For a while there, it seemed like every news we’ve had about Ariana Grande had been bad ones: The Manchester concert bombing in 2017, her toxic relationship and eventual break up with rapper Mac Miller (before the latter died), and even that episode with the “groping bishop” at Aretha Franklin’s funeral.
So, it’s good that the latest is favorable: The release of her fourth album “Sweetener.”
As the title suggests, Ariana’s not going to let anything bog her down, well at least not anymore. Recall that she declared the Manchester concert incident had “permanently affected her.” But she’s done wallowing, going by her music. In fact, it’s her most positive sounding album since her debut.
Opening vocal snippet “Raindrops (An Angel Cried)” feels like a tribute; an acknowledgment of a painful episode before she says goodbye in order to embrace her future. Sure enough, the tempo of the first full track “Blazed” featuring Pharrell Williams picks up with a head-bobbing and irresistible beat. Then comes “The Light Is Coming” featuring Nicki Minaj, whose opening rap break immediately kicks this extravaganza to life. Why, even Ariana’s repetition of “The light is coming / to get back everything the darkness stole” is on hypnotic trap melody mode. Later, Missy Elliott appears (albeit on a short rap break) on “Borderline.”
Besides the trap beats that dot and decorate a lot of the tracks on Ariana’s new set (including thumping club number “Everytime,” and the fine “Goodnight N Go”), her latest has distinct R&B flavor to it. Unsurprisingly, Ariana’s vocals lend itself to the style. In fact, it comes easy for her – and delightfully so – on songs like the catchy “R.E.M.” The same goes with the title track with R&B touches that segue naturally to trap and pop.
“Successful” is an excellent synth-pop track that flaunts what Ariana is all about as she intones “Yeah it feels good to be so young/and have this fun and be successful.” And as a personal note to self, “Get Well Soon” sets out to remind her to “come back down” when her “‘system is overloaded.”
Then there’s the self-explanatory femme anthem “God Is A Woman.” And pop tracks “Breathin” (about facing adversity) and nice chill track “Better Off.” But she said it best on the pop radio hit “No Tears Left To Cry,” as she sings “Right now I’m in a state of mind / I wanna be in like all the time/ ain’t got no tears left to cry.”
After all she’s been through, Ariana Grande has learned to accept that she can’t control things outside her sphere. But at the same time, she’s realized she can choose how she projects into that sphere. And she’d rather have a positive outlook from hereon.
In doing so, she has come into her own as artist.