Then you come through like a sweetener….
That’s been the mantra for Ariana Grande since last summer when her most iconic album, Sweetener, dropped — and things have only gotten sweeter ever since. Despite the smash-hit success of Thank You, Next, particularly its title track and her much-debated foray into rapping on “7 Rings” — how dare a woman do what so many men have already been doing! — it’s still “Sweetener” that functions as the high point and the centerpiece of Grande’s latest tour.
Perhaps she knows this, or maybe that’s how it feels to her, personally, too. Maybe that’s why she kept the name in place even when her next album began to eclipse the 2018 release. (Well, I know it was probably a logistics thing, but there are few things more sacred in pop than projecting deep meaning onto logistical concerns.) Either way, by the time she gets to this song in the early third of a massive, nearly two-hour set, it’s clear that Ariana has learned the power of taking any bitter cup and, instead of just drinking it, insisting on flipping it into something better.
After what she’s been through — terrorist attacks (while on tour, no less), the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, the dissolution of her engagement to Pete Davidson — this sentiment doesn’t read as heavy-handed treacle, but real, wise advice from a woman who has lived several nightmares, and has still repeatedly found her way back to joy, despite it all. If anyone was worried that this tour would get weepy or tragic — as songs like “Ghostin” and “In My Head” indicate it might — the mood onstage is much more “No Tears Left To Cry” than anything else.