Ariana Grande has sweetened our ears with her newest album, which is a beautiful response to her past tragedies.
Sweetener, Ariana Grande’s fourth studio album, produced by Republic Records, was released on August 17 and has since been blowing up the charts. It has been the perfect bounce back album for this young talent. The pop/R&B singer’s album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 231,000 purchases, making this Grande’s third number one album in the US. It logged the largest streaming week ever for a pop album by a female artist, being streamed 126.7 million times within the first week.
The 15-track album, while being wildly successful, has had mixed reviews. Grande’s breathy and hushed vocals that are used throughout the track do not demonstrate her very impressive vocal range. The overproduction by major producers is always a concern, and took away most of Grande’s main asset, her voice.
Grande’s new approach is yet another evolution of sound from the American pop artist. Her fans have come to expect stylistic diversity from the artist. Initially starting off on Nickelodeon in 2010, she has grown exponentially and changed her style countless times since. Although it is unexpected and controversial, this style works well to differentiate her from other artists, and it seems she has now truly found her individual sound.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Sweetener is the first album Grande has released since the bombing attack at her concert in Manchester in May of 2017. Many expected her next album to be filled with sorrow in remembrance of the tragedy. The first track on the album is “raindrops (An Angel Cried).” This brief, mournful, acappella rendition of the Four Seasons song, “An Angel Cried,” is only 38 seconds long, yet the angelic belts starts the album off on a very memorable note. The last track, “get well soon,” is five minutes, 22 seconds, including a long silence at the end, which memorializes the day of the attack, May 22.
“No Tears Left to Cry” was the first single to be released from the album, and it has a surprising pivot. Starting out seemingly devastating and powerful, which was an expected response to her past tragedies, it quickly switches into an upbeat and uplifting anthem. This was followed by “God is a Woman,” which has a much different sound. It is a sultry song in a minor key that leads into a gospel-like chorus.
She also has three collaborations which include artists Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, and Missy Elliot. Williams co-wrote and produced about half of the songs on the album and always adds a funky style that elevates the record’s more conventional song structures. Both Minaj and Elliot, on the other hand, add unique textures to Grande’s songs, and they complement her nicely.
Most critics express that this album sounds more honest and distinct than any of her previous albums, perhaps because of her brush with tragedy. She eloquently worked in her response, while not overwhelming listeners with sappy ballads.
The album is meant to be empowering and optimistic after everything that’s happened. With that said, Grande does a great job of finding the bright side and allowing her audience to truly experience her journey with her.
“It’s kind of about, like, bringing light to a situation or to someone’s life, or somebody else who brings light to your life, or sweetening the situation,” Grande said in an interview with Jimmy Fallon when asked about the album meaning.
All in all, her theme was consistent throughout all the tracks, and her rare belts were breathtaking. Although this album does not showcase her natural singing talent as much, her emotional lyrics and unique sound more than make up for it. With this uplifting and unforgettable album, many fans are understandably eager to see what comes next for this young singer.