Album: Sweetener
Producer: Pharrell Williams

Sweetener marked a turning point for Ariana Grande, and nowhere is that more apparent than on “R.E.M.” Although it was originally written by Pharrell Williams for Beyoncé, Grande makes the number all her own, without relying on the ultra-high notes that punctuate most of her hits. Williams worked his magic into the production, injecting the dreamy doo-wop instrumental with the youthfulness of a new crush and the maturity of an adult relationship for a sound that’s at once innocent and grown. Vocally, Grande pivots to a richer, silkier R&B cadence, toeing the line between adolescence and adulthood as she sings of hiding photos of her love interest (à la Helga Pataki) and suggests that certain body parts have received the Good Housekeeping seal. Complete with a sugary (no pun intended) interpolation of the Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman,” “R.E.M.” will transport you to a simpler era—one of varsity jackets and drive-in movies. How appropriate for such a talent. —Carolyn Bernucca