Everyone has their own pace in finding who they are. It’s especially true when someone is finding that out in their art. Some hit the ground running with how they want to sound and go with their art. Others require time to figure out who they want to sound like, while simultaneously sounding like themselves. In the case of the latter, they can craft a beautifully diverse discography once they finally start moving forward. Ariana Grande is one these special cases.
Sweetener, Grande’s fourth studio album, is her declaration of being. She’s ready to tell her side of things from her musical perspective. On her previous albums, Grande seemed to personify someone or something else to tell her story. Pop princesses always do until they decide to become queens of their own castle. Whether it was the lenses of innocent love, maturing sense of self, or the dangerous woman, Grande has always worn something different each time to tell her stories, but this album is different. She is telling her story through herself.
Fans always have their own opinions on what is the best sound for an artist, but the artist’s opinion is usually nowhere found in these discussions. Always being compared to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, and other vocal powerhouses, Grande made sure that wasn’t the case here. She got the likes of Max Martin, Ilya, and Pharrell (producing 7 of the 15 songs) to lead the charge on production. But for the first time on an album, as reported by Sam Lansky of Time Magazine, Grande took the lead on songwriting, amassing 10 total writing credits on the project – also the most she’s had on any album. She took charge of her artistry.
Grande is unapologetically herself. She’s comfortable where she is in music and life but is obviously still striving for greater heights at the same time. She has something to say and is making sure she is heard the most. Oddly enough, sonically, this album might be closest to her first. While being the pop queen she is, she has always used elements of R&B in her music, with doo-wop swings in vocal delivery at times. It was the most prevalent on Yours Truly. Now take that album, add 5 years of extra life experience, personal stories, comfortability, and matured sonics and that is the album we get today.
Besides the lead single, “No Tears Left to Cry”, the poppiest moments come at the beginning of the album. They’re quickly traded out for smoother vocals in “R.E.M” or personal cuts of heaven on “Get Well Soon”. The track that says the most without saying too much at all is “Pete Davidson”. The second shortest track on the album after the intro, Grande dedicates a song to her soon to be hubby. The listener is provided with a moment of eargasmic bliss. It’s a love letter to him and her fans, giving them a piece of peace that she gets in her life when she wants to slow down.
Grande is happy to be where she’s at but more than anything, she’s ready to stand on her own two feet and yell from the mountain tops that “God is a Woman”. By the end of this album, you believe her. And why shouldn’t you? From here on out, the best is yet to come for Grande and I think we’re all waiting to hear what it sounds like.