Last night, Ariana Grande released the first promotional single from her upcoming album, Sweetener, due August 17. The track is titled “The Light Is Coming” and it marks the fifth collaboration between Grande and Nicki Minaj. Produced by Pharrell, “The Light Is Coming” is a stark departure from the pure pop sound of the album’s lead single, “No Tears Left to Cry,” but does it pay off?
Built around a sample of private citizen’s argument with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter over private healthcare insurance in 2009, “The Light Is Coming” immediately begins with a strong political undertone that is believable and poignant. The first artist heard on the track is Nicki Minaj; she delivers an underwhelming, succinct, and forgettable verse that is only saved by how smooth her flow is over the beat. Grande reportedly auditioned eight rappers for this song, and if this was truly the best verse then the song should have remained solo.
Following Minaj’s verse, Grande jumps straight into the chorus in which she delivers her vocals in a similar manner to 2004 Gwen Stefani. The production remains the most interesting part of the song; the easiest reference point for the track’s overall sound is N.E.R.D.’s most recent album, No One Ever Really Dies. With cascading whistles and clicks over a warbling bass and sharp kick drum, the production is insanely catchy. In addition, Grande’s layered background vocals, the main melody, and the supporting harmonies are absolutely excellent. Nevertheless, there are two overall issues with this track: Ariana’s enunciation in the pre-chorus is a clear regression from her previous improvements and the second and third choruses are entirely too long and repetitive. If both choruses were halved, the track would be much better.
While “No Tears Left to Cry” was one of the best pop songs of the year so far, “The Light Is Coming” is one of the most interesting songs of the year. “The Light Is Coming” bodes well for the different sounds we can expect to hear from Ariana on Sweetener and her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone should be applauded. Like many songs, this could sound way better after a few more listens and a music video, but as of right now it’s simply good, not great.