Sweetener is Ariana Grande's fourth studio album which was released on August 17, 2018 on Republic Records.
The album received widespread critical acclaim, appearing on several year-end and decade-end lists. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 231,000 album-equivalent units in its first week, of which 127,000 were from pure sales, marking her third release to reach the top position in the country.
The album would later be certified platinum by the RIAA. It also topped several international album charts, including in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
"Sweetener" won "Best Pop Vocal Album" at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, making it the first Grammy Award win of Grande's career.
On November 13, 2016, Ariana Grande stated on Snapchat that she had finished her fourth album. She later clarified by saying, "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 really like. I've been working a lot and have been creating and feeling inspired." In December 2017, she confirmed that she was still working on the album.
Grande's manager Scooter Braun told Variety that the album has a more mature sound, saying: "It's time for [Ariana] to sing the songs that define her ... Whitney, Mariah, Adele – when they sing, that's their song. Ariana has big vocal moments; it's time for her song."
Pharrell Williams told Los Angeles Times: "The things that [Ariana] has to say on this album, it's pretty next-level." Producers Max Martin and Savan Kotecha were later confirmed to have collaborated with Grande in the album.
On December 28, 2017, Grande shared several pictures of her in the studio throughout the year. The following week, she shared a snippet from the album on her Instagram, which was later revealed to be a track titled "Get Well Soon."
On April 16, 2018, it was reported that Grande may move up the lead single release to April 20, 2018, due to label-mate Post Malone's album being released on April 27.
On April 17, 2018, Grande announced that the album's lead single, "No Tears Left to Cry", would be released on April 20, 2018.
On "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon", Grande announced that her album would be called "Sweetener." She said the meaning behind the title is "It's kind of about like bringing light to a situation, or to someone's life, or somebody else who brings light to your life, or sweetening the situation."
A May 2018 cover article in Time magazine by Sam Lansky notes that, for the first time with this album, Grande "took the lead on writing." In late May 2018, she announced that the album would feature 15 tracks and three collaborations, which are Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj and Pharrell Williams.
In early June 2018, Grande announced at Wango Tango that the album would be available for pre-order on June 20, and "The Light Is Coming" would be released along with it. The second single, "God Is a Woman", was initially scheduled to be released on July 20, 2018; however, she later moved the release forward a week to July 13.
Prior to the album's release, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic commented that the first three singles from the album "sparked with a sense of defiance and rattled mortality ... [a] trifecta of pseudo-spiritualism and sneaky innovation. ... Grande's music and videos radiate [intoxicating, unworried confidence]."
- Raindrops (An Angel Cried)
- Blazed (featuring Pharrell Williams)
- The Light Is Coming (featuring Nicki Minaj)
- God Is A Woman
- No Tears Left To Cry
- Borderline (featuring Missy Elliott)
- Better Off
- Goodnight N Go
- Pete Davidson
- Get Well Soon
Release & Promotion
In the United States, "Sweetener" debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 231,000 album-equivalent units, of which 127,000 were from traditional album sales, thus becoming Ariana Grande's third number-one album in the United States.
It also logged the largest streaming week for a non-hip hop album by a female artist; the songs were streamed 126.7 million times in the album's first week.
On the US Billboard Hot 100 chart issue dated September 1, ten songs (nine of which are from Sweetener) appeared simultaneously, placing Grande as the fourth female artist with the most simultaneous entries on the chart by a solo female artist behind Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Cardi B.
Grande also topped the Artist 100 chart the same week due to album sales and song streams.
In its second week, the album dropped to number four moving 75,000 equivalent album units while in its third week, it fell one position to number five moving an additional 56,000 equivalent album units. The album was ranked 38th on the 2018 year-end Billboard 200 chart.
On April 3, 2019, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for combined sales and album-equivalent units of over a million units in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, "Sweetener" debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, moving 45,000 album-equivalent units. It became her second number-one album in the UK, and her fastest selling album to date.
Following its release, two album tracks entered the UK Singles Chart as "Breathin" debuted at number 8, and "Sweetener" landed at number 22, while the single "God Is a Woman" ascended six places to number 6.
In Australia, the album became Grande's third number one on the ARIA Albums Chart with all 15 of its tracks placing on the ARIA Singles Chart in the same week.
At Metacritic, "Sweetener" has an average score of 81 based on 20 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."
Reviewing for Vice, Robert Christgau called the album a "garden of sonic delights" and wrote: "Grande is pleasant in such a physically uncommon and technically astute way. Her pure, precise soprano is warm without burr or melisma, its mellow sweetness never saccharine or showy."
In The New York Times, Jon Pareles said that Grande's voice "can be silky, breathy or cutting, swooping through long melismas or jabbing out short R&B phrases; it's always supple and airborne, never forced. … Ms. Grande sails above any fray, past or present. Her aplomb is her triumph."
Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called the album "a refreshing, cohesive package. … [The producers' approach lets] Grande's easy way with trap phrasing find a home next to her flair for Broadway-esque dramatic runs"; it combines "the sensual romance of the album's plentiful love songs and the aching heartbreak of the others." Spanos concludes that it is Grande's "best album yet, and one of 2018's strongest pop releases to date.
Kate Solomon of The Independent commented that with music that is "often unexpected, sometimes in a good way, it is an album by an artist in flux – trying to move forward while reluctant to fully relinquish old ideas."
Writing for NME, Douglas Greenwood deemed the album "[a] confident, accomplished, sometimes left-field collection of pop bangers, proving that she's not shy of experimentation." He also commented that "there are a couple of songs on Sweetener that you'd happily leave on the shelf."
Similarly, in The Guardian, Alexis Petridis said that "her collaborations with Pharrell really push the boundaries. But they make the rest of this album seem formulaic." He considered the album "uneven", with its attempts to balance out what Grande called a "weird" record. Petridis felt that "the world could use more pop music as imaginative as Sweetener's highlights."
Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph felt that "the quality of the songs is high, although there are moments when they might be trying too hard to demonstrate that the teen queen is all grown up now," and argued, "as modern, branded, blockbuster pop albums go, Sweetener is a delightful confection." He commented less favorably about guest rappers Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott, who "sound like they dialled in clichéd verses for a pay cheque."