Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” is what we needed

Ariana Grande is talented. Like, really talented. On Aug. 17, the four-octave ranged soprano dropped her latest album, “Sweetener,” and it changed my life.

“Sweetener” is Grande’s first project since the suicide bombing at a Grande Manchester concert last year killed or injured over 100 audience members. Since then, the artist has laid low and fans have waited to see how soon, or if, she’d recover from the trauma.

Grande’s highly anticipated comeback began when she headlined One Love for Manchester, a benefit concert for the victims of the bombing. After a short break, she zoomed back into the spotlight, stole our hearts and dropped one of this year’s hottest albums.

In “Sweetener’s” first week, it jumped to the top of the Billboard 200 list, and its first two singles made the Hot 100’s top 10 list simultaneously. “God Is a Woman” clocked in at No. 8 and “No Tears Left to Cry” at No. 7, while several other tracks trickled down the list.

Clocking in at 37 seconds, the acapella “Raindrops (An Angel Cried)” breaks the world record for the shortest audio recording of an artist depleting my self confidence with only a few vocal riffs. This short track sets the tone for the album—this girl is not here to play games.

Next, Grande channels her inner Grimes in “The Light Is Coming” featuring Nicki Minaj. Let’s be real: the synth-pop-meets-trap-meets-experimental music video is a major flop. I love that she took creative liberty with bouncy and squawky vocals, but it did not work with the hopeless romantic dreaminess that dominates the album. Minaj is in it, though, so it’s chill.

For anyone late to the party, “God Is a Woman” made the world believe in something it needed to believe in. Grande harmonizes with several layers of her own vocals, in arguably her most mature vocal performance to date. This song is angels kissing my toes; it’s floating on a cosmic blanket; it’s an out-of-body experience.

“Breathin’” is like Grande’s other Top 40 hits. Its upbeat, R&B overtones relies on “yuhs” and Mariah Carey-esque vocal acrobatics to make it worth listening to. Her impossibly wide vocal range compensates for the song’s predictability, a predictability that I would argue is necessary bubblegum pop to balance out the album’s trap tone.

While it reflects the anxiety and vulnerability she experienced following the Manchester tragedy, “No Tears Left to Cry” is an ode to the happiness in her life. Grande wants to start fresh, make a comeback and celebrate the good vibes she surrounds herself with or at least tries to surround herself with. It also pays tribute to the 90s girl-power artists like Madonna and Celine Dion that inspired her.

Although “Sweetener” is littered with random experimental synth music, Grande has made a comeback worth bowing down to. This is easily her most impressive work to date, and in just half a decade she has a discography worthy of a seasoned veteran.

I can’t wait to see where her career takes her, and us, next.


Artist: Ariana Grande

Album: Sweetener

4.5 out of 5 stars

Release date: Aug. 17