After God is a Woman by Ariana Grande dropped, the anticipation for the album that would follow was intense. Well, the long-awaited album is finally here, and its name is Sweetener. There are a few main qualities of the album that stood out to me, so let’s start with those before we get down to the nitty gritty.
I feel like all the post-Disney artists have some kind of transition from upbeat pop music to something a little more “grown” and erring on the side of hip hop and R&B. It seems like this is that transitioning time for Ariana; Sweetener has features from Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, and the OG rap queen: Missy Elliott. On top of that, the actual lyrics and vibe of her songs are a bit more sensual than what we’re used to from her, but she’s doing a good job with embracing her femininity without seeming overly sexualized. This attitude is easily depicted in her music video for “God is a woman,” in which she uses more symbolism than skin to get her message of being an empowered woman across (as you can see below).
Look at that symbolism, my lit teacher would be so proud.
Now we have to talk about the first song of the album: “raindrops,” AKA, the song millions of girls will turnto when they’re feeling heartbroken. This is a 40-second a capella piece packed with Ariana’s impressive runs and belts. This song doesn’t have any excessive production. In fact, it sounds as though all she did was sit in her bathroom click record, but in the best way. She gets across the idea of feeling heartbroken with a couple sentences; this lack of fluff makes the piece that much more striking. It’s simple, short and sweet (how fitting for an album named Sweetener).
Let’s discuss the song that features Nicki Minaj, “the light is coming.” This piece opens with Nicki Minaj doing her usual thang (slaying with a funky accent, you know the deal). Then Ariana comes in with a fun, upbeat chorus that reminds me of “Hollaback” by Gwen Stefani. This song is just bound to put you in a good mood, with one of the memorable lines of the chorus being “the light is coming, get back everything the darkness stole”. It’s a song of redemption, kind of like a girly girl version of Big Sean’s “Bounce Back.”
Do I even need to talk about “God is a woman?” I’ve had many friends that don’t even listen to Grande come to me raving about this song. Ariana’s sensual side is strong as ever in this piece, and her vocals are better than I’ve ever heard them. She comes out of that iconic head voice of hers a lot in this song, revealing a more rich, full tone. There are many songs in Sweetener in which she stays in her chest voice more than usual, but this quality is particularly surprising to hear in one of her pop singles.
I’m going to end this on a more open-ended note. I have no idea how to feel about “goodnight n go.” This song is a cover of Imogen Heap’s original song “Goodnight and Go.” “Goodnight and Go” by Imogen Heap is literally my favorite song of all time, and Imogen Heap is one of my favorite artists. So, you can imagine my bewilderment when I heard this song on Ariana’s album. There is a huge problem with Imogen Heap being terribly under recognized amongst the typical consumer population, even though she is a revolutionary for music (her situation is a lot like Bjork’s). I remember being outraged when people didn’t even know that “Watcha Say” by Jason Derula was a redone version of Imogen’s Hide and Seek chorus. Long story short: now I can’t decide if I appreciate the rendition of Imogen’s song or if I am annoyed that people are going to think about Ariana Grande instead of Imogen Heap when they hear the words of “Goodnight and Go.” How do you guys feel about renditions of songs originally done by your favorite artists? I’d love to hear your thoughts.