I really love a little interlude. It’s not that I don’t love full-length songs too, but there’s something more magical about a 30-second or 1-minute-long burst of creative energy. Every time I listen to Rihanna’s ANTI — one of the best pop albums of the last few years — it takes me 10 minutes to get past “James Joint,” a quickly dissipating cloud of weed smoke produced by pop wizard James Fauntleroy that clocks in at 1:12. SZA’s “Wavy” — another of Fauntleroy’s tiny masterpieces — has the same repeat appeal for me. Sometimes, like in the case of Kendrick Lamar’s “Buried Alive Interlude” on Drake’s Take Care, they offer a taste of something else in the middle of an intense experience. Other times, like on Childish Gambino’s slow and soulful “Urn,” they allow artists to experiment with different sounds.
Ariana Grande’s “pete davidson,” off her spectacular new album Sweetener, is all of those things and more and a worthy entry to the canon of short songs I will play on repeat until I can emotionally move on to the next track. Placed right near the end of an album about spreading positivity and hope amidst the terrible anxieties of the real world, “pete davidson” is the perfect string of sparkling heart emojis at the end of Ariana’s optimistic message.
Produced by her longtime collaborator Tommy "TBHits" Brown, the track starts off with some hypnotic snaps and dream-like swooshes broken up by bright major chords. Ariana delivers lots of fast, choppy vocals as she backs herself up with adlibs, amazed by her own love story: “I thought you into my life (whoa) / Look at my mind (yeah).” Putting her past relationships behind her — the one highlighted in the vulnerable “better off” — she sings to Pete at the end of the first verse, “My whole life got me ready for you.” Then, backed by sweeping strings, she chants, "Gonna be happy, happy / I'ma be happy, happy" over and over again as the track fades into the distance. That’s when I usually hit the rewind button.
The song is — obviously — about her fiance Pete Davidson and the first news of the track upset some of fans who thought she was simply doing too much. But I would be shocked if any of those doubters would feel the same after listening to the song if they really care about her. It’s a moving confession of love and is the most direct statement on the record from Ariana that she’s doing better after enduring a hellish year.
When I spoke to Ariana in May of this year she was just diving into her relationship with Pete, even though she apparently already knew she was going to marry him for years. She sounded a lot happier than when we first met the month before. She had just bought an apartment in New York, the same one where, Pete recently told GQ, the pair is “learning how to be adults.” As she summed it up to me on the phone: “I'm ready for a change in my life. It makes me happy. I'm following happy impulses and not worrying about the rest.”
We spoke about her decision to add an additional five tracks to the album, which included “pete davidson.” She said it came most from a place of wanting to share more things with her fans. “First of all, my fans deserve to be let in as much as I let them in because they are so supportive and so beautiful and so understanding,” she said. “I don't want to hide any pain from them because I can relate to their pain. Why not be in it together? Why can't we express each other’s journeys? Let's say fuck it.”
There’s something really powerful in the “fuck it” mentality of “pete davidson” — yes, of course they’ve had a whirlwind romance and maybe it’s not the best idea to permanently mark your love affair in such a public way, but also...“fuck it!” When asked why she expanded the the title from its original of “Pete,” the singer explained in a tweet, “i like the way it looks, i love his name and i love him, music lasts forever. it’ll outlive any tattoo, any memory, any anything, even myself so i want my love for him and how i feel to be a part of that.” Sorry, but that’s awesome. Ugh, her MIND.