The princess of pop is back, and this time, with a mission to make “the weirdest thing we can.”
Ariana Grande’s new album ‘Sweetener’, is bold attempt from the young artist to to stray away from her beloved pop roots and instead present something that is upbeat, uplifting, and ultimately odd. Produced by Pharrell Williams, this album offers Grande as we’ve never heard her before, with the young singer exploring fresh sounds, new genres, and overall, a much more sincere message.
The album is quite minimalistic, with clean, clever, beats scattered within the album, and simple yet poignant lyrics. Throughout the work, Grande makes a point of not complicating the message of strength and solidarity that she sends out to her listeners. Tracks like “The Light is Coming” offer a beacon of optimism, with Ariana not only celebrating her own happiness, but encouraging others to adopt this positive mindset and have hope for the future. This is clearest in the staple line of the song; “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole.” Similarly in tracks such as ‘Breathing’ and ‘Get Well Soon’, Grande talks candidly about mental health after the recent Manchester attacks, delivering a message of sympathy and support with the lyrics; “When you need someone to pull you out the bubble, I’ll be right there just to hug you, I’ll be there.” This openness is not only unexpected, but deeply moving, as, Grande continues to handle the tragedy of the situation with grace and maturity, proving to be a true beacon of light in and amongst these horrific events.
The clean approach to the work also gives the whole album an intimate, relaxed vibe, with the heavy lean into the trap genre feeling refreshing when compared to the heavily-pop and R&B based sound of her previous works. However, what benefits most from this clean-cut approach is undoubtedly Grande’s vocals. Having one of the most impressive voices in the top 40, ’Sweetener’ allows Ariana to explore her lower range, with tracks such as ‘Blazed’ and ‘R.E.M’, offering more of the singers deeper, more raspy tones to the listener, a rare treat considering the little presence it had on her past albums. However, she still makes sure to feature the full extent of her range in the rest of the album, with the hard-hitting vocal runs in ‘God is a Woman’ and the effortless falsetto displayed ‘Goodnight n Go’ being some of the singers most impressive vocals to date.
There certainly are flaws; at times certain tracks seem to lull and blend together, and the artist collaborations leave something to be desired, but, overall, the downfalls of ’Sweetener’ can and should be overlooked, in order to appreciate, what is at its core, a wholly refreshing and inspiring piece of work. Grande’s message of positivity and encouragement, set amongst the wave of enticing and engaging sounds and styles is beautifully done, proving to not only her fans, but the whole world that in times of darkness, this new-found voice of hers is one to be listened to.
You can listen to ‘Sweetener’ here.