Review: Sweetener by Ariana Grande

by Nick Jordan (Opinion Editor)

 Image: Republic Records
Image: Republic Records

Ariana Grande has lived quite the life at only 25 years old. The singer, who has since become engaged to SNL actor Pete Davidson, released her newest album following said engagement, a widely publicized career at Nickelodeon and over a year after a terrorist-detonated bomb took the lives of 23 of her fans as they were leaving her concert in Manchester, United Kingdom. Any normal person can be overwhelmed by any one of these aspects. However, like a true artist, she has taken these experiences and used them to fuel her creativity. It’s clear Grande isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This album is incredibly heartfelt from the first note uttered on “raindrops (an angel cried)”, a 38 second song void of any instrumentals whatsoever. It instead relies solely on her powerful pipes to move her listeners right from the get-go. Two full-length collaborations with Pharrell and Nicki Minaj pile on some solid beats and fun to the sobering tone set by the preceding song. Grande, however, is at her best when performing on her own. Her solo efforts range from the 90s R&B-esque “sweetener” and “R.E.M.” to the shade-throwing, career-owning “successful”, all of which make the head bop and mind expand.

You’ll notice a majority of her song titles being all lower case. At its surface, it leaves the impression of someone who is meek. She, of course, is nothing of the sorts. She proves that with the both lyrically and vocally empowering “God is a woman”, placed strongly in the middle at track #5. This song will no doubt be an anthem for years to come. Following the emotional “no tears left to cry”, her first single off this new album, Grande once again showcases a beat-filled collaboration. This time, it is with “borderline” featuring the very much in demand Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott. It is the rare instance where someone connected with the word “misdemeanor” is actually being sought out in the entertainment industry and not for bad reason. The final four songs that follow are the most personal of the entire album, and not just because one of them is appropriately titled “pete davidson”. There’s the musically sleep-inducing yet lyrically awakening “better off” and “goodnight n go” as well as the soulful “get well soon”. Despite the title of this track, it is the equivalent of her ripping a greeting card and telling her listeners self-improvement starts with themselves.

All in all, Sweetener is very much Sugar in the Raw when it easily could have been Splenda. Grande shows vulnerability and strength not when she needs to but when she wants to. In this case, this spoonful of sugar isn’t helping any medicine go down. It is the medicine we all dearly need.


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