“The Light Is Coming,” the first episode of the YouTube original series, traces the Sweetener album release, from Grande’s work in the studio with Pharrell to her epic VMA performance of “God Is a Woman.” In the episode, Grande -- Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year -- talks about how personal the album feels to her, more so than any of her other projects. “I don’t feel like I stepped out of my comfort zone,” Grande said about Sweetener. “I feel like I found it.”
With one down and three more parts of the docuseries to go, here’s everything we learned about Grande and the making of Sweetener from this week’s episode.
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Pharrell Helped Push Ariana to New Heights on Sweetener
Footage of Grande working in the studio with Pharrell on Sweetener’s “Get Well Soon” shows just how invested the two were in the album. “Don’t be mad at me, but I think the second time the chorus comes around, we might need you to do all of the background [vocals] again,” Pharrell tells Grande as she sings in the booth. Grande completely agrees with him as they work to perfect the song’s kaleidoscope of vocal tones. After hearing a more final version of the song, Grande is so overjoyed at the result that she hugs Pharrell.
“REM” and “Get Well Soon” Are Ari’s “Rainbow Cloud” Songs
While Grande was in the studio with Pharrell recording “Get Well Soon,” he refers to the Sweetener closer as “by far, our most rainbow cloud song.” Grande agreed that “Get Well Soon” and “REM” are the most “rainbow cloudy” to her and “sound like [her] DNA.” After a moment, she pauses to consider what she just said. “Or how I wish I felt,” Grande decides. “Not how I feel, but how I’m striving to feel.”
Filming “The Light Is Coming” Video Was Not Effortless
Behind-the-scenes footage from her “The Light Is Coming” video exposes the difficulties Grande faced while filming in the dark forest. “I’m trotting around on some really, really thick, invisible, slippery roots,” Grande laughs. The singer, who worked on the video with director Dave Meyers, also revealed that her original idea for “The Light Is Coming” was not what it ended up being. “I thought I saw the treatment and read it and came up with it,” Grande said. “But then I got here and realized that’s not what we’re doing.”
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A Moment While Filming the “God Is a Woman” Video Left Ari Speechless
Madonna, who lends her voice to the “God Is a Woman” video to recite Samuel L Jackson’s Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction, gave Grande not just one, but seven takes to work with. “I don’t have words,” Grande says of Madonna, who paved the way for female pop stars. “Life doesn’t get better than this.”
A Fan Heard Sweetener Before Ariana’s Label Did
Grande has always had a special bond with her fans and revealed in the docuseries just how much their opinion means to her. She flew a fan named Anys in from Paris to listen to Sweetener before her label even heard it and had a Sweetener preview sleepover with fans to “help calm [her] nerves” before she put it out.
Ariana’s Nonna Had a Hilarious Reaction to Her VMA Appearance
In the episode, Grande reveals that she was running on the treadmill when she came up with the concept of re-creating da Vinci's "The Last Supper" painting for her VMA performance of “God Is a Woman.” She brought out her mother Joan, Nonna and cousin Lani at the end of the performance to celebrate the generations of Grande women. While Grande cried at dancer Brian Nicholson’s idea to bring her family out, Nonna had a different reaction, telling Grande, “It’s about time you asked me.”
Ariana Isn’t Afraid to Ask for Help
Hilarious footage from Grande’s VMA performance rehearsal plays as the episode’s credits begin to roll and reveals just how relatable the pop star remains. Grande interrupts the rehearsal to ask the roomful of women a question. “Can you do me a solid? I know one of y’all has a tampon,” she says as the room erupts in laughter.