Review: how sweet really is Sweetner?


Ariana Grande’s cover for her fourth album, Sweetener

Amelia Foster, A&E Editor

Ariana Grande has been a major figure in the realm of pop music since her debut album, Yours Truly, was released in 2013. Her previous album covers have been in black and white, but her fourth, recently-released album, Sweetener, has a cover in full color. The shift to color is the first clue listeners get about the difference between Sweetener and Grande’s previous albums, this one focuses more on finding light in the darkness.

Sweetener is Grande’s first album since the bombing at her Manchester concert in May 2017 and Grande herself said it’s about, “Bringing light to a situation or someone’s situation, somebody else who brings light to your life, or sweetening the situation.”

The debut single, “no tears left to cry”, is an infectious song about Grande’s optimism towards the hardships of life. The song starts almost operatic, with Grande showing off her signature, high-pitched voice. It quickly fades into an up-tempo beat, with her singing “Ain’t got no tears in my body I ran out but, boy, I like it.” The song makes you want to dance, and is a refreshing break from the sorrow that surrounded Grande after the Manchester bombing. The debut single gave me high expectations, but, unfortunately, the rest of the album nearly fails to meet them.

That’s not to say all the songs are bad, they just aren’t memorable. Many of the choruses are just the same word over and over again, with an elementary beat. A prime example of that is “the light is coming”, the second single of Sweetener. The only words of the chorus are, “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole.” This song continues the album’s theme of hope during dark times, and while it is a good message, Grande could have executed it better.

The other theme throughout Sweetener is love-at-first sight, or a love seen only in dreams. In “R.E.M.,” Grande sings “Boy you’re such a dream to me,” about a love so good it feels unreal. The song is soft and relaxing, but the problem is it sounds almost exactly like about five other songs on her album.

“God is a woman,” is one of the best and most unique songs on Sweetener. In it, Grande uses her impressive range, and the beat is almost hypnotic. In the pre chorus, she speeds up from the slow beat of the verse, singing “And he sees the universe when I’m in company, it’s all in me.” Slowing down once more for the chorus, the song fades out with a symphony of voices proclaiming “God is a woman.” It leaves the listener with a feeling of empowerment, and it’s a song that that I’ve already dramatically sung with my friends a thousand times.

The most memorable song on the album by title alone is “pete davidson.” To give some context, Grande and her fiancé, Pete Davidson, started dating in May and announced their engagement in early June. The sound itself is nothing special, blending into most of the tracks, but the lyrics are what make it. Obviously the song is about him, but it’s also about how Grande believes that they’re soulmates, and is perhaps an explanation for their rather fast love story.

Sweetener ends on “get well soon.” A song about overcoming anxiety, the sound is soft and smooth, with Grande’s voice regularly hitting high notes. It’s the longest on the album, and the length is well used,  with every part of it showing not only Grande’s growth as an artist, but as a person. “Get well soon” clocks in at 5:22, representing the date, 5/22, of the Manchester bombing, with the last 40 seconds standing as a moment of silence for the victims.

Sweetener, by all accounts, is completely different from Grande’s past three albums. The cover, the lyrics, and the sound represent both the person Grande has become and what her priorities have become as she grows. The album is certainly well worth a listen, but Grande still has far to go as an artist. The overall feel is dreamy, with Grande’s voice whisking the listener away into a fantasy world where all is sweet.