Review: Ariana Grande, Popular Culture, and Religion

ariana-grande-god-is-a-woman

As the buildup to her highly anticipated fourth studio album, Sweetener, intensifies, Ariana Grande has released her second official single (and third overall song) from her upcoming opus.

The new single is entitled “God is a woman,” and it comes in the wake of Grande’s “no tears left to cry” reaching #1 on pop radio and overall radio this week. “God is a woman” is a striking consortium of trap, r&b, pop, and gospel. The song begins with a nimble guitar riff as Grande coos “when all is said and done / you’ll believe God is a woman.” After this silky intro, the song transforms into a dynamic beat drop that quietly pulsates with a specific feminine energy. Over the course of the song Ariana plays with her vocal delivery; she rap-sings in the vein of Beyoncé with a flourish of Migos and she belts stunning notes as high as an E6 in her operatic ad-libs. “God is a woman” leaves a robust impact with its outro, an impassioned choir (the “choir” is actually multiple cuts of Grande’s own voice) backs Grande as she belts her final lines. With her emotive vocal performance and expert production by way of Ilya, Grande truly makes you believe her in this new single.

“God is a woman” is more about woman empowerment and sexual liberation than theological cogitations as the title may suggest. Grande is the latest in a long line of modern pop performers to blend religion into her music. From Madonna’s iconic “Like A Prayer” music video to Nicki Minaj’s exploration of Catholic tropes in her Grammys performance and Kanye West’s perennial “Jesus Walks,” religion has existed within and around pop music and culture since the beginning of time. P!nk claimed God was a DJ and Kendrick Lamar claimed God was “gangsta,” so Grande follows numerous musical heavyweights with her latest exploration of God in music. Taken as just a song, “God is a woman” is nothing short of excellent, taken as a sociopolitical statement “God is a woman” is initially startling, but ultimately too vague, lyrically, to cause any real controversy.

Interestingly, Grande uses God not as a tactic for shock value, but as a slight tribute to Renaissance-era philosophy. When the renaissance era first began, the notion that only God can create amazing things was popular. The rise of the movement of individualism sought to assert that humans are capable of creating amazing things too. This effectively equated man and God in a quest to empower humans to push to new frontiers in the arts and humanities. In short, what Grande is doing with “God is a woman” isn’t groundbreaking by any means, however, her new single is an interesting addition to the long and winding history of popular culture and religion.

SCORE: 96

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