On Aug. 17, 2018, Loyola students were packing their bags and bidding adieu to their hometowns for a college experience in the big city. Meanwhile, Ariana Grande was dropping her critically acclaimed fourth studio album “Sweetener.” Two years later, that college experience has gone virtual but the tunes of “Sweetener” still can help usher in a proper welcome to fall.
“Sweetener” features production from pop hitmakers Max Martin (“…Baby One More Time,” “Blank Space”) and Pharrell of The Neptunes (“Hot In Herre,” “Happy”). The mix of R&B with Grande’s pop sound creates an atmospheric, elevating album.
The tone of “Sweetener” is very beachy, but not just any beach. It’s a late afternoon beach walk with no real plans in mind but to clear your head once you finally reach a random rock and rest on it for a few hours gazing out at the water.
“R.E.M.” is a midnight dreampop infusion that is both cheery and melancholy. Grande’s soft vocals emulate an ethereal, dopamine-inducing song that has the same inflection as the hug of a warm blanket on a rainy summer night.
“better off” offers a bittersweet melody that’s suitable for a reflective night as the season transitions from summer to fall. Lay in bed and ignore week one homework to contemplate existential thoughts as the song fiddles in the background.
The unfortunately titled “pete davidson” provides a minute of ecstasy in musical form. Short — like Grande’s engagement to the titular comedian — “pete davidson” is a sweet, haunting ode to young love. The spark may have died but two years later, the song is as pretty as ever.
With lyrics like “I thought you into my life / (Whoa) Look at my mind, yeah,” the song is hardly a lyrical testament. Even then, the melody soothes and works as a minute-long breather. Toss it on repeat and listen to it the 48 possible times you can play it an hour! Well, maybe don’t because even the most soothing minute-long song would still get annoying after an hour.
“breathin” reminds listeners not to let the worries of the world hold them down, while “get well soon” catapults off this notion with its uplifting tone and lyrics. The song is summed up by the lyrics “My body’s here on earth, but I’m floatin’ / (Girl, what’s wrong with you? Come back down!)” due to their tongue in cheek yet inspirational nature.
Listening to “get well soon” truly feels like taking an elevator ride to a world of euphoria, complemented by the dings heard in the background of the song. Grande found a hidden world with “get well soon” and it’s a wonderful one to escape to in this often stressful time of transition.
Cutesy bops “successful” and “sweetener” provide a light, bouncy nature to the album that’s contagious. “sweetener” sounds like a lost Christmas track that would jingle in a diner and its holiday warmth vibes are immensely impactful in the track.
“Sweetener” is a moment captured in time. It’s the part in the coming-of-age movie where the frame freezes on the main characters enjoying each other’s company. Kiss summer goodbye with this stress-releasing, positivity-inducing album that’s likely to bring comfort in these times.
“Sweetener” is available on all music streaming platforms.