Here’s What Ariana Grande Should Do for Her Fourth Album
It's been two years since Ariana Grande released her last album, 2016's Dangerous Woman, and so much has changed between then and now for the artist. Last summer, Grande's entire world was rocked to the core when, on May 22, 2017, a terrorist detonated a bomb at the end of the pop star's concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 of her concert-goers and injuring hundreds more outside of the venue.
Devastated, the heartbroken singer returned home to Florida to grieve following the attack. Weeks later, she came back into the public eye only to finish her (at the time) postponed world tour and raise spirits with a powerful, celebrity-supported memorial concert and fundraiser, One Love Manchester. After wrapping her tour, she withdrew again, eventually returning to the studio and presumably taking some time off to personally heal and gain fresh perspective. With Grande mostly quiet on social media for the past few months, anticipation has naturally been high for her next, post-tragedy body of music.
And then, finally, a literal drop of good news: This week, the singer teased the release of “No Tears Left to Cry,” the forthcoming lead single off her fourth studio album, which fans have dubbed AG4 in the absence of an official title. The track drops tomorrow (Friday, April 20), but the record itself has yet to have a release date—though it’s reported that Grande has spent the last few months perfecting her “most personal album yet.” But just what exactly should Grande do for her fourth album, which is perhaps her most important album yet?
In times of crisis, there’s something beautiful about being able to find catharsis in a song that comes from a place of solidarity and shared pain. Escapist, light-hearted pop songs are a welcome and necessary reprieve, of course, but it’s important to remember Grande experienced the Manchester Arena tragedy firsthand—she was very much a victim, too—and so it’s likely that she’ll have something to say about the experience (either overt or subtle) on her new album. With pop moving towards a more socially-aware atmosphere in which artists no longer hesitate to merge their politics with their art, it will be refreshing to see Grande come into her own as an autonomous, opinionated young woman and activist not only in her personal life, but in her music.
AG4 would also undoubtedly benefit from collaborations. Much like what fans saw at Grande's momentous One Love Manchester concert, there’s strength in numbers, and Grande is nothing if not adept at selecting A+ collaborators, from Nicki Minaj to Victoria Monet to Zedd. Hopefully the pop star will continue her streak, and it looks like it: Troye Sivan has already confirmed a collaboration with Grande for his own album, and a song between Grande and Dua Lipa leaked weeks ago. For her own record, however, perhaps she'll team up with some of her One Love Manchester guests, like Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber or Grande's idol, Imogen Heap.
Musically, where Grande has always shined has been on her ballads. Whether floating atop stripped back, sparse production or cushioned amid epic pop beats, Grande’s zephyrous voice is elastic and effortless enough to reach the kind of chills-inducing heights at the core of pop’s best ballads. (Plainly put: She's got the range.) While the current landscape of pop is still largely steeped in the moody, whisper-y bedroom jams of artists like Selena Gomez and Halsey, the radio success of stars like Camila Cabello and Dua Lipa indicate that big, bold pop vocals are back en vogue, which means it’s time for Grande to reclaim her space.
Since her debut album (2013’s Yours Truly), the artist has comfortably floated in the space between starry-eyed R&B and bubblegum pop, but Dangerous Woman revealed Grande’s potential for something edgier, darker and more mature. It also saw the pop star experimenting with more diverse sounds, from the funk of “Greedy” to the ‘90s house vibes of “Be Alright.” Hopefully, the singer will keep up with the momentum of her genre-spanning third album, continuing to experiment and further explore the sounds that fit her so well on Dangerous Woman. (“Into You” redux, anyone?)
As has been teased, it seems like Grande’s new record will be her most personal yet, a revelation that fans have already wholeheartedly embraced. It's been reported that the singer had a hand in writing every single song on the album (a first for Grande), so hopefully the lyrics on AG4 will go deeper than ever before, offering a truly intimate glimpse into the heart and soul of an artist who, according to Pharrell, had "pretty next level" things to say on the upcoming album.
No matter what Grande does on her as-yet-untitled fourth record, however, one thing is certain: the album is going to stand as a testament of resilience and healing, and it’s going to mean something very important to a lot of people—including Grande herself.