Song: ‘God is a Woman’
Artist: Ariana Grande
US chart peak: 8* (*so far)
Release date: July 13, 2018
Writers: Ariana Grande, Max Martin, Ilya, Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson
Quintessential Max moment: The ‘Side to Side’-esque lilt to the chorus
Video synopsis: A storm-fingering, Madonna-cameoing, beaver-screaming visual overload.
What are we, as Max Martin fans, meant to make of Ariana Grande’s fourth album, ‘Sweetener’? Pre-release buzz billed it as an album split down the middle; half Pharrell (hmm) and half Max ‘et al’. When it arrived with, for me at least, a slight whiff of disappointment (I like it a lot more now, don’t panic), I *SJP voice* couldn’t help but wonder if this marked the end of Max Martin: chart goliath.
Of the album’s fifteen tracks, only three songs feature his production touch (one of which is a 37 second intro), while ‘God is a Woman’ only has him listed as a songwriter. That, to me at least, is a bit of surprise. Is he slowing down his output? Were his tracks not up to scratch? Are labels becoming cautious about using him as much in the face of slightly dwindling returns? Has he reformed It’s Alive?! Or, worse, was he too busy working with other people? (I’ve also heard a rumour he’s been in the studio with an artist that, for fear of reprisals, I’ll call Sara Klarsson).
Maybe just maybe he’s reached a point now where his proteges, who are themselves slowing taking over pop, have reached a level where he doesn’t need to be as involved as he used to be. Certainly, ‘Sweetener’ highlight ‘Breathin” bears all the hallmarks of a Max creation without actually carrying his name (it’s almost at ‘Into You‘ levels of greatness, which really is one of the highest compliments a person can give to a song). The same can be said for ‘God is a Woman’, which carries the same tempo as ‘Side to Side‘ and features a similar ethos to most of the song’s on the more Max-heavy ‘Dangerous Woman’ album, ie sex is really fun.
In fact, I have to admit, when I first heard ‘God is a Woman’ I was a tiny bit ‘meh’ about it. Pre-release buzz – which should often never be trusted, I know that – made it seem like a very different song, and on first listen it sounded like a re-tread of former glories. For some reason – maybe because I listened to it while watching the 100% batshit video, complete with screaming beavers – I didn’t even properly notice the choir of Arianas at the end; or the way she shifts the tempo and force of her voice throughout; or the glorious little “whoop” moments that pop up throughout.
Like ‘No Tears left to Cry‘, it evolves on each listen, worming its way into your brain and nesting there. Also, how many songs offer up theological debate, discussions on sexual prowess, the destruction of the patriarchy AND has the big old balls to take it all to church – a place that’s just been burned by the titular declaration – by the song’s end. Magic really.