Born out of tragedy, 'Sweetener' deserves more respect
On Aug. 17, 2018, Ariana Grande released her highly anticipated fourth studio album "Sweetener."
This album came a little over a year after the tragic suicide bombing that occurred after Grande’s May 22, 2017, show in Manchester, England, on her "Dangerous Woman Tour."
As fans of all ages were leaving the Manchester Arena after the concert ended, a suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb, killing 22 people and leaving over 100 injured.
Only two weeks after the horrific terrorist attack, Grande organized and held "One Love Manchester," a benefit concert and TV special featuring a number of famous performers including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Mac Miller, Little Mix, Katy Perry and more.
The event was attended by approximately 55,000 people and raised more than £10 million, equivalent to more than $12 million in U.S. currency, to help the victims of the bombing and their families.
This tragic attack left many families without their loved ones, gave many victims life-altering injuries and caused Grande to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a number of other mental health issues.
After the attacks, many questioned what Grande’s next career move would be, or if she would leave the spotlight completely. Then, on April 20, 2018, Grande dropped "no tears left to cry."
This song was beyond impactful, touting messages of hope and growth while still acknowledging the impact the bombing had on her and many others.
This marked the beginning of her "Sweetener" era, one of my all-time favorites from Grande. As the five-year anniversary of this album approaches in August, I wanted to look back and discuss the importance of this highly overlooked and underappreciated project.
When talking about this era in Grande’s career, many fans and non-fans alike disregard the album, writing it off as a bad record. I truly believe that this opinion overlooks the many elements of this era that make it one of Grande’s best.
I think that many don’t like this album due to its overall sound and departure from Grande’s traditional pop perfection. By far, "Sweetener" is Grande’s most experimental album in terms of its sound, blending elements of pop, R&B, trap, funk and neo-soul.
Approximately half of the album was produced by Pharrell Williams while the other half was mainly produced by a mix of talents, including industry legend Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Tommy Brown, commonly known as TBHits.
Many fans' issues arise with William’s half of the album, calling it messy and stating that the production and lyrics are terrible. I truly don’t understand why these songs get the level of hate that they do as I personally adore how different "Sweetener" is from Grande's previous works.
"Sweetener" also marks Grande’s first and only win for Best Pop Vocal Album at the Grammy Awards, and for good reason.
While Grande was mainly putting out pop bangers before this album, "Sweetener" showed that she is more than just a vocalist. This album solidified her as a true artist and someone who's willing to change and experiment with her craft.
"Sweetener" touts themes of growth, mental health, love and hope, some of Grande's best and most cohesive messages to date. The album allowed Grande to be the most vulnerable she had ever been in her career, discussing her struggles with anxiety and trauma as well as her love life and sexuality.
When looking at all of Grande’s albums to the present day, I wholeheartedly believe that this one was home to some of the best singles of her career, with songs like "no tears left to cry," "God is a woman" and "breathin."
This record also holds some of my all-time favorite songs in Grande’s discography, such as "R.E.M," "everytime," "better off" and "goodnight n go," as well as all three of the aforementioned singles.
"Sweetener," though created in response to a tragic occurrence, is truly one of Grande’s best works to date. This album transformed her career, solidifying her as a true artist in the industry.
While it’s underrated by many fans and non-fans alike, it was a vital stepping stone in Grande’s career and a major influence on her following albums.