“Get Well Soon.” Alex Revisits Sweetener

Dear readers, I’m just going to come out and say this: I love Ariana Grande. I stan her, for you Twitter users. As a fan, I have wanted to write an article about her latest LP, Sweetener, since it was released. In August, when it came out, Ariana Grande was seemingly in a state of bliss. Sweetener became her most critically acclaimed album, she secured a VMA for her music video “no tears left to cry,” and (the cherry on top) she seemed happily in love with her fiancé, Pete Davidson. Fast forward to the present-day, and… things look upside down. In two months, Ariana was groped on camera after her performance at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. Then, Mac Miller, who Ariana dated for almost 2 years, died. Then fans of Mac and general internet trolls openly blamed Ariana for Mac Miller’s death, claiming it was her fault that he was battling addiction and died due to an overdose. And most recently, Ariana and Pete have called off their engagement.

The point of this article is not to explain to you why you should feel bad for Ariana Grande or to throw a pity party for her. The point—Sweetener is heralded as a piece of positive, light, uplifting piece of work. In today’s climate, politically and socially, fans of the album have taken the album as a symbol of light and of happiness. I want to revisit Sweetener now, because of that reason. Can an album all about finding the light overcome the darkness?


“The Light is Coming,” track 3 on the album, is where I begin to notice a difference in the way it feels. In June, when the track was released, Ariana and Pete had just gotten engaged. The chorus consists of Ariana chanting, “The light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole,” and you can feel that now, more than ever, Ariana very badly wants to believe her own lyrics. As a listener, you want Ariana to trust her own words. “Everytime” is track 8 on the album, and the first song that feels amplified now more so than before. Lyrically, the track delves into a doomed relationship, in which Ariana expresses that she can’t help but go back to someone (every time). Unhappy but blinded, Ariana seems to be telling us what just happened in her own life, specifically regarding her breakup with Pete. The song hits harder, and changes the feeling related to the track that follows, new single “breathin.” “Breathin,” according to Ariana herself, is about anxiety and overcoming it. Ariana breathlessly sings, “Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’,” until the chorus explodes in what feels like a hailstorm of emotional catharsis. Now that so much of Ariana’s life has changed, the track feels more tangible than it ever did before.


“Better Off,” track 12, is the song Ariana wrote and recorded about Mac Miller. Lyrically, Ariana expresses wishing, wanting, and eventually knowing that she deserves better than what she’s currently getting. Mac suffered from addiction for years before his death; Ariana tried to support his sobriety while they were together. “Go on and face it I’ll never be ready for you,” Ariana sings. The song hurts now, and remains the most emotionally vulnerable track on the album, if not in Ariana’s entire discography.


“Pete Davidson,” track 14, is exactly who you think it’s about. As a fan, now this just sucks. It sucks to listen to the track for the first time, laugh with it, but appreciate Ariana’s happiness and genuinely feel happy for her. Now, the track is about something that no longer exists, and it feels empty.


The album closer, “get well soon,” is the beating heart of Sweetener, the most essential song on the album. Extended to 5 minutes and 22 seconds long, to honor the date of the Manchester tragedy (5/22), the song shines a light on the voices inside Ariana’s head as she battles PTSD and anxiety. “You can feel it, feel it,” she sings, both to herself and her fans—we can feel all our emotions. “Here’s one thing you can trust: it takes you and me to make us.” Ariana is singing now as a love letter to her fans, something she has always made an effort to do. The track closes with the reminder, once more, that you are allowed to feel everything you are feeling. Without judgment. The album closes with 30+ seconds of silence.


So—is Sweetener still that big, lovey-dovey, beacon of light in the darkness? Yes and no. It’s easy to listen to some of the songs dance-pop hits, like “God is a woman” and “no tears left to cry,” and not need to remember all that Ariana has gone through and how much has changed since she sang those songs for the first time. However, the DNA of this album is “get well soon,” the truest expression of anxiety and overcoming it that I, personally, have ever heard in a song. This is how Ariana wanted to leave it. “No matter what,” she repeats many times throughout the song. Ariana Grande wants her fans to know she’s got them if they’ve got her, no matter what. “Get well soon” is the light in the darkness.


Sidenote: Just because I talked about only a few songs in depth, definitely listen to the whole album! There are bangers and deep cuts scattered throughout, plus the music video for “God is a woman”…just watch it.