Review: Ariana Grande overcomes pain with love in ‘Sweetener’


Photo by Kat Owens

5 Seconds of Summer’s “Youngblood” talks relationships while also showing how the band has matured since the release of its last two albums.
Photo illustration by Kat Owens


Ariana Grande’s newest album, “Sweetener”, is certainly the most authentic of them yet – showing a side of Ariana that “Dangerous Woman kept hidden behind an alter ego. On this album, she leaves behind the super bunny character with the latex ears and is just herself. It’s a Grande that has grown and found her voice, evolving into a writing style that is more personal and a singing style that is softer.

Rather than her well known vocal gymnastics, the vocals on “Sweetener” involve sing-talking, some rapping and a lot of harmonizing layers. Instruments remain minimized as Grande uses her powerful voice to create the music, layer by layer. The result is a soothing, feminine style that has listeners feeling as though they’re floating amongst light pink and lavender clouds.

Grande’s thoughtful approach to “Sweetener does not stop at the sound – it is also appreciable in the lyrics. The first album she’s created since the woeful 2017 bombing at her concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, “Sweetener is heartfelt and personal. Tragedy often times allows us to see past ourselves and is a reminder to appreciate the things we have, and this is evident throughout “Sweetener.”

Every somber lyric is met with optimism and the reminder that love can bring us happiness in times when it seems out of reach. The song “Breathin’” begins with the line “I can so overcomplicate, people tell me to medicate,” and is met at the chorus with a reminder from her love to “keep breathin.’” The title track also serves as a reminder, stating “when life deals us cards, make everything taste like it is salt, then you come through with the sweetener you are, to bring the bitter taste to a halt.” These words show a side of Grande that is vulnerable and gracious – someone who is able to experience pain and overcome it.

The second to last song on the album, “Pete Davidson,” is dedicated to Grande’s fiancée of the same name and details how love has personally brought joy into her life. In under a minute, Grande states that she is happy over 20 times.

The last song on the album, “Get Well Soon,” is a tribute to the attack at Manchester. The song ends at 4:22 but 40 seconds of silence remains, bringing the length of the track to 5 minutes and 22 seconds – a symbol for the 22 lives that were lost on May 22, 2017. The lyrics are a symbol of love and hope, as Grande states “I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you, just call me, no matter the issue,” and “you can work your way to the top.”

It is a beautiful way to end the album – empowering listeners with the message that they can do and overcome anything.

Sweetener is undoubtedly one of the most important albums Grande will ever produce. Having co-written more songs than ever before, 10 of 15 on this album, it’s clear that the uplifting messages on “Sweetener come straight from Grande and that this album is her way of connecting with listeners in a way that only music can.