Ariana Grande’s ‘Sweetener’ is a little taste of what you need!

In the wake of tragedy, Ariana Grande makes a triumphant return to the music scene with her fourth LP Sweetener. This is her latest venture produced by the brilliant Pharrell Williams, who has worked with Beyoncé, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and a sea of other of music’s greatest – quite the achievement for such a young woman. Sweetener is Grande’s most ambitious project yet; it’s R&B influence marks a tonal shift from the sound of her 2016 platinum-selling Dangerous Woman, an album that cemented Grande as a pop superstar. This album is unlike Grande’s past efforts, but its recurring themes reflect the difficult year faced by an artist who is known for her outspokenness and authenticity. Not only does Sweetener incorporate lyrics that highlight the complexities of love, the singer also speaks on her own mental health, anxiety, sexuality and positivity, in what is her most personal record to date. Though her fourth effort may be more mature than its predecessors, Grande’s optimism brings a kind of excitement to the table that her fellow contemporary artists struggle to match.

The album’s first two singles, ‘No Tears Left to Cry’ and ‘The Light is Coming’ give a true taster of the records’ vibe. Both tracks reflect on the idea of moving onto better horizons, and this undoubtedly feels like a step forward in the right direction for Grande. ‘R.E.M’ is a dreamy love poem, featuring layers of her harmonious vocals blended together to create a melody that is bound to entrance even the most unaffectionate of listeners. ‘Goodnight n Go’ sits amongst Sweeteners finer tracks, showing off Grande’s charm on a rework of Imogen Heap’s ‘Goodnight and Go’. Grande gives the track her own personal twist, bringing it to life with her flirtatious persona. In arguably the biggest track of the album, Grande celebrates female sexuality in an anthem that champions women everywhere with ‘God Is A Woman’. The ode to feminism delivers the superstar’s powerhouse vocals over a beat that allows for a constant change of pace during the track, showcasing Grande’s impressive and expansive vocal range. The track, which arrives at a crucial time in history for women around the world, marks a turning point of the popstar’s career by establishing her as a modern feminist icon at the age of 25 – a highly impressive feat for an artist so young.

The album would feel incomplete however, if not for ‘Breathin’ and ‘Everytime’, two of Sweetener’s stronger tracks that reminisce on her earlier sound. ‘Breathin’ is a reflection on Grande’s own anxiety, an issue that she does not shy away from talking about publicly. The track is a self-help guide for Grande, reminding her to breathe at times when life becomes overwhelming. ‘Everytime’, one of the few tracks on the album produced by pop extraordinaire Max Martin, questions Grande’s desire to run back to an ex-lover. On an album where it seems like a stylistic outsider, the track finds itself a closer companion in Dangerous Woman more so than Sweetener, but Grande’s history of churning out Top 40 hits allows for the track to feel like a natural fit for the album. But what is most striking about the album is the final track ‘Get Well Soon’, where Grande looks forward to a brighter future in a graceful, sentimental ballad. The track, which feels like a fitting finale to an optimistic record, is a tribute to her fans, finishing with a 40-second silence that brings the total running time to 5:22 – the exact date of the Manchester Arena attack.

Whilst the album may not always blend together well – see overproduced tracks ‘Blazed’ and ‘Borderline’ – there is no doubt in Grande’s ability to deliver a catchy pop record that is guaranteed to be a hit amongst her loyal supporters. Although Pharrell does not always deliver the same radio hits as her previous collaborators – namely Max Martin, – Grande’s essence is perfectly captured in Sweetener, an album which is guaranteed to leave a delightful aftertaste.