enough, even in music.
The 40 seconds of silence of the end of the track takes the song to a length of 5:22, so that it matches the date of her concert in Manchester: May 22nd. Beginning and ending her album with references to Manchester is a great tribute to the victims and their family, permanently affected by the tragedy, and shows where Ariana got a lot of her inspiration from.
Overall, ‘Sweetener’ is quite different from Ariana’s previous albums, with less pop songs and more of an r&b vibe most certainly brought in by Pharrell Williams, who helped produce it. However, a certain similarity resides in the harmonies and high notes that can be found throughout the record. All the tracks also presents the same themes, mental health and love, with a fair amount of sexual references.
As she announced it in May, Sweetener’s songs show us how hardships can be turned into positivity, something she probably had to learn after the tragic events of Manchester.
Cover Image Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter