Written by: Ariana Grande, Max Martin, Savan Kotecha and Ilya Salmanzadeh
Produced by: Max Martin and Ilya
UK release: April 2018
UK chart peak: 2
It’s so rare now that you get a massive sense excitement when an A-list popstar is about to release the first single from a new era. I can’t remember many other recent examples; certainly none that felt so huge and as widespread as Ariana Grande‘s return for the Sweetener campaign.
She’s putting out new tracks every couple of months now, but back in the spring of 2018, no tears left to cry (goddamn these lower-case titles) was her first all-new release for two years, and her first since the Manchester Arena tragedy eleven months prior.
I think I speak for most pop stans when I say that when the track’s release was being teased, we really, really wanted the next phase of Ariana’s career to be special: she deserved it after everything she’d been through, and even putting the events of May 2017 to one side, it felt like her first three albums had set her on a strong upward trajectory – like she was on the brink of a massive Imperial Phase, and just needed the right song to nudge her into the God-tier.
Sure enough, no tears left to cry was – is! – a triumph.
Beginning with that ethereal intro, it gives way to a bop that’s both sad and defiant; emotional yet optimistic. It’s trauma you can dance to. Max Martin and Ilya’s production deserves a lot of credit: the way the first few choruses keep things relatively sparse (juxtaposing a busy, toe-tappable drum loop with dark synths), the way the choral backing vocals gradually build… But the superstar is, obviously, Ari herself; proving once again that she’s one of the best singers in the business – not just for her technical ability but for the emotional depth too.
She’s had a lot to deal with over the last few years, but this song really did cement her as one of the best people in music. Protect her!!