Tune In: Sweetener


Ariana Grande’s new album “Sweetener” features her signature melodic vocals while also delving into her emotions in the aftermath of the bombing at her 2017 Manchester, England concert.

On the album, Grande collaborates with musicians including Pharrell Williams, Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot to produce a new sound for her. Although her distinctive voice remains a highlight in her music, “Sweetener” reveals Grande’s journey in exploring different genres, including trap.

Grande starts off her album with “raindrops (an angel cried),” a 37 second intro that features her singing a capella in her powerful, soulful voice, setting the raw, heartfelt mood for the album. She follows up with the upbeat “blazed,” in which the combination of Williams’s rhythmic lines, Grande’s melodic voice and a catchy beat make the song relaxing and dance-worthy.

The pop singer continues her cheerful and peppy beat in “sweetener,” which highlights living life positively when “life deals us cards [that] make everything taste like salt.” These lyrics and the bubbly beat are  welcome reminders to look on the bright side. Although “sweetener” contains some repetitive phrases, its happy rhythm offsets the tediousness of the redundant words.

“successful” showcases Grande giving off happy vibes and radiating confidence as she sings “I’m so successful, and girl, you too, you are so young and beautiful and so successful.” I was touched by the way she lifts up and encourages other women, especially as confidence is something that most of us struggle with in high school. Grande also highlights female empowerment in “God is a woman” and declares “I can be all the things you told me not to be / when you try to come for me I keep flourishing.”                              

“R.E.M” starts with a beat formed by snaps, breathing and electronic synth chords that sounds slightly similar to the beat in Migos’s hip hop song “Stir Fry.” The song is calmer and toned down compared to Grande’s previous pop hits, although her harmonizing voice paired with additional background vocals to create dreamy sounds that made me want to stand up and move to the rhythm. “better off” is another remarkably soothing and relaxing song that is about Grande moving on from a relationship that was not for her.

In “everytime,” Grande sings about being infatuated with someone, describing her romantic yet conflicted feelings in her lyrics to relate to her younger audience. The trap beat forms the backbone of the song and is not too overwhelming, serving as a calm background that balances well with Grande’s soft voice. The emotions in “everytime” make up for the excessive repetition of the phrase “back to you.” Grande opens up about dealing with her anxiety in “breathin,” a soulful song that people can relate to struggling to “keep breathin’” and overcoming difficult situations.

Grande’s hit single “no tears left to cry” hints that the singer is ready to move on from sadness and live life with hope. In this rhythmic song, the lyrics “we’re way too fly to partake in all this hate” were meaningful to me as Grande emphasizes the importance of optimism and strength after an emotional experience or ordeal.

The pop star also includes references to both a singer she admires and to the man she loves, which adds personal details to the album. Inspired by Imogen Heap’s “Goodnight and Go,” she produced a cover and remix that she titled “goodnight n go,” changing up some of the lyrics and putting her own spin to Heap’s song. Grande also pays tribute to her fiancé in “pete davidson,” showing her love and appreciation for him with passionate lyrics such as “universe must have my back, fell from the sky into my lap.”

In her soft and slow closing song “get well soon,” she pays respect to the Manchester bombing at her May 22 concert last year, and there is 40 seconds of silence at the end to commemorate the 22 people who lost their lives, which makes the timestamp 5:22. Grande describes the whirlwind of emotions and thoughts she felt in the aftermath of the attack. The layers of Grande’s soulful and encouraging voice tie up the album beautifully, as she sings “when you need someone to pull you out the bubble, I’ll be right there just to hug you.”

Some of the songs felt a little repetitive, with lyrics repeated too often to add spice to the music. In “the light is coming,” Minaj’s unchanging intonation and Grande’s repeating of the chorus did not impress me. The tune and the beat in the background did not make the song appealing to listen to, and Grande sings to the fast pace with less inflection, which did not make the song stand out from the rest of the album. Also, Missy Elliott’s part in “borderline” did not complement Grande’s vocals well because nothing stood out or added to the song.  

Overall, the album really touched me, but some of the songs that stood out to me most include “R.E.M,” “breathin,” “better off” and “get well soon.” I was impressed with the way that Grande poured her feelings into each of her songs. Grande succeeded in keeping her unique melodic voice memorable while still going into a new musical direction.