NV: I'm a big rap and R&B fan so I really like the funkier sensibility Pharrell brought to Sweetener. Granted, these weren't his most groundbreaking beats. "the light is coming" totally reminds me of his recent N.E.R.D. productions, like "Lemon" and "Don't Do It." That said, I enjoy almost everything Pharrell produces because it has this really fun bounce to it, with hints of retro soul and funk and a liiiiittle dash of Talking Heads-type dance rock. I think overall, it made Ariana sound a little more alternative and hipper, and more in line with my sensibilities as someone who's super into artists like SZA and Rihanna. It reminds me of when Rihanna switched up her sound from commercial pop to alt-R&B with ANTI in 2015.
EH: Ooo, I've never thought of it like that. I promise to hold SZA in my mind instead of Danity Kane B-side the next time I give the Pharrell songs a whirl. Ultimately, I think I just need to forgive him for having to hear "Happy" everywhere for months and months.
NV: OK, so let's talk about the track "pete davidson." How do you feel about this current trend of celebrity PDA on wax? Cardi B name-dropped Offset what feels like 85 times in "Bartier Cardi" (really it was 16). Nicki Minaj and Eminem both fueled dating rumors by mentioning each other in their recent features. (Eminem referred to the two of them as "the queen and her husband" on "Majesty." I die!) What are your thoughts on female pop stars mentioning their IRL boos in their tracks when their male counterparts seem to be singing and rapping about women in a more abstract sense, with the exception of Eminem?
EH: Have we learned nothing from J.Lo naming a song "Dear Ben" in honor of Ben Affleck? Apparently not! Part of me wants to celebrate that feeling you mentioned earlier of being young and crazy in love and doing wild things to show your affection, even though you know deep down it's probably not forever. But your question gets at why this trend upsets me; it's so often a one-way street. Offset couldn't even crack a smile while Cardi was struggling to land jokes at the VMAs, let alone rep for her 16 times in a song. When we solve the wage gap, we need to get to work on this ride or die gap!
In the particular case of "pete davidson," if Ariana wants to rush-produce a one minute and 14-second song for her new man, go for it. Like a tramp stamp, we will all pretend it never happened a few years from now.
Are there other Sweetener songs that are jumping out at you?
NV: Wow, I completely forgot about J.Lo and Ben Affleck! Ride or die gap is right! I listen to these songs with a slight cringe, like, "You better be sure about this, girl." How terrible would it be if your best songs (that you have to keep performing on tour over and over) ended up being about your ex? Not to get too speculative, but this kind of extreme, really fast young love can burn out because both people don't really know themselves or each other yet. There's risk involved. But I'm rooting for Ariana and Pete, they seem so smitten and I hope it stands the test of time. You can feel the love she has for him through that epic crescendo of strings. The instrumentation is so beautiful and a sweet reflection of how she must feel inside.
EH: And if it doesn't work out, the best albums tend to be breakup ones. Just sayin'!
NV: Another track that I love from Sweetener is "successful." It's a subtle, unassuming banger that I think young women really need to hear. It's all about being young and having fun and enjoying making your own money and being independent. That's a vibe I resonate with, and I put it on my personal playlist that I use to get inspired. What about you?
EH: "breathin" is THAT GIRL for me. It builds in such a wonderful way and keeps raising the stakes. The Castro bars aren't ready. Neither are my neighbors. (And neither was iTunes apparently; the song flew to #1 right after the album dropped, despite not being an official single yet.)
I also love the complete randomness of her covering an Imogen Heap song with "goodnight and go." And I gotta give it to "sweetener" for inspiring these two hilarious memes: