By Tessa Osteen
Ariana Grande’s fourth album entitled, Sweetener, is being called her most honest and sincere work to date by critics. Many people expected a sad or somber album, regarding what happened to her last year, but are pleasantly surprised by an up-beat r&b inspired project. She explains on Ebro Darden’s Beats 1 show how she wanted to do, “…something different, something that felt a little bit more like home…”. The cover of the album shows an upside-down portrait of Ariana against a beige looking background, signifying how upside down she felt following the tragedy.
Last year at an Ariana Grande concert, a terrorist attack unfolded which ended up killing 23 of her fans. Leaving her devastated, she decided to put together a benefit concert with other famous names to give back to the Manchester community. Ariana then decided to take a hiatus at the end of last year, eventually coming back early 2018 to release her first single off her album entitled, “No Tears Left to Cry”. A couple months later, she also broke off a toxic relationship with fellow singer Mac Miller. Leaving all the toxic energy in her life behind, Ariana was seeking a change to make sure she’s, in her words, “living her best life.”
The album starts off with an acapella rendition of a Four Seasons song “An Angel Cried” retitled “raindrops”. The prelude shows off her vocal abilities and range, which some critics say was missing throughout her previous projects. The album was roughly half produced by Pharrell and the other half by Max Martin & Savan Kotecha, making it an eclectic album to listen to. Pharrell’s distinct-sounding music mixed with an R&B feel leaves many people surprised to hear this sort of music from her.
The second song released from Sweetener, “the light is coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)” produced by Pharrell Williams, is one of her most unique songs ever released. She was willing to experiment with different sounds,for example when there’s a man yelling, “You wouldn’t let anybody speak…” throughout the song, which distracts you from Ariana’s voice. This is done on purpose to show how people can be unheard by others while someone is shouting over them. The sample is also featured on the song “Lemon” by musical group N.E.R.D. ft. Rihanna, where you can hear the same man yelling in the background of that as well.
Another song Ariana experimented on was “R.E.M”, which was originally sung by Beyonce a few years prior. The song was then entitled “Wake Up”, before Ariana switched up the song with her own flair. Both versions have differences in production but still possess powerhouse voices that carry the song. Another single off of Ariana’s album entitled “God is a woman” quickly became controversial from the name itself. Although if you listen to the lyrics, it’s more of a female empowerment anthem than a religious statement.
Sweetener, an album currently dominating the charts with new sounds and producers on the project, makes it Ariana’s most experimental album released. Ariana was hungry for something different since her “heart and soul is in r&b”. While listening to the album, you can’t help but smile and feel good with all the positivity Ariana is preaching about. With many bops on the album, Sweetener is a change she always sought to create through the evolution in her music.