Album Preview: Everything We Know About Ariana Grande’s 4th LP
Ariana Grande is taking no prisoners in 2018. Two years have passed since the 24-year-old rolled out Dangerous Woman in 2016 and a lot has happened since then. The pop princess faced tragedy when a bomb exploded at a concert in Manchester — an experience that made her stronger. She returned to the city for a charity performance and became involved in advocacy work. Ariana is now turning her attention back to music, kickstarting a new era with the release of feel-good anthem, “No Tears Left To Cry.”
Her much-anticipated fourth studio album, called Sweetener, is expected to arrive this summer. While AG4 is still very much shrouded in mystery, Arianators have shown remarkable aptitude for detective work — piecing together enough information to get us very excited about the new era. In celebration of “No Tears Left To Cry” and the prospect of more pop goodness to come, we have compiled everything we know about the album so far below.
Release Date: August 17, 2018
3. “The Light Is Coming” feat. Nicki Minaj
5. “God Is A Woman”
10. “No Tears Left To Cry”
12. “Better Off”
13. “Goodnight and Go”
15. “Get Well Soon”
The pint-sized diva revealed that she was working on a follow-up to Dangerous Woman months after it dropped. Pictures of her in a recording studio started appearing on her Instagram and SnapChat in June, and she began posting song snippets in August. Confirmation of progress on an LP followed. During a rehearsal for a Dangerous Woman Tour stop in November of 2016, Ariana revealed that she had recorded about an album’s worth of material already. “Oh yeah, and I’m almost done with an album,” the hitmaker explained. “I didn’t mean to make an album, and I don’t know if it’s done at all, but I just have a bunch of songs that I really like. I’ve just been working and creating and inspired.”
After the announcement, photos and video from the recording studio started appearing with some frequency. Last September, the “Focus” singer opened up about wanting to take her time with the album in an interview with Billboard. “I started an album already a year ago, over a year ago, but I want to keep creating, and it’s not done yet. So I’m going to take my sweet ass time, so I’ll be rested and ready to go again as soon as possible.”
By December, she provided another update after fans began circulating fake footage of her in the studio. Uploading a new picture, Ari promised that the album was steadily coming together. “I’m pretty sure dis is very old or fake. If u wanted confirmation I’ve been working why didn’t you just ask,” she wrote.
In a Q&A with fans on May 29 the pop princess opened up about the final tracklist. The hitmaker confirmed that it would be comprised of 15 songs with a total of 3 featured vocalists making the final collection. She additionally revealed the content was all “new,” implying it would move beyond the sound of her older material. Furthermore, she added to the excitement by revealing she could not land upon her top 3 songs on the project.
During an interview at Wango Tango 2018, Ariana confirmed that Sweetener would be made available for pre-order on June 20. She will also officially unveil the album’s second single “The Light Is Coming” that day.
“No Tears Left To Cry”:
Ariana returned to the pop world with the unveiling of “No Tears Left To Cry” on April 20. Reuniting with frequent collaborators Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Savan Kotecha, the single is a breezy, feel-good anthem about leaving heartbreak in the past. “Right now I’m in a state of mind I wanna be in like all the time. Ain’t got no tears left to cry,” she coos over a rhythmic production. The Dave Meyers-directed video delivers endless looks and some choreographic and gymnastic feats as the hitmaker and a crew of dancers navigate a gravity defying cityscape.
Fans were quick to note that she embedded several references to Manchester in the visual, including one scene where a bee (a symbol of the city) flies through the sky. As expected, it received positive reviews and flew to the top of the charts of iTunes stores across the globe. As of May 9, the video has racked up more than 124 million views. Capping off her release weekend with an appearance at Coachella, the single rocketed to the top 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Weeks later, it has amassed more than 95 million streams on Spotify and is still sitting comfortably within the top 10 on the charts. Not a bad way to celebrate a new album campaign.
The Title & Potential Songs:
Sneaky! Ariantors think the “No Tears Left To Cry” video has taken a note out of Taylor Swift’s book. In the same way that Tay embedded teasers about other Reputation tracks into her “…Ready For It” visual, fans speculate that Ariana offered a few clues about song titles on the album. In one scene, she leans over some scattered papers. One of them appears to have the word tracklist written across the top. Most of the names on the list are scratched off, but a second paper includes several potential titles including “R.E.M.,” “Successful,” “Sweetener,” “Breathing” and “Borderlines.” Fans suspect that another title, “Blame,” features Pharrell Williams. “God Is A Woman” is heavily underlined, which led fans to believe it may be the title of the album.
