Ariana Grande‘s “the light is coming” is her latest single from the forthcoming album Sweetener, and follows her previously released “no tears left to cry.” If the song titles aren’t indication enough, Grande has been clear about her intentions for making the new album, saying in multiple interviews that her hope is to bring a positive outlook to her fans following the trauma of the bombing at her Manchester concert last year.
That hope is evident in both singles released from Sweetener so far. While “no tears left to cry” was a formulaic club-pop anthem, the new single, her second with Nicki Minaj in a little over a week, feels more adventurous by contrast. The surprisingly, wonderfully weird “the light is coming” is a glitchy, thumping dance record with an inconceivably odd sample that repeats throughout the song’s runtime. That crazy sample is of a 2009 public confrontation between Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter and a member of the public over an issue of private insurance in regards to a democratic healthcare proposal. The peculiar choice in sample highlights one of a few bold decisions made on the song that ultimately pay off–Grande’s nursery rhyme-style melody during the chorus is just as enthralling. If the sample represents chaos, her voice signals aspirations for what’s next.
Pharrell produced the track (and is expected to produce multiple songs on Sweetener) which meant it really could have gone in any direction. His production on Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer and “Neon Guts” from Lil Uzi Vert’s LUV is Rage 2 was fun until, in an uninspired move, he essentially remade the latter for Beyonce and Jay-Z on “Nice.” Even here, the sample used is from the same source as the sample for N.E.R.Ds “Lemon,” while the beat itself contains fragments of the same melodious notes you might hear on a number of DJ Mustard-produced tracks.
On “the light is coming” though, all of these bits and pieces are turned into a Frankensteinian product that Ariana makes all her own. Her voice is alive with feeling and thrives in the quirks and constant vibrancy of the music. Nicki Minaj delivers a strutting, paint-by-numbers verse in the time allotted but it’s perfectly suited to the heavy, ground shaking bass of the song. Ariana Grande’s “the light is coming” is an exciting attempt at reassurance in a time that feels especially insane. Her adamance that “the light is coming to bring back everything the darkness stole” is infectious, and it’s easy enough to repeat to yourself throughout the day, subliminally speaking a truth to power.