Single review: Ariana Grande featuring Nicki Minaj - The light is coming

Ariana Grande featuring Nicki Minaj - The light is coming | Random J Pop

When Ariana debuted a snippet of "The light is coming" during her iheartradio Wango Tango set, I was amped to hear the song in full. I'd known that Pharrell had worked on Ariana's 4th studio album Sweetener, but did not expect him to give her something that sounded so N.E.R.D-ey. But having heard the song in the full, I now know why Ariana only performed a snippet of it live. Because there is only part of a song.

"The light is coming" sounds like a demo. A really rough, far from finished demo. Put together with pieces that could work, but don't, because there's nothing really holding them together.

If there's one thing about Pharrell and Neptunes productions, it's that they're not for everybody. Sometimes Pharrell gives his subjects the grace of a song that's tailored somewhat for them. But that didn't seem to be the case here. Pharrell pretty much gave Ariana a N.E.R.D beat, but with no real direction on how she should ultimately approach it to make shit work, and his production does nothing to support her. When I think of voices that would have worked on this track, I think immediately of Kelis and Gwen Stefani. Ariana not being an obvious fit for this song is part of what intrigued me about it. But she doesn't bring herself to the song.

Ariana's vocals are far too muted and flat. She needed to bring grit, texture and layering to the table, because she gets completely lost in the music; which is crazy, because there isn't a great deal of music for her to even get lost in. Something that Ariana has continually caught fire for is her diction when singing and it's a problem here. I find it difficult to follow parts of the song, because I can't make out what Ariana is actually singing.

Pharrell's productions have been incredibly hit 'n' miss ever since he broke off from Chad Hugo. Whenever I feel that Pharrell is moving into a sound and style that I like and works, be pulls back into something else. His production style on "The light is coming" feels like a taxi into something amazing, but it never takes off. It feels like the closest thing we've had to an old school Neptunes production in years, which is what makes the final result so tragic.

The drum sequencing is fire. But the drums don't knock as hard as they should. The song should BANG. But it doesn't. It feels as though Pharrell sucked all of the banger juice out of the track because he either felt it would be too much and too 'hood' for Ariana or because he felt they'd overpower her vocals. If his decision was the later, then it proves my point that Ariana's vocals weren't textured or boisterous enough to sit over the music and go toe-to-toe with it. It's the only explanation, because Pharrell is not a producer who shies from making his shit bang. Ever. Just going by his two most recent single productions "Lemon" and "Apeshit" alone.

Song structures seem to be an issue for Pharrell these days, something which marred his contributions to Justin Timberlake's Mess of the woods. The second verse of the song doesn't kick in until near enough 3 minutes into the song, when by this point it should either be at the bridge section or the ending refrain. Whilst the repetition of the hook is what makes it catchy, Pharrell takes it too far to the point of annoyance and monotony, dragging the second run of the chorus out unnecessarily. "The light is coming" needed a killer Neptunes bridge or one heck of a breakdown. But the song comes in on a whimper and ends the same way.

Nicki Minaj's guest feature on the song doesn't add anything. The song wouldn't not have been any worse off without her. And whilst her verse isn't bad, its not her most memorable set of bars by a long shot. Given the shoddy structure and the song feeling so lacking, "The light is coming" could have benefited from a second set of bars from Nicki part way through.

I'm really baffled as to how this song ended up the way it did, because it had the recipe to be something hot. The drums are hot. The chorus is catchy. The entire vibe of the song is quirky. It's a new sound for Ariana which is a pleasant surprise after the wholly safe "No tears left to cry" and this was not the type of sound I expected Pharrell to give her.

This song should have been way better than it ended up being.

RATING: 3 / 10

Stream / Download "The light is coming" on Spotify, Google Play music & iTunes / Apple music