On April 28, Ari appeared to confirm the second song off the album would be titled “R.E.M.” with a series of posts on Twitter. In the messages shared with her followers she revealed what appear to be lyrics for the single. “You’re such a dream to me,” she wrote. “Last night ….. boy i met you … yea ….. when i was sleeeeeeep … you’re such a dream to me.” She then followed up with another line: “And it was on a day like this … yeah … if you can belieeeeve … if you can believe … you’re such a dream to me.” Fans speculated the single would debut during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on May 1; however, she only performed the LP’s lead single.
During her appearance on the late-night show, Ari confirmed the album’s title was Sweetener and announced that the above-listed songs would appear on the final tracklist. She explained the optimistic meaning behind the title. “It’s kind of about bringing light to a situation or to someone’s life or somebody else brings life to your life. Sweetening the situation,” she said. Additional tracks she mentioned included “The Light Is Coming,” and the album’s intro “Raindrops,” which is a cover of the ’50s anthem “An Angel Cried” with production from Max Martin. Although not the title of the album, she revealed that “God Is A Woman” is her grandma’s favorite song on the collection, which may be why it was underlined in the video.
The diminutive diva further opened up about several tracks in an interview with Time. Covering the publication’s Next Generation Leaders issue, she offered some hints about what to expect. “God Is A Woman” was described as an “anthemic, sultry banger” with layered vocals. Apparently, it is so intricately produced that it sounds as though she is singing with a choir. But it is all Ari. Additionally, the song “Get Well Soon” has been described as “otherworldly.” It takes on something of a confessional quality for the hitmaker. “It’s like I’m talking to all of my thoughts in my head,” she said, “and they’re singing back to me.”
On May 27, Ari uploaded a teaser of “The Light Is Coming” on Twitter, confirming that Nicki Minaj featured on the track. Over a sparse beat the pair deliver coy vocals. “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole,” the pop princess chants. With a rumored appearance from Drake on the track, it seems like a surefire chart topper. In a recent Q&A on Twitter, she continued to reveal more information about various tracks.
In particular, fans learned more about “Get Well Soon.” “Isss ab my anxiety,” she wrote. “I felt like i was floating for like 3 months last year & not in a nice way. like i outside my body? was v scary and i couldn’t breathe well. so it’s ab that. & lots of voices in my head singin. i hope it comforts people who hear it pls.”
A May cover story with The FADER offered up more details about several songs on the album. “The Light Is Coming” was described as a “twitchy new wave track,” and Ari opened up about her reason for selecting Nicki as her featured vocalist. After auditioning 8 rappers for the track, she turned to her friend and frequent collaborator. Unsurprisingly, she got things very right. “That’s what Nicki Minaj does, she elevates a record. If you’re going to have a rapper on a song, they need to really really really be there for a reason, and she does that every single time.”
We also learned more about “Borderline.” Chiefly, the track will feature a contribution from Missy Elliott. “Get Well Soon,” which has previously been described as being about “anxiety,” charts the siren’s experience with anxiety attacks. “Girl what’s wrong with you? / Come back down,” she sings over piano, bells and a “thousand refractions of her gorgeous voice.” Written immediately after experiencing an attack, it sounds like one of the most intimate tracks on the LP. Meanwhile, “God Is A Woman” is said to boast a beat “you could probably get excommunicated for dancing the right way to.”
During an appearance at Wango Tango 2018 on June 2, Ari live premiered “The Light Is Coming.” Opening with a verse from Nicki over militaristic beats, Ari and a group of dancers confidently moved across the stage. The production picks up as the “Into You” princess delivers her verses, while the chorus features an optimistic message over a sparse drumline and bass. “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole,” she chants. Fans were only treated to about two-and-a-half minutes of the song, meaning that the rumored Drake feature may still be under wraps. The song will be officially released on June 20.
After rumors surfaced online, Ari took to Twitter to confirm that “R.E.M.” contained a sample of Beyonce’s unreleased song, “Wake Up.” Fans began to speculate that Pharrell may have reworked the track after Bey passed on it when Ari teased it during an interview with Elle. The pop princess confirmed that her track was inspired by Bey’s. “It’s an entirely new song but the hook was so dreamy,” she explained. “It had to find a home.”
Additionally, previously shared snippets are called “My Way,” “Sober” and “She Got Her Own.” However, it is worth noting that there are apparently no plans to include any of the teased material on the final tracklist.
In the past, Ariana has been very successful when she works with other artists. Collaborations with the likes of Nicki Minaj and Jessie J on 2014’s “Bang Bang” resulted in a top 3 hit, and she reunited with the rapper on her 2016 top 5 effort “Side To Side.” This time around, we don’t know much about who will be on the new album. However, we know there has been a lot of interest in booking studio time with the “Everyday” hitmaker.
In November of 2016, Tinashe dreamed of hitting the studio. After a fan encouraged the Joyride pop star to record a bop with Ari, she expressed interest in the possibility. Not to be outdone, the rumor mill linked the diva with the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears later that year. Apparently, this is all being orchestrated by the Queen of Pop herself with insiders telling HollywoodLife the goal was to create “‘Bang Bang,’ but with an even bigger bang.”
Although the above-mentioned duets seem more like fantasy, we do know several collaborations are in the works. In April, a snippet of a duet with Dua Lipa mysteriously appeared online. Rumored to be titled “Bad For You,” it sounds like they have a breezy banger on their hands. However, it is unclear if it was intended for an official release. On the other hand, it has been confirmed that she recorded a song with Troye Sivan for his sophomore album. In a recent interview with GQ Australia, the “My My My!” crooner revealed the track was called “Dance to This” and talked about how it came to be.
“But I had this one song and I thought this song really needs Ariana Grande on it. I hate asking people for things, but I plucked up the courage to ask – and I had it like two days later.” It is possible that the pair linked up for AG4 as well?
Producers & Writers:
It should come as no surprise that the pop princess is working with the best producers and writers to craft an album’s worth of surefire hits. In particular, both Max Martin and Pharrell Williams have been tied to the project. This March TMZ reported that the duo split production duties on the LP with each helming half of the tracklist.
Of the two, the Swede-pop mastermind and his team have a brilliant working history with Ari. They have collaborated on some of her biggest hits including “Break Free,” “Side To Side” and the fan-favored “Into You.” On the other hand, this marks the first time she has hit the studio with the “Happy” hitmaker. He has been much more vocal about the project, speaking about it several times. Other producers tied to the project include HitMaka and A1 Bentley, alluding to some potential hip-hop inspirations.
In The FADER, Ari explained that she started working with Pharrell in 2016. Her intention was to explore uncharted musical territories, and they recorded “a million” songs together. Describing an email conversation where he referred to himself as “part listener, part therapist, part stenographer,” he encouraged the hitmaker to open up to her fans. In the wake of the Manchester attack, their music took on new meaning to the industry executives. “In all honesty, I feel like [after Manchester] was when different people from the record company actually started to understand what we were trying to do,” Pharrell said. “It’s unfortunate that that situation is what gave it context, but they were able to really see it then. And that’s the truth.”
She has also been in the studio with the likes of Diplo, but it is unclear if they were working on AG4 or another project. TMZ further reported that Ariana wrote or co-wrote every song on the tracklist, which seems to confirm rumors this will be her most personal project.
AG4 has been described as Ariana’s most ambitious release yet. It has also been described as some of her best content. “No Tears Left To Cry” implies that she is staying a pop direction, but she is expected to take some risks. Her manager, Scooter Braun, is on record saying that the album is set to give her a signature song in the style of other vocal greats. “She has such an extraordinary voice and it’s time for her to sing the songs that define her,” he told Variety last November. “Whitney, Mariah, Adele… when they sing, that’s their song. Ariana has big vocal moments; it’s time for her song.”
Meanwhile, Pharrell told the LA Times their work together was “next-level.” Similarly, Republic Records’ Charlie Walk said the diva has something big in the works when he was interviewed on a red carpet this January. “She’s making some music that we haven’t heard before from her, different types of stuff that I think is gonna be really super important for the 2018 music scene.”
Apparently, it is too soon to rule out the possibility of some country inspiration on the project. Back in September of 2016, Ari revealed that her grandpa is pushing for the diva to explore the genre. If she does so she’ll follow in the footsteps of Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. “If that opportunity comes along, I’d have to say, ‘Hell yeah!,'” she said in an interview with ET. Bring it on!
In The FADER, Ari offered additional insight into how the album will differ from previous releases. Reiterating that it would be her most personal project to date, she explained that it would feature bangers with a message. “Here is my bleeding heart, and here is a trap beat behind it,” she said to explain the sound. “I’ve always just been like a shiny, singing, 5-6-7-8, sexy-dance…sexy thing. But now it’s like, ‘OK … issa bop — but issa message. Issa bop but also has chunks of my soul in it. Here you go. Also, I cried 10 hundred times in the session writing it for you.'”
“I’ve never been this vulnerable to myself,” she added. “I feel like I graduated almost. I feel like for a long time the songs were great, but they weren’t songs that made me feel something the way these songs do.”