Ariana Grande of the ‘House Butera, the unaging, Queen of the Arianators, the leader of the soft voiced singers, platinum album collector and rescuer of dogs. The mastermind behind Sweetener is gunning to add the title of ‘Queen of Pop’ to her accolades.
One of the many beautiful things about this album is the intricate composition of each song. Ranging from the instrumentals to the lyrics, Ariana Grande hides little nest eggs throughout Sweetener.
R.E.M is an abbreviation for ‘Rapid Eye Movement,’ which is a level of sleep that occurs at different times in the night during which the body is able to dream more vividly. On this dreamlike lullaby of a song, Ariana reinvents Beyonce’s 2013 demo, “Wake Up (R.E.M),” which did not make the cut for Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album. This track is also written, produced and featuring Pharrell Williams.
So we have Beyoncé, Skateboy P, wordplay, and to top it all off, an appearance from the best part of The Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman;” the hums. If you’re unfamiliar with “Mr. Sandman,” the lyrics go like this, “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen.” I love that “R.E.M” is laced with little delights like that and could still soothe you to sleep better than a Lunesta.
4. NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY
The lead single from “Sweetness” comes in 4th place. Before listening to this album, I was skeptical any other song would top “No Tears Left To Cry,” because I love it so much, yet here it is nowhere close to number 1. That’s how good this album is.
This dance pop/disco song alone solidified Ariana’s place as the reigning Queen of Pop, in my mind. She softly sings the verses and bellows out the chorus. Out of all the wonderful songs on this album, “No Tears Left To Cry” has the most catchy hook with the best melody.
3. GOODNIGHT N GO
Who remembers the show ‘The OC?’ High-five, we’re old as heck now! Their impeccable soundtrack (shout-out to the legend Alexandra Patsavas) featured the original version of this gem by Imogen Heap. An Imogen Heap cover that’s as good as the original is not an easy thing to accomplish at all, but Ariana did it. Her vocal range makes her the perfect singer to hit the first-soprano worthy notes on “Goodnight n Go.”
Although it’s a cover of “Goodnight And Go,” Ariana added her own flavor by playing around with the instrumental, the verses, and the post-chorus. Imogen Heap is one of those artists you don’t see too many people covering because she hits impossibly high notes, but it looks like all we needed was a Mariah Carey 2.0 to get the job done.
Ever the romantic, Ariana serenades with the voice of an angel. The splash of hip hop and electronica in the instrumental give this 2005 classic a whole new vibe while still managing to maintain its original sweetness.
2. GET WELL SOON
A soulful delivery of a message about the importance of self-care is what everyone in America needs with the current state of our nation. All over the internet, you’ll see people joking about drinking themselves under the table to escape the constant trauma that is simply being an American nowadays. Now I’m pretty sure that this song has nothing to do with politics, but either way, Ariana just wants to give everyone a hug through “Get Well Soon.”
On her twitter, Ariana explained that she felt like she was floating outside of her body for 3 months while grappling with breathing troubles last year. This is a common bodily response after a traumatic experience like the Manchester tragedy. In this song, she asks herself, “girl, what’s wrong with you? Come back down.”
“Sheesh!” Not only did I listen to this song virtually non-stop for a whole day, I also sent it to all of my friends. There’s always a certain amount of pressure to make sure that the song the album is named after is a certified banger. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” were all masterpieces. Ariana Grande joins their ranks with “Sweetener.”
The synthesizers add elements of gospel to the track even though the lyrics are fun and flirty. At first listen, I detected a hint of Etta James’ “At Last” in the synthesizers as well. “Sweetener” switches from choral main verses teaming with church recital piano to a trapped out beat with adlibs in the chorus. Balance.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. RAINDROPS( AN ANGEL CRIED) (4/5)
2. BLAZED (5/5)
3. THE LIGHT IS COMING (5/5)
4. R.E.M (5/5)
5. GOD IS A WOMAN (5/5)
6. SWEETENER (5/5)
7. SUCCESSFUL (5/5)
8. EVERYTIME (5/5)
9. BREATHIN (3/5)
10. NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY (4/5)
11. BORDERLINE (5/5)
12. BETTER OFF (5/5)
13. GOODNIGHT N GO (3.5/5)
14. PETE DAVIDSON (3.5/5)
15. (ONLINE) (2/5)
In the present day where producers may have more clout and longevity than rappers and singers, a co-sign from producer Pharrell Williams is like getting knighted by the Queen of England. Pharrell worked with Ariana to create seven of the 15 tracks on “Sweetener.”
Ariana already went platinum with her last three albums, however, Ariana Grande’s voice is maturing in the best way possible. Upon going back to listen to some of the hits from her previous albums, it became obvious to me that she has grown more comfortable with her craft. The verses that might have once been described as mousy if they debuted in (say) 2013 are now audibly more confident and full-sounding.
She has a track, “the light is coming,” featuring her newfound bff Nicki Minaj with whom she was spotted spilling tea at the VMA’s with. The only other two features are Pharrell Williams in “blazed” and Missy Elliot in “borderline.”
The track-listing varies from cruising music, to club hits, to fun in the sun, to soulful. Ariana opened up about some personal experiences on the promo run for her most earnest project yet. She turned her pain into art. Life gave her lemons and she made sweet sweet lemonade